Halstead are upbeat despite relegation from East Anglian Premier League

HALSTEAD chairman Mark Surridge says the club are far from downhearted at their relegation from the Gibbs Denley East Anglian Premier League.

And Surridge believes the future is bright as Halstead prepare for a return to the Marshall Hatchick Two Counties Championship next season after their relegation was confirmed following their defeat to Swardeston.

Surridge, a former first-team all-rounder who is 61 this month, said: “We have been in the East Anglian Premier League for four years and we knew when we won the Two Counties title back in 2008 that we were going in underpowered because the competition is fierce – it is the best standard in East Anglia by a long way.

“We were under no illusions about the task facing us this season, after the loss of Matt Spatcher, our long-term captain, and Amit Gupta, who are both very experienced players.

“We don’t pay players, so we are unable to attract any county players, and we don’t have a benefactor which would allow us to pay for an overseas player.

“But what we do have is our own youth policy, and we have used this season to gain experience. The side that faced Swardeston saw us field the youngest side ever in the EAPL with an average age of 19 and included Freddie Preston, this year’s captain of Culford School, and Josh Wells, captain of Felsted School, as well as 15-year-old Sam Walter.

Surridge, who was recently selected to represent England Over-60s against Australia but had to drop out due to a pulled hamstring, said: “I am also proud of the fact that we have been able to fulfil a full programme of Sunday cricket throughout the summer as we develop our youngsters.”

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Catherine Dalton, the 19-year-old who plays for the ECB Development Women’s XI, is believed to have become the first female to score a half century in the Two Counties, scoring 57 for the club’s 2nd XI in the Division Three match at Stowmarket two weeks ago and regularly plays alongside her mentor Ian Pont.

Also playing in that match were Tristan Blackledge, a 15-year-old from Culford School who has just scored his maiden fifty, plus Darren Hutchison and Dean Feyneysey, two older players who have returned to the club.

“We are by no means the only club who have had very few players in the 26-45 age group in recent years, but they have both returned and we are hoping to persuade others to follow as the EAPL is not everyone’s cup of tea with its earlier starts and the professional nature of the game.

“We have enjoyed the last four years, and I think a lot of our lads will start next summer with a great deal more experience as a result.”

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