Terry Perry admits he has not been surprised to see local rivals Garboldisham pick up from where they left off last season.
After clinching promotion from Cecil Amey Opticians Norfolk Alliance Division One in 2015, Garby enjoyed an impressive first season in the Premier Division last year, finishing runners-up to champions Brooke.
A 79-run defeat to Cromer on Saturday saw Garboldisham lose their grip on the top spot in this season’s Premier Division, with Danny Cash’s men dropping a place into second heading into this weekend’s round of fixtures.
Perry’s Old Buckenham (4th) host Garby tomorrow afternoon (1pm), with just one point separating the two sides.
Ahead of the clash, Old Bucks skipper Perry, like many others, says Garboldisham were the surprise package of the Premier Division in 2016, but seeing their local rivals continue to challenge at the top this year has been anything but a surprise to him.
“They’ve got some very good players,” Perry said. “They’re a young side who are developing well and came up from Division One.
“Having a team of good players, that’s what matters really. The teams with the best players finish at the top.
“They were a bit of a surprise package last year, nobody knew of their players.
“I’m not surprised to see them up there again this year. They’ve got a good overseas in Dan Constable, who is going quite well.
“I’m not overly surprised at all. They certainly look stronger, they’re doing well.
“They’re a good club who are trying to develop as well.”
Garboldisham moved to the Premier Division summit after thrashing Horsford’s second team by nine wickets last month, in a match which saw Constable contribute an unbeaten knock of 74.
Constable was then the top scorer with the bat again for Garby as they saw off Fakenham by four wickets a fortnight ago, which kept them at the top of the table.
However, last weekend saw Cash’s men relinquish their position at the top of the pile, as Cromer won by 79 runs and climbed above them.
Robert Fuller (3-59), Constable (2-30), Gavin Barnes (2-41) and Luke Rackham (2-47) were among the wicket takers for Garby, who managed to restrict their visitors to 207-9 from 50 overs.
David Turner (60), Matthew Warnes (36) and Simon Chipperfield (33) made key contributions with the bat for Cromer, with their total never looking in any real trouble of being caught by their hosts.
Garboldisham’s openers Constable and Tom Davey were both out for ducks, both victims of the bowling of Michael Warnes (2-20).
Cash (40) and Jack Stevenson (28) offered some resistance to the bowling attack of the visitors.
However, Robert Purton (5-25) and Devon Singh-Parhar (2-35) ripped through Garby’s batting line-up to bowl them all out for 128 after just 34 overs.
The prospect of a derby day victory away at Old Bucks this weekend would be the perfect way for Cash and his side to bounce back from last week’s disappointment, but their hosts tomorrow head into the contest having won four of their last five completed games.
“It’s always nice to have had a good win when you’re going into the next game,” Old Bucks captain Perry said.
“We’ve been playing some really good cricket and the team is high on spirits.
“All the games are important in this league and everyone wants to win.
“We want to be up there, up at the top of the league come the end of the season.
“We go out to try and win every game we play in, and Garboldisham on Saturday will be no different.”
While it may be too early in the season to label this weekend’s clash for either side as a ‘must-win game’, a glance at the Premier Division table indicates that neither side can afford to lose it if they are to stay in the mix at the top.
New leaders Cromer currently hold a 14-point lead over the chasing pack, and they are expected to maintain their advantage when they entertain bottom side Sprowston tomorrow.
But lower down, just four points is the gap between Garboldisham in second and Downham Town in sixth, which adds even more importance to tomorrow’s outcome.