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South Woodford target top four finish

PUBLISHED: 15:16 16 September 2010

Rizwan Akram

Rizwan Akram

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South Woodford 210-6 beat Ardleigh Green 209 by four wickets.

South Woodford 210-6 beat Ardleigh Green 209 by four wickets.

SOUTH WOODFORD skipper Rizwan Akram is targeting a top four finish in the SNEL Premier Division next season after winning promotion from Division One, writes Ben Welch.

The Highfield Road club finished as runners-up to champions Ardleigh Green, marking an instant return to the top flight for both teams after relegation last term.

Akram is determined to avoid South Woodford turning into a yo-yo club and wants to ruffle a few feathers next summer.

“Division One was not as strong as I thought it was,” revealed the skipper. “There’s a massive step up in ability in the Premier Division. I don’t want to be relegation candidates, I want to be up there challenging for a place in the top four or five.

“It’s going to be tough, but I’m going to ask the players what kind of season they want? Do they want to struggle or do they want to show everyone what they’re made of?

“Last season when we got relegated I spoke to the boys about bouncing straight back and we achieved it. I want us to approach our goals with the same attitude next season.”

As well as winning promotion, South Woodford won the Essex Twenty20 Cup to advance to the area finals, where they were outgunned by Swardeston. Akram hailed the club’s achievements with an inexperienced team and picked out his star performers from the season.

“This is a young side and to have won promotion with the team we have is a fantastic achievement.

“In my years spent at the club this has been the most successful,” he said.

“This is a great opportunity (playing in the Premier Division) for the younger players to test themselves and show how good they are. Max Shirt is an exceptional player – he really came out of his shell this year and his highlight was scoring a century against Hutton.

“Nicky Browne was brilliant as always, and Hamzah Ikram really showed his potential.

“He’s 16 and this boy is going to be some player. He’s a quick learner and this level doesn’t faze him.”

For all the admiration he has for his current crop of players, the South Woodford captain admitted he needed to recruit some old heads to compete at the next level.

“We are going to have to strengthen with one or two senior players, but the future is bright,” he said, before thanking the club’s chairman Phil Hardy for showing faith in his leadership.

“A lot of people may have disagreed with some of my decisions, but he backed me and I’m really grateful for that.”

South Woodford’s season finished on Saturday with a home win against title winners Ardleigh Green. Farid Butt hit 92 as the champions posted 209 inside their 50 overs.

In reply, Browne struck an inspirational 110 to give South Woodford a score of 210-6 and a well-deserved victory.

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