Sharland won’t expect any favours from neighbours Hornsey as Highgate bid to stay up on the final day

Highgate skipper Jake Sharland expects no favours from neighbours Hornsey when his side attempt to clinch survival by beating them in Saturday’s derby showdown.

Sharland’s men would have secured their place in the division with a win at Brondesbury on Saturday – only to lose out in a tense climax with just two balls remaining.

Although Highgate remain a point above the relegation zone, rivals Acton host rock-bottom Wembley in their final game – so the likelihood is that nothing less than victory over Hornsey will keep the Shepherd’s Cot club up.

“We march on to the Hornsey game and we need to beat them,” said Sharland. “Last time we played Hornsey, we had them nine down but things didn’t go our way then.

“Brondesbury was a repeat of that – a bigger team that we were expected to struggle against and we’ve taken them right to the line but lost, which is disappointing.

“That’s the story of our season – so close but so far. Hornsey don’t have anything to play for now and, with any luck, they’ll turn up without the intensity they would usually have.

“However, it is a local derby, we have a long history against them and we are the underdogs. So I think they’ll want to get one over on us but we’re going to fight to the end and hopefully stay up.”

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Highgate looked unlikely to get anywhere near victory at Harman Drive after Sharland had won the toss, chosen to bat – and watched in horror as the top order crumbled.

The captain was first to go, bowled by Sam Smith (2-20) for a first-ball duck, and opening partner Chris Arul soon followed, caught behind off Buddy Mason for a single.

Highgate were floundering at 7-3 when Sandun Dias (4) fell to Smith and, although Matt Holly (16) and Muazam Ali (23) led a mini-recovery, the visitors’ chances of posting a substantial total looked slim at 82-6.

However, Will Brookes marshalled the lower order with an excellent knock of 60 from 66 balls, ably supported by Craig Gourlay (15) and Phil Knott (28).

Mason (4-40) returned to clean up the tail by dismissing both Brookes and Knott, sandwiching the wicket of Scott Thaxton (1) and ensuring that Highgate were bowled out for 170 in the 45th over.

Tight bowling from Robin Glassberg (1-23), who rattled through his nine overs unchanged, and Dias (2-31), meant that Brondesbury struggled to score quickly when they replied.

With Hugh Gimber (11) and Jordan Bethel (3) both caught at the wicket, the home side were finding the chase tricky at 26-2 – and it would have become harder still had James Overy (63 not out) not been put down at mid-on soon afterwards.

Overy dropped anchor, while Sasha Ward also survived a chance as he contributed a lively 39 to their partnership of 58, only to be bowled as he attempted to reverse-sweep Holly (1-12).

Smith struck a quick 16 before top-edging Dias back into the bowler’s hands – and a diving catch from the Sri Lankan off Gourlay then removed Adam Sargent (1) and reduced Brondesbury to 126-5.

But Anthony Wilkinson (35 no) kept his side up with the required run-rate and slammed Gourlay for successive boundaries in the final over to leave Highgate heartbroken.

“We were the better team for 80 per cent of the game, I’d say,” added Sharland. “But it boils down to a few moments and a few dropped catches.

“We did many things well, as we have done all season. Will Brookes batted remarkably well [hitting 60 off 66 balls] and it was well bowled by Sandun – he was really unlucky and he’s more disappointed than anyone.

“After the first 10 overs I thought 170 to 180 was probably going to be a par score and in the end that was right. It wasn’t an easy pitch to bat on, but it’s a big ground and quite difficult to defend.

“It turned out that we didn’t have enough. I think we would have done but for those moments that cost us – and it’s happened time and time again this season.”