Sam old story, and this is Hornsey's final chance!

HORNSEY captain Chetan Patel admits that he and his team-mates would be absolutely gutted if they miss out on promotion on Saturday, having topped Division Three for the entire season. The Tivoli Road outfit failed in their third attempt...

By Ben Pearce

HORNSEY captain Chetan Patel admits that he and his team-mates would be "absolutely gutted" if they miss out on promotion on Saturday, having topped Division Three for the entire season.

The Tivoli Road outfit failed in their third attempt to seal an early exit from the third tier of the Middlesex County League at the weekend, losing a pivotal promotion clash with Kenton by three wickets as Sami Haider took seven Hornsey wickets.

That means that the north London side must travel to the new league leaders Harrow Town for a top-of-the-table showdown, with the all-important top two spots both up for grabs on the final day of the campaign.

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Hornsey have to win to guarantee progression to the next level of the league, a bitter pill for Patel to swallow as his side have thrown away three successive chances to rubber-stamp an early passage to Division Two.

"It's the big one on Saturday, and we've made it the big one," said the skipper ruefully. "I think it's fair to say that it's a very frustrating situation for all of us. We've had plenty of opportunities to nail promotion in recent weeks, and we haven't done it.

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"What makes it worse is that we've been top all season from the very start. This is the first week that we haven't led the division, and it's the final week. It's a real pressure situation."

"But if you'd offered me this situation back in April, playing for promotion on the final day, we'd all have bitten your arm off.

But how would we feel if it doesn't go our way? Probably the same way we've felt for the last few weeks. I doubt you could print the words I have in mind, but the first team and in fact the whole club would be absolutely gutted, there's no doubt about that."

Six weeks ago, Hornsey's ascent looked a mere formality as they sat 24 points clear of second-placed Barnet Bs and 28 points ahead of Harrow Town and Kenton, who were seemingly battling for the second promotion slot.

At that stage Patel's side had won eight of their 11 games, but since then they have only triumphed in one of their six league fixtures, allowing Town to overtake them and Kenton to level on points.

Indeed, it was Kenton who inflicted the latest injury, ensuring that there would be no early relief for Hornsey, who would have sealed promotion at the third attempt if they had run out victorious in north-west London.

Unfortunately they ran into Haider, who last week broke the MCL's all-time record for wickets taken in a season, and the spinner picked up 7-74 to skittle Hornsey for 169 on Saturday, bringing his total to 77 for the campaign so far.

Kenton's victory looked like a formality as their opening pair enjoyed a first-wicket stand of 101 and, despite a wobble that left the home side 123-4, they finished the job with three wickets in hand.

That leaves Patel contemplating Hornsey's epic head-to-head with Harrow Town and, knowing that even a one-point losing draw would see Town promoted at their expense, the skipper concedes that the toss will be pivotal.

"It all depends how they're going to approach it," mused the captain. "They can still win the league title and if they want to win that they'll have to be positive.

"I can't second-guess them but my own feeling is, given that Harrow Town have never been above Division Three in their history, they'll go for promotion and not necessarily the title, in which case they'd only need the draw.

"The toss will be crucial, but if you're going to win promotion you've got to bat or bowl well, either way. In an odd way it's nice for it to come down to the last day, a high-pressure situation, but the way I'm feeling right now it would be really nice to have sealed promotion three weeks ago!

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