City keen to rise above Southern comforts

City of Portsmouth's Adam Akehurst
City of Portsmouth's Adam Akehurst

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City of Portsmouth are targeting a second successive promotion as they resume Southern Athletics League (SAL) duty today.

The Mountbatten Centre-based outfit celebrated a glorious summer on the track last season when their men and women’s teams combined to progress from their first year in the newly-formed SAL division two west.

And they are keen to replicate that experience this time around, too, with a possible play-off place for the UK League a motivating factor for the men’s outfit.

They’ll be determined to join their female counterparts in the national ranks – something team captain Steve Davey believes is well within their reach, with City boasting strength in depth within their male ranks.

‘I think we’ve probably got the strongest men’s team we’ve had in a while,’ said Davey.

‘We’ve got a new Lithuanian jumper, while Adam Akehurst is pretty much back to full fitness as well, so hopefully we can do well.

‘We’ve got strength in depth in all areas, really.

‘Alex Budd is hopefully back after being out for quite a while with an Achilles injury, while we’ve also got young Tom Ferris, who is vaulting 3m 80cm constantly now, so that strengthens our pole vault.

‘We’ve lost Mo Abdullahi, Jordan Burton and Harry Carter, and we’re probably struggling in the 1,500m and 5,000m.

‘But hopefully we can still go for promotion – I think we’re good enough.

‘Phil Budd has put the team together as acting manager and seems to have it under control.

‘It’s hard to know exactly what’s going to happen until you get out on the track.

‘It’s only then do you see where people are, where the holes are and how people’s winters have gone.

‘It’s our first time in division one in the SAL but, hopefully, we’ll be fighting for promotion.’

Davey’s positive outlook was replicated by women’s skipper Sam Vaile.

She’s led the team to several Southern Women’s League titles in recent seasons – before both codes were amalgamated at this level – and is a key member of the ladies’ side who compete separately in division two of the UK League.

Vaile believes team spirit will be key to City’s ambitions in the new 2013 season.

‘We’ve got a strong side for the opening match, team spirit is thriving and people are willing to fill in where necessary,’ said Vaile.

‘We’ve got the usual gaps we normally have and have lost Katy Watts, who used to fill in for quite a few events.

‘But we’ve got some new under-17s joining us in the middle distances and in the throws, and have another new long-jumper and triple-jumper which makes us secure in the jumps.

‘We’re also really strong in the 400m hurdles in both strings, while we should be strong in the sprints as well.

‘This season will be tougher because we’ve went up a division – and because we’ve never competed here before it will be challenging.

‘But we’re confident and team spirit always gets us through.

‘We’ve put in the best team we have and we can’t ask much more of the athletes.’

Havant AC begin their bid for division two south glory when they travel to Woking, where they’ll be up against Kingston & Polytechnic Harriers, host club Woking and Ashford.