Hayling Island are starting to enjoy their cricket again after enduring two successive relegations.
There is a new spring in their step as they prepare to host Southampton Community in Hampshire League division three south at Hayling Park tomorrow (2pm).
An excellent derby win at Portchester saw them rise to seventh in the table and captain Rob Collard is confident they can climb higher.
He believes the key to the improvement is the players are smiling again.
‘The last couple of seasons have not been easy,’ said Collard.
‘It was only two years ago that we won promotion into division one.
‘Unfortunately our going up coincided with a lot of players leaving the club.
‘Players left to go travelling, some emigrated, others moved away with work and a couple decided to retire.
‘That season we had to call on a lot of players who had been in the second team.
‘The gulf between regional division one and the highest level was too big and we came straight back down.
‘Last season also proved difficult and we ended up going down again.
‘The club began to drift apart into two separate teams – the first and seconds – because of the difference in levels they were playing.
‘Now we have got the second team promoted we have managed to change that.
‘Players are now feeling a lot more comfortable moving from one team to the other.
‘We are now very much more like a club again and there is more of a fun element.
‘Fines have been introduced and we are having a bit more of a laugh with players wanting to play.
‘Second team captain Alex Johnson is also doing a great job.’
With the pressure off, some of Hayling’s stalwarts are beginning to regain their appetite and form.
This has certainly been the case with the club’s two big all-rounders – Mike Lever and Mike Hallett.
Lever has scored nearly 300 runs so far this season, including an unbeaten 120 against Bishop’s Waltham II.
His bowling has also been very tight, helping create pressure on the opposition.
Meanwhile, Hallett has been even more prolific with the bat and is well on the way to 400 runs.
He has notched two centuries and scores of 80 and 75 in recent weeks.
As an aggressive opening bowler, he is once more a key figure in the Hayling side side.
The Hayling Park outfit have also been boosted by the return of Dave Gorvin.
He captained the side that won promotion to division one.
And is now in the process of moving back into the area with work.
‘Our tails are up after beating Portchester so we are looking to keep the winning run going,’ added Collard.
‘We know we have to keep improving because in our league everybody seems capable of beating everybody else.’
Hayling Island: Gorvin, Hallett, Lever, Martin, Prentice, Barnard, Cordell, Steel, Poole, Gibbon, Wells