Portsmouth urged to keep on climbing

Matt Benfield cracks a boundary before Portsmouth & Southsea's clash with Fair Oak at St James's Park was abandoned on Saturday. Picture: Keith Woodland
Matt Benfield cracks a boundary before Portsmouth & Southsea's clash with Fair Oak at St James's Park was abandoned on Saturday. Picture: Keith Woodland
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Dave Henderson expressed his delight at playing a part in steering Portsmouth to Southern Electric Premier League division three promotion but revealed: This is just the start.

The skipper, who took over from James Scott recently, saw his side seal their place in division two next term – even though their game with Bashley (Rydal) II was abandoned after just six overs.

The St Helen’s outfit now need a further six points from their final two games to seal the title.

But Henderson believes promotion can act as a launch pad to fire the club back to the top flight.

He said: ‘If you look at the teams that are there, I think our current team would do really well in the league above.

‘So we are hopeful of achieving back-to-back promotions.

‘But we don’t see this as us being one-season wonders.

‘We see it as a start to getting back to the higher divisions.

‘It’s great to get promoted and we want to make sure we win the league now.

‘I think we need six points from our remaining two games to be absolutely sure.’

While Portsmouth have recruited players from far and wide in recent seasons, it is a side predominantly made up of local players that has achieved promotion this time.

And Henderson pointed to a good blend of youth and experience that has served them well.

He said: ‘The team spirit has been a huge part of it.

‘We’ve also had a couple of guys who have come in and performed far better than we expected. Our wicketkeeper Alex Hammond has been awesome and Jed Whitecross, who has opened the bowling, has been excellent for us as well.

‘You get a few wins under your belt, you have that spirit and the rest takes care of itself.

‘It’s been enjoyable and in 20-odd years of playing, this has been the happiest bunch of people I have played alongside.

‘We’ve got four under-18s and four over-35s, so it’s a good blend.’

Portsmouth have also benefited from an overseas player in Liam Duffield, who has played his part without dominating their season.

Henderson said: ‘Having Liam here has also been a big part.

‘He has chipped in but without winning games all by himself.

‘And I think that is the ideal overseas player.

‘We have seen some guys can come over and win a league almost single-handedly but then their team struggles the next year without them.

‘But as far as Liam goes, we have offered him the chance to come back next year and we are hoping he will.’

Henderson has also agreed to stay on as skipper next year.

He said: ‘I’m happy to do it again next year. After a baptism of fire, I’ve enjoyed it.

‘James has been there through thick and thin and he did the hard work really. I just kept it going.’

The rest of the Southern Electric Premier League matches were also abandoned.