David Banks assessed Sarisbury’s Southern Electric Premier League division one clash with New Milton and admitted: It could make or break our season.
Athletic, who were cruelly denied promotion to the top flight last term because their outfield was deemed too small for accreditation, have made a positive start to the new campaign as they bid to join the elite again.
A win over Liphook & Ripsley was followed by victory against regular title contenders Hook & Newnham Basics as Banks’ side delivered a comprehensive seven-wicket success.
But now the Sarisbury skipper wants a repeat performance against another of the fancied sides.
Banks said: ‘I would definitely say ourselves and New Milton will be challenging for promotion at the end of the season.
‘I wouldn’t rule out Hook or Burridge, but anyone can beat anyone in this league.
‘It would make a massive difference if we beat them.
‘We’re both unbeaten at the moment, so it’s a key point in the season – even though it’s early.
‘We play them twice and if we beat them twice, that is a lot of ground to make up.
‘We put a marker down last week with our performance against Hook and we need to do it again.
‘So I think it’s vitally important that we put in a positive performance and we beat New Milton. It could set us up for the rest of the season.’
New Milton have picked up a trio of former Bournemouth players – in Nick Park, Jamie Park and Mark House – since last term.
But Banks believes last season’s two convincing wins over their New Forest rivals will still be in their minds and could play a part.
He said: ‘Our two best performances came against them last year and we scored over 300 twice.
‘Hopefully, we can repeat that. They will be thinking about that, without doubt.
‘We are probably stronger this year but they have strengthened their batting with three players from Bournemouth as well.
‘But last weekend, it was two of the best performances since I’ve been back at the club.
‘We demolished Hook – a good side – chasing 160 in 19 overs, three down.
‘And then the T20 against Fawley was a really polished performance.
‘We played badly last year and won the league.
‘Nobody performed that consistently and if everyone raises their game 25 per cent, we should be in a good position. So far, we have.’
Mark Miller is ruled out through work commitments and either Andy Critch or Toby Mitchener will step up.
Elsewhere in division one, leaders Burridge play host to Hartley Wintney.
The Botley Road side are fresh from two wins, including last weekend’s 72-run stroll over Hambledon.
Meanwhile, the Ridge Meadow side make five changes as they attempt to bounce back against Liphook.
Sarisbury (from): David Banks, Archie Norris, Ricky Rawlins, Pete Hammond, Matt Journeaux, Michael Bond, Joe Lovett, James Ingram, Dan Goldstraw, Phil Jewell, Andy Critch, Toby Mitchener