Cheltenham look forward with optimism after battle
SKIPPER Will Simmons believes Cheltenham can look to the future with optimism after surviving by the skin of their teeth in Premier Two.
A five-wicket final day home defeat by Chard would have condemned them to the drop, but an administrative error by Gloucester City Winget spared them an immediate return to the Glos/Wilts Division.
Despite not achieving it in the manner he would have liked, Simmons said it was imperative they remained in Premier cricket.
"We reached our aim of staying up, but it was disappointing we were in any sort of scrape in this league," Simmons said.
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"We should have been higher up the table, but you have to earn your results and prove it.
"The most important thing was that we made it, but there are things we are frustrated about.
"Conversely, there is a lot to be positive about, with a young side growing in experience and having to deal with the pressure of Premier cricket and we made it!"
Cheltenham showed what they were capable of when they were on form, defeating the eventual champions Taunton Deane at the Victoria Ground on June 1.
Leading run scoring Mike Kelly hit 125, with England Under-17 prospect Kieran Smith chipping in with 57 in what Simmons regards as Cheltenham's best performance of the summer.
Cheltenham also beat Thornbury, who finished third, at home, but a lack of consistency prevented them from pulling away from the wrong end of the table.
Among the main positives from the campaign were Kelly's performances with the bat and his partnership with new signing Peter Woodland.
"Peter was very good to watch and the perfect partner for Mike, who learned from opening with Gareth Roderick the previous season," Simmons said.
"Mike hit something like 27 sixes during the season so he was the dominator and Peter was mature enough to play his foil.
"You'd like to watch someone like Peter play all day and he is a quiet guy, which we didn't have enough of really because there were too many hot heads at times."
Teenager Smith underlined his potential before missing a large chunk of the season due to his international commitments.
"It was a shame Kieran left when he did because he was improving and he scored 350 runs, which would have been more than 500 if he'd played the whole season," Simmons said.
"He was a real positive with the bat and he is a wrist spinner as well, so he's a real talen and next year will be exciting for him."
Off spinner Sam Didcote led the way in the wicket-taking department, while Dan Thomas burst onto the scene after stepping up from the second XI.
"Dan has been with us for ages in the seconds, but this was a breakthrough year for him," Simmons said.
"He was one of the pick of our bowlers, storming in with 7 wickets in his first match and always doing exactly what I asked of him.
"He thoroughly deserved to keep his spot and I pleased for him."
Cheltenham's players return for winters nets in January and Simmons is hoping they are given one of the first picks in the new Gloucestershire County players draft system.
Having stayed up by such a fine margin, they are likely to be given first choice of the pairings.
Richard Coughtrie and Roderick were their professionals last season, but Roderick did not appear due to his heavy involvement in the Gloucestershire side.
Off the field, Andrew Gallagher was appointed the club's new chairman, while Geoff Trett was installed as secretary.
The pair have taken over from long-serving duo Peter Simmons and Carolyn Mills, who have both been made honorary members of the club.