Lions to give youth a chance as Thornely aims to improve on fourth

Horsham v Roffey - cricket. Mika Ekstrom . Pic Steve Robards SR1717595 SUS-170708-115253001
Horsham v Roffey - cricket. Mika Ekstrom . Pic Steve Robards SR1717595 SUS-170708-115253001

Horsham captain Michael Thornely is aiming to better his side’s fourth-place finish last season as they enter a new campaign in the Sussex League Premier Division.

The former Sussex and Leicestershire batsman is entering his third season back at Horsham having returned in 2016 and taken over captaining duties in 2017.

The Lions finished fourth in each of the past two seasons and have not won the league since 2004.

But Thornely is targeting remaining consistent throughout the season to ensure they improve on their league finish.

He said: “We’ve always been in the top two or three and then just split slightly to fourth. It’s about making sure we are consistent throughout the year and this season I would like to better our top-four finish.

“If we can be in the top two or three that would be a great achievement for us this year.

“We’ve had a good break and now the season’s here, despite not getting the practice we wanted, we’ve got a great bunch of young players in the squad who are going to get the opportunity to play and to put their hand up and win some games for Horsham.”

The Lions welcome Joe Ashmore, from Bognor, who was the third-highest wicket-taker in the league last season with 47 wickets, wicketkeeper Ryan Maskell, however, has departed the other way, returning to his former club.

Former Sussex academy player Nick Oxley will be present this season despite interest from Marylebone Cricket Club, while Thornely admitted replacing Michael Munday will be difficult as he departs for Reigate Priory.

He said: “We may see Will Beer a little bit, George Garton is another option but he tends to be looked after and wrapped up by Sussex as he is a quick bowler – they’re pretty thin on the ground so they look after him.

“I think there’s been in the past few years a gap, so to say., with young players coming through we’ve relied a lot on the older guys, but now there is some young and really promising talent coming through the club.

“Players like Tom Clark, and even Tom Haines who’s a pro down in Sussex. He’s fresh out of school and he has a really big year ahead of him and he can showcase to everyone how good a player he is and win us some games.

“It will be interesting with Joe joining, but Ryan lives right down in Bognor and it was always hard for him to get down to Horsham and train. It’s a shame because he had a really good season with us behind the stumps but unfortunately he won’t be with us this year.

“We have a good replacement behind the sticks in Michael Harms, who is really looking forward to it, he’s great with the bat and the gloves and hopefully he can pick up the reins and do well.

“It’s going to be difficult to replace Michael Munday, he’s always caused the batters issues, that’s something that will cause my captaining to be tested a little bit more this year.

South-African Mika Ekstrom returns as the Lions’ overseas player, leaving Thornely left hoping he can replicate his performances from last season. He added: “I just want him to do what he did last year – he really led the attack with the ball and hopefully he can have a bit more consistency with the bat as well which will really help with the team.”

The Lions begin their season in the T20 cup against Haywards Heath, with Thornley hoping his side can replicate their 2016 triumphs. The league season starts on May 5 against East Grinstead.