Ison: Upminster looking to get out of 'toughest division'

Upminster captain Alan Ison is looking forward to the new Hamro Foundation Essex League season

Upminster captain Alan Ison is looking forward to the new Hamro Foundation Essex League season - Credit: Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo

Alan Ison is looking for Upminster to mount a promotion push in Hamro Foundation Essex League this season, but expects a tough campaign.

Upminster host local rivals Gidea Park & Romford in their first Division One match of the summer on Saturday, having booked a quarter-final spot in the Dukes Essex League Cup over the past fortnight.

And Ison, who misses this weekend's match due to suspension, would like to see his side start their league schedule on the right note.

"We're looking to get promoted. We've made some good signings and have got good club players who have been around for a few years," he said.

Ollie Todd of Upminster celebrates after taking the wicket of Shenfield's Max Bear

Ollie Todd of Upminster celebrates after taking the wicket of Shenfield's Max Bear - Credit: Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo

"But there are a lot of good teams in this league, who will have all strengthened - Woodford Wells, Ilford, Buckhurst Hill, Harold Wood.

"Division One is very tough to get out of, it's always the same. It's good if you can get a few wins under your belt early on or get on a run of wins. 

"Anyone can beat anyone, it's like the Championship in football."

John Curtis in bowling action for Upminster against Shenfield

John Curtis in bowling action for Upminster against Shenfield - Credit: Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo

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Upminster finished down in eighth place in 2021, while Park were promoted behind Division Two champions Wickford.

And Ison, 31, expects a tricky test against some familiar faces, adding: "Historically it has been a strong rivalry, but it has been a bit tame in recent years.

"Frankie Hazle and Will Chuter used to play for us. They've just come up and will be looking to start well in Division One.

"They've got a good overseas, a left-arm spinner and left-hand bat, and other good players like Jamal Francis and Sam Hewitt, so will be a good outfit. We've got to be on it. It should be a good game."

Having beaten Loughton by 21 runs in the first round of the cup, Upminster claimed an eight-wicket win over Premier Division side Shenfield last weekend.

Chairman Ollie Peck picked up three wickets, before South African all-rounder JJ Smuts smacked 130 off 90 balls.

Ollie Peck of Upminster celebrates after taking the wicket of Shenfield's Mehad Khan

Ollie Peck of Upminster celebrates after taking the wicket of Shenfield's Mehad Khan - Credit: Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo

But they were without Essex staffer Aaron Beard, who has joined Sussex on loan and took three wickets against Durham.

"Aaron played our first cup game and then went off to Sussex and did alright in his first game. I'd rather see that than him playing for us to be honest because he's a really nice lad and deserves a chance," said Ison.

JJ Smuts in bowling action for Upminster against Shenfield

JJ Smuts in bowling action for Upminster against Shenfield - Credit: Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo

"JJ has found some form with the bat already. He's an unbelievable batter and left-arm spinner.

"It's good to have him around with his knowledge and experience. If you've got good left-arm spinners you won't go far wrong.

"We've got a young team around the likes of me, Peck, Curtis, JJ. It's a nice balance."