CHRIS Watling has praised his Aston Rowant teammates for the way they have dug in under pressure.

Four wins from five Home Counties Premier League games have helped the side climb out of the Division 1 relegation zone and 60 points clear of the bottom two.

After finishing third last season, Rowant found themselves in a battle at the wrong end of the table after losing six of their opening seven games.

But Watling has put their upturn in form down to a change in mentality.

“It’s just players standing up and valuing their wicket a bit more rather than relying on someone else to do it,” said the batsman.

“They’ve been putting their hand up.

“What’s been pleasing is everyone’s chipped in and we’ve seen some very good team performances.”

Rowant host Slough tomorrow and make two changes, with Leo Bethell and James Fitzjohn replacing Alan Duncan and George Reid.

Will Eason is under no illusions about Horspath’s struggles.

Despite earning a draw at Finchampstead, they slipped 17 points adrift of safety at the bottom after Tring Park beat second-placed Datchet.

Horspath host Buckingham Town hoping to pick up their first victory since the opening week of the season.

And captain Eason knows his side need to deliver.

He said: “It’s going to be a fight which hopefully we will take right to the wire.

“We know we desperately need a win, especially with Tring getting the result they did on Saturday.

“Now that gap has opened up we need to make sure it doesn’t get any bigger.”

Horspath make two changes, with Robbie Eason and Tom Coleman returning in place of Mark Skelton and Alfie Turner.

Lloyd Sabin is planning on experimenting with his Banbury team after their slim title hopes all but ended last week.

Defeat to Rowant saw the third-placed side fall 56 points adrift of leaders Henley with five games to go.

Captain Sabin is now looking to give chances to other players, starting this weekend as Jack Wilkins is promoted from the second XI, replacing Dave Whiteley, for their trip to Tring Park.

Sabin said: “We’re now just going to try to win as many games as possible and look to give players plenty of opportunities.

“I will look to try a few different combinations and just give players who haven’t had many opportunities this year the chance to showcase what they can do.

“We’re in a good position, we’ve had a good season, so hopefully we can continue to win games.”

Jamie Perkin has described Division 2 leaders Oxford’s fixture at fourth-placed Wokingham as a “massive game”.

The pacesetters are 11 points clear, while tomorrow’s hosts are 25 adrift of the two promotion places.

With five matches still to play, skipper Perkin is calling on his side to keep the hammer down.

He said: “This is a massive game for us and I think it’s a massive game for them.

“They should’ve beaten us at our place and they will know to have any chance of going up they will have to win this weekend.

“With it being so tight we can’t be in a position to lose it, especially with Thame at home next week.”

Spinner Shami Mendis’s five-wicket haul inspired a five-wicket win over Cookham Dean last week.

And Perkin, who recalls Rob Craze in place of Arthur Muir, hailed his bowling attack.

He said: “Shami’s a real asset and we’re starting to bowl well as a team.

“They’re all chipping in, it’s nice to have everyone taking wickets.”

Thame Town's stay at the top only lasted one week as they dropped to third place following their defeat to Oxford Downs.

Michael Beard’s side had headed into the fixture on a seven-match unbeaten run and will hope to bounce back when they host Chesham at Church Meadow tomorrow.

Downs bid to make it back-to-back wins and five games unbeaten as they travel to Amersham.

Captain George Sandbach and Tom Costley return in place of James Ellwood and Dan Sherbourne.

Sandbach is hoping his side can build on the Thame victory and is looking forward to being back in the side after being unavailable last week.

He said: "Last week was agony. "I was in France, but was permanently watching the live YouTube stream and getting calls.

"A great bowling display from us is encouraging and with myself back adding to the batting we are looking forward to getting closer to that top-two spot with 25 points."


Aston Rowant (v Slough, home): Coles, Condon, Matthews, Smith, Watling, Rossouw, Morrick, Muttitt, Harris, Bethell, Fitzjohn.

Banbury (v Tring Park, away): Sabin, White, Phillips, Yousaf, Clarke, West, Rana, Hill, Wright, Thomas, Wilkins.

Horspath (v Buckingham Tn, home): O’Connor, Robertson, Hopper, Cosford, Green, Hawtin, W Eason, Belcher, Manley, R Eason, Coleman.

Oxford (v Wokingham, away): Price, Eltham, Tong-Jones, Ayub, Nutt, Mendis, Perkin, Musk, Fallah, Keat, Craze.

Oxford Downs (v Amersham, away): Smith, C Sandbach, Watts, G Sandbach, Rafiq, Slatter, Sillars, Costley, Crouch, Mehmood, Brock.