WESTCLIFF kept themselves on the fringes of the promotion race with victory over seemingly doomed basement club Loughton.

And Horndon on the Hill moved closer to Division One safety with a comprehensive local derby win over near neighbours Orsett.

With a number of regulars unavailable, Westcliff, now fifth, relied on youth to take them to an 18-point haul which sees them just 19 points behind second-placed South Woodford.

After stand-in skipper Tim Wade had won the toss and put Loughton in to bat, one of the call-ups from the 2nd X1, Graham Cox, captured top bowling honours with 3-36.

Wade and another established first-teamer, Carlo Grovers, got two wickets apiece along with another youngster, Danny Pheloung.

Loughton were all out for 201 with A Courtney leading the way on 73.

When Westcliff replied, several players got a decent start without being able to make a big score with two first team regulars, Sam Weller (only 17) and Steve Bridgeman leading the way on 34 and 32 respectively.

But just when it looked as though the home side might struggle for victory, another second team call-up, Richard Fulford, stepped in to win the day with an unbeaten 36.

Westcliff eventually won by two wickets with the 11-point haul for Loughton probably not being enough to help their relegation fight with just four games to go as they are 44 points from safety.

"It was a priceless knock from Richard Fulford," said Wade.

"We still needed around the 50 mark to win when he came in and wickets were running out.

"In fact it was a good day for the club with so many call-ups from the 2nds doing well."

D Kilby-Browne took 5-49 for Loughton.

With Shenfield losing to third-placed Chelmsford, Horndon's 20-point haul for victory over Orsett was particularly vital.

Batting first, Horndon got off to the best possible start when young Danny Joyce and Paul Bennett put on 80 for the first wicket in only 10 overs.

Bennett went for a quickfire 37, but there were solid contributions from Jeff West Jnr (46) and Richard Bradbury (24 not out). But Joyce was the real batting hero with 94.

Shahid Khan was the top Orsett bowler with 6-77 and, when the visitors replied, wickets tumbled at regular intervals.

Ever-reliable Steve Mendes got 3-17 in 13 overs and young Max Osborne 4-37 in 11.

With Mark Wills weighing in with 2-5 off five, Orsett were bowled out for just 83 and picked up only three points.

A feature of the day was Horndon's outstanding fielding with skipper Jason Plom very much to the fore.

Orsett, fourth from bottom, are just seven points clear of Horndon now, but Plom's men head second-from-bottom Shenfield by 27 points.

"It was a good all-round performance by us on our home track and providing we can get some decent results over the last four games we should be safe. At least it's in our own hands," said Plom.