DESPITE being bottom of Shepherd Neame Division Three, recent weeks have been much brighter for Old Brentwoods who sprang a big surprise by toppling leaders Old Southendians on their own track.

The visitors were bowled out for 203 but they came out fighting and were inspired by D Selby's bowling. He took seven for 81 as the home side lost out in the battle of the old boys, being dismissed for 195.

Brentwood will probably view Saturday's Premier Division draw with relegation-threatened Wickford as an opportunity lost rather than nine points gained.

With Hainault and Clayhall consolidating their position at the top of the premier division with an eight wicket win at Gidea Park second-placed Saffron Walden and third-placed Brentwood both lost ground.

Asked to bat first at Wickford, Brentwood posted a very respectable 279 for nine declared after 64 overs, with major innings from Ben Debenham (80), P Ayres (77) and C Sains (54).

However, although Paul Sutherland produced some penetrative bowling with five for 55, the home side comfortably held out to finish on 220 for six.

Hutton suffered disappointment in Division One. They were beaten by four wickets by Chingford who take over at the top, one point clear of Chelmsford who could only draw at home to Shenfield.

Hutton batted first on their own track but could only muster 178 for nine. N Iqbal did his best with five for 81 but Chingford reached their winning target with four wickets to spare.

Shenfield will have drawn pride from their performance at previous leaders Chelmsford.

They took an 11-point haul from the draw, batting first and posting 230 for seven declared, with D Hazle's 90 the highlight of their batting.

Chelmsford had to settle for second best, being held to 214 for seven in pursuit of victory.

In the seconds' Division One, Brentwood retained their second place and put more distance between themselves and chasing Wickford with a six-wicket win.

The visitors posted 223 for eight declared but then saw A West hit an unbeaten 109 as Brentwood replied with 224 for four to pick up 18 points.

In Division Two, Shenfield played host to leaders Horndon on the Hill and posted 209 for eight declared. However, it was far from enough and the leaders coasted to an eight-wicket win thanks to 68 and 69 rom D Joyce and P Gammon.

Hutton had two heroes in their win at West Essex. P Bennet's 54 was the mainstay of their 169 all out, a target that proved too much for their second-from-bottom hosts who found D Howard too difficult to handle, the Hutton bowler taking six for 68.

Old Brentwoods continue on the up in Division Three where they played host to Old Southendians and Southchurch.

S Palister top-scored for the Old Boys with 63 but Lee undermined their progress by claiming 6-49 as visitors succumbed to 157 all out.

Old Brentwoods replied with a winning 159-4 with J Hollington finishing unbeaten on 97.

In the thirds' Premier Division, Brentwood emerged with victory from a high-scoring encounter with visitors Woodford wells who posted 304 for six.

The home side got home with three wickets remaining, with P Brooks (69) their top scorer.

In the same division, Hutton were also winners after travelling to Hornchurch and dismissing the hosts for 229. C Lee's 67 was the mainstay of their winning 233 for six.

In Division Two, S Roach (147) and B Edwards (65) guided Shenfield to a respectable 270 for eight declared at home to Horndon on the Hill.

Despite the efforts of D Biggs (58) and J Marson (57), B Bowles' six for 11 was decisive as the collapse saw Horndon all out for 257.

In Division Three, basement club Old Brentwoods made a decent fist of their fight with table-topping Hadleigh & Thundersley, but lost by six wickets.

J Clements (100) and S Ryler (57) guided the hosts to 271 for nine declared but J Snelling (111no) and C Gibons (65) helped Hadleigh reply with 272 for four.

In the fourths' Premier Division, local sides both went down.

At Chelmsford, Brentwood's Webb took seven for 90 as the hosts declared at 280 for nine and though the club found another hero in T Jones, who hit 78, the decisive player on the day was Chelmsford bowler A Baldwin who took eight for 69 as Brentwood were dismissed for 226.

Hutton entertained Hornchurch and did everything but win - and ended up losing. Harris (106) and an unbeaten 103 from J Patel saw them post 274 for one, a target the visitors reached with just one wicket remaining, thanks largely to Gilbert's unbeaten 94.

In Division Two East, at Leigh the home side reached 205 for eight declared but then saw A Houston have no problem hitting an unbeaten 103 in Brentwood fifths' 208 for four reply.

Brentwood sixths went down in Division Two West at home to Upminster sixths. They were bowled out for 139 and the hosts got home with five wickets in hand.