AFTER losing an agonising Championship chase to Baxenden last term, Read captain Kyle O’Connor is dreaming of title success in 2012.
The Whalley Road side fell six points short as last year’s battle culminated but the runners-up are rejuvenated and determined to add silverware to the trophy cabinet.
Read, who begin their Ribblesdale Cricket League campaign against Great Harwood at Blackburn Old Road on Saturday, have acquired the services of Lancashire’s Jordan Clark as pro and Lowerhouse’s Matt Doughty, though Will Driver has become Winton CC’s professional.
O’Connor said: “We are as strong as last year but I don’t want to go out there saying we’re going to win it just yet. It’s a very competitive league so we’re looking at the top four. But the dream would obviously be to win it. It would be nice to win the Ramsbottom Cup as well.”
Also craving another fruitful run in the cup competitions is Whalley stalwart and skipper Richard Palmer.
The Station Road outfit have been victorious in three of the league’s last five 20/20 finals, and lost out to Settle in last year’s finale at the Marshfield Ground.
Whalley, who face Ribblesdale Wanderers at Church Meadow on the opening day, are equipped with Indian professional Wilkin Mota for the new season but Dave O’Neill has recently announced his retirement from the game.
“Cup runs will be our main focus for trophies,” said Palmer. “If we can finish in the top six in the league then we’ll be happy. There’s been no change and we’re all another year older so we don’t expect to win the league. But we’ll go out there and try to win every game.”
Meanwhile, Salesbury chairman Andrew Green is hoping his side can move away from the table’s basement.
The league’s newest addition, who entertain Clitheroe on Saturday, have finished bottom of the pile for the last two years but under the guidance of skipper Steve Brown, along with vice captain James Watson, the club is hoping for better. Susantha Pradeep has returned to Ribchester Road as pro, Paul Snape has joined from Feniscowles while 14-year-old Josh Bristol, who took five wickets on his debut against Barnoldswick last season, is set to make his mark on the first XI.
“We want to finish off the bottom,” said Green. “We’ve finished there twice so we’re looking at lower mid-table this time. We feel we’ve learnt from the past two seasons and we’re ready to progress. The players are confident and upbeat.”
Elsewhere, it’s Clitheroe CC’s 150th anniversary and captain Paul Gaskell is hoping to celebrate the landmark with a successful season.
The club have brought back 2010 title-winning skipper Peter Dibb and he is joined by Nelson duo Stuart Lemon and Tom Lord. Jack Dewhurst and Liam Nuttall have also strengthened the Chatburn Road ranks.
Kashif Siddique will offer his expertise as paid man once again though Hassan Fazal, Naeem Ashraf and Tabassum Aziz have left the club.
“It’s the 150th anniversary of the club this year so we want to do well,” said Gaskell. “We want to improve on our sixth place finish last year and be up there. We’ve added quality so we’re hoping for a good campaign.”
And Ian Britcliffe will have his fingers crossed for further cup success with Ribblesdale Wanderers.
His side are the Ramsbottom Cup holders, and it will be their ambition to preserve that title. South African Michael Erlank is the paid man for the new campaign while young guns Ric and Mick Clarkson, Charlie Collinge, Jordan Britcliffe and Charlie Jackson will be hoping to break in to the first team. Liam Nuttall has left for Clitheroe but Max Cole and former Chatburn all-rounder James Price have signed.
Britcliffe said: “We had a really good season last year, finishing fifth, and of course winning the Ramsbottom Cup which was a huge step forward after finishing 10th in 2010. We aspire to improve and break into the top four this year.”