Read are hoping to challenge

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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.”

Meanwhile, Padiham skipper John Bushell is hoping to better last season’s finish.

Padiham had been pursuing a top five conclusion to 2011 but had to settle for seventh after accumulating 157 points.

Padiham will be without Max Howells for the new campaign after he relocated with his family and joined Rainhill CC.

But the club has been buoyed by the return of the industrious Anthony Hall who makes his comeback after a lengthy break from the game. Mick Hawke, father of Lowerhouse’s Joe, will feature while Ishtaq Ahmed, who claimed 80 wickets for the second string in 2010, is also pushing for a place in the first XI.

“We are hoping to counteract our loss with those three players,” said Bushell.

“With their inclusion we’ve significantly strengthened the squad and I’m hopeful we can be very competitive this year.

“We were striving for the top five last year and missed out narrowly so I would like to see progression on that. We want to build on the good work that we did last year.”