EVERYBODY’S got cup final fever down at Whalley Road.
Read face Ribblesdale Wanderers in the highly-anticipated Ramsbottom Cup finale at Padiham’s Arbories on Sunday, seeking their seventh title in the competition.
Only Barnoldswick can boast that success rate in the Ribblesdale Cricket League.
Read, who went top of the table at the weekend, have got past Cherry Tree, Clitheroe and Baxenden to reach this stage, and now skipper Warren Eastham wants to add the silverware to the trophy cabinet for the first time since 2003.
“It’s a fantastic weekend for anyone who gets to play in a cup final,” said Eastham.
“You don’t get many chances to do this in a playing career.
“Luckily I’ve been fortunate enough to play in a Ramsbottom Cup Final, but we’ve got some young lads who have never had the opportunity to play in a final in a senior side.”
He added: “There’s a real buzz about the club. We will go in to the game as favourites, but a cup final is a cup final and they can swing either way.
“We are up for it and it will be a fantastic event. Padiham Cricket Club have put a lot of effort into it. It’s a great batting wicket there and hopefully that will suit us.
“I just hope we come away with the cup. If we do win it, then it should give us the platform to go on and win the league.”
Eastham’s men are battling on two fronts this weekend as they look to preserve their table-topping status.
Read climbed to the summit for the first time this season following double-header success over Cherry Tree and Great Harwood. A solitary point is the cushion over Barnoldswick going in to tomorrow’s clash with basement side Settle on home soil.
“Settle are bottom of the league but you can be sure that they’ll still give you a game,” Eastham said.
“Their captain John Seedle will rally the troops; he’s experienced and a determined campaigner. We will be expecting to win but we’ll need to impose ourselves on the game from the start and get stuck in to get the maximum out of it.”
Eastham added: “It’s a big weekend for the club but it would leave a sour taste going in to the final if we didn’t beat Settle tomorrow.
“We’ve got to win these games if we’re wanting to win the league.
“It doesn’t matter where they are in the league, if we don’t play well we won’t win.
“Professionals are there for a reason and James Rawlinson is due a score; I just hope it’s not against us. They’ve got one or two decent players who on their day can cause you damage.”
Meanwhile, Arbories skipper John Bushell is looking ahead after demanding Padiham win the Ribblesdale Cricket League in the next few years.
His statement of ambition is admirable as he continues to nurture and develop a young and inexperienced squad of players, but he has a belief in their ability and is adamant that their quality will prevail sooner rather than later.
The charismatic captain insists that 18 wins from 26 games should be enough to take the title but, staying with the 2011 campaign, he’s looking to nudge that ‘wins’ column from eight to 14 with just eight fixtures remaining.
“We need to be aiming towards the top,” said Bushell. “We can’t do that this year, but it can be done whether it takes one season, two seasons or more.
“We’ve got to look at winning 18 of the 26 league games to do that. The target this year is 14 wins which is a big ask but we’re capable.
“The remainder of the season is about consolidating and building and I believe individuals will start to shine.”
Two defeats at the weekend practically scuppered any hope that Padiham had of finishing fourth, with rivals Whalley establishing a 28 point gap, but Bushell has encouraged his youngsters to excel and take everything they can from the remainder of the season.
“When we beat Whalley we’d closed the gap on fourth spot considerably,” Bushell said.
“We’ve taken 22 points off Whalley this season but now they’re 28 points above us.
“They are breaking away and at one point we were looking to push in to fourth spot.
“Everytime we’ve felt as though we could make that push, we’ve either under-performed or been badly beaten by better teams.
“Luckily the results weren’t too unkind for us, we didn’t drop any places, but we certainly lost ground on fourth. We’ve just got to keep pushing now.”
Next up for Padiham is a clash with Earby at the Applegarth tomorrow and with just one point separating the two sides, Bushell is expecting a performance to prevent them sinking any lower in the hierarchy.
He said: “We will be approaching the game with a fully-strength side but we will have to work hard to win. We need a positive performance because we don’t want to drop any places. We realise there’ll be weeks when we get beat but we want to win the majority and build that consistency.”