Read shed ‘Bridesmaid’ tag after landing the Ramsbottom Cup for the first time in 16 years

Read's Matthew Walker
Read's Matthew Walker

He’d never experienced it at Lowerhouse. Matthew Walker’s introduction to senior cricket at Liverpool Road coincided with a change in the tapestry of the club.

The West Enders had shed their ‘Cinderella’ status in 2004 with the capture of the Worsley Cup, which they followed up with the Lancashire League title.

They remained the only two pieces of silverware that the league’s founder members had been able to excavate in well over a century.

But their fortunes took a turn. From 2011 they collected five trophies in four seasons and Walker, still a teenager through most of it, was part of that movement.

There’s clearly something in the water at the Walker household. The captain’s contribution at Read has been just as resounding.

The Whalley Roaders had been carrying their ‘bridesmaid’ tag in the Ribblesdale Cricket League for 15 years having finished runners up in the major competitions more times than they’d care to remember.

That was, until, they denied Brinscall their first Ramsbottom Cup success at School Lane. This time they were simply too good for their fellow finalists, instantly dispelling the myth that they were forever destined for second best.

“It was fun, we just wanted to enjoy ourselves,” said the skipper. “Some people may only get to be a part of something like that once in their lifetime. We didn’t want to put too much pressure on what we’re doing.

“I was over the moon to win it. It was a really good feeling to win something after getting so close so many times. It’s nice to be a part of that side that is no longer considered to be the bridesmaid.

“The squad has a really good ethos and a really good connection, that’s something that I wanted to build when I was appointed captain.

“In the end that is what’s helped us get over that imaginary line. We all play for each other and everybody knows their role.”

The hosts appeared to be turning the screw ever-so-slightly when reducing Read to 77-4, a position that had cast doubt in Walker’s mind.

However, the fog cleared and the visitors kicked on. They closed on 164 before wiping Brinscall out for 72 as Daniel Rushton claimed 3-6.

Walker said: “We started okay after losing the toss, but then it started to go down hill a bit. At 77-4 I was questioning whether we’d be able to put on enough to put the tie in our favour. We limped to 100, but then flew to 164.

“Initially I thought 160 would have been enough to do it and the wickets just came in their innings.

“The rain made it hard for them, Daniel Rushton took 3-6, and then we just did what we’ve been doing all season. We are a well balanced side and we’ve got so much depth.

“Everyone chipped in and did what they have to do. It was a massive sense of relief. I’m not being egotistical, but everyone was expecting us to win. There was almost a sense of what did we have to gain?”

Read had been in contention to become only the second club in history to complete the treble in the Ribblesdale League, emulating what Clitheroe achieved in 2006 and 2016.

They were hanging on the coat tails of Settle prior to the weekend’s abandonment at Station Road. The league leaders capitalised, stretching their lead to 21 points with victory over Earby.

With five games remaining, Walker said: “It’s a bit infuriating. It wasn’t our ground so there wasn’t much we could do about it. It ruins it for me.

“We’ve got Settle this weekend, but even if we beat them it’s still going to take a minor miracle now. It’s frustrating, but that probably motivated us in the cup. We wanted to make sure that we won a trophy.”

They can, though, still complete the double. They host T20 Finals Day on Bank Holiday Monday. Earby take on Brinscall in the first semi-final before Read take on Salesbury.

“We can play with a bit more freedom now,” Walker said. “Winning the Ramsbottom Cup and the T20 with finishing second in the league, I’d take that every single year. Finishing runner-up in the league is an accomplishment in itself.

“We’ll hopefully make it a day to remember. It should be fun and we want to enjoy it again. It will be a good atmosphere. Cricket is becoming a bit bigger again and we just want to make sure this carries on growing.

“Obviously the success of the World Cup is helping and the Ashes is on. It’s still being pushed on our TV screens, it’s nice having it back. It feels like it’s 2005 all over again.”