Nelson and Colne ready for the off

Matt Nutter has joined Colne from Barnoldswick
Matt Nutter has joined Colne from Barnoldswick

Nelson skipper Neil Thompson is hopeful that the return of some familiar faces will help lift his side up the Lancashire League table.

The season opens on Sunday, with Nelson at home to Church, as they look to improve on last season’s 10th-place finish.

And Thompson believes a top-six slot and a cup run or two isn’t beyond his men.

David Crotty is back after two seasons as professional with Earby, and Billy Jamil also returns after a spell with Colne, and Thompson said: “We’re aiming for the top six – we are trying to set ourselves high standards.

“It’s massive having the guys come back, Dave Crotty is a great signing, to have a senior head back with his ability and experience, and Billy hopefully comes back a better cricketer after more first team cricket with Colne.

“And we’ve done well to hold onto the rest of the guys.”

Nelson have landed South African Ryan Bailey as professional, and Thompson feels he will have a big say in the team’s progress: “I think we’re all looking forward to seeing Ryan – we’ve had some glowing references, our former professional Ryan Canning was instrumental in his signing, and his first class stats are excellent.

“Hopefully he will boost our batting, as well as Dave Crotty.”

Meanwhile, Colne are also looking upwards after successive 12th-place finishes.

Chairman Gary Hunt is looking forward to a more promising campaign, starting at Accrington: “It’s fair to say that the last few years have been a struggle both on and off the field, but progress has been made.

“Slow progress admittedly, but progress nevertheless. Last season we won more games, got more points and were much more competitive in the games we lost than in 2014. Still, 12th of 14 is still not where we want to be, that’s for certain.

“We have worked hard over the winter to secure a quality professional, and in South African Yaseen Vallie we feel we have done just that – Yas is a top class batsman and a good off spinner, his runs will strengthen our batting – the weakest aspect of our team – significantly and he will also contribute solidly with the ball too. Clearly our ambition this season is to climb the table and finish as high as possible, with hopefully a run in one of the cups.

“In order to achieve this, we knew we needed to strengthen our amateur ranks, and we have made three excellent signings in Matt Nutter, Chris Walton – both outstanding Ribblesdale League cricketers – and young leg spinner Uzair Khalid from Nelson.

“We felt that we had the nucleus of a decent side last season, but not enough strength in depth, and these three will give us that. We haven’t lost any of our first team squad apart from Billy and Tayib Jamil, so we should be stronger than in 2015, that’s certainly the plan!”