ASHINGTON Cricket Club’s first XI skipper Michael Thewlis admits he is “more hopeful” of his side having an enjoyable season than last when they escaped relegation by the skin of their teeth.
And he said he is looking for a realistic top six finish after the boost of welcoming back Stephen Boyd.
The Colliers begin their campaign on Saturday with a home game at Langwell Crescent against Annfield Plain.
Thewlis, pictured, said: “Having Stephen Boyd back with us is really two players in one, but despite our lowly position last year, we were a good bowling side.
“The downside of that was that we were dropping between four and five catches a match and that’s what let us down.
“However, I’m more hopeful this coming season because we are starting to put together the beginnings of a good side, even though we are still a long way from being a top side.
“The existing players we have at the club are a year older and we have a sprinkling of new players including Surya Rathore, a medium quick bowler who is from Rajasthan and is a first year student at Northumbria University.
“Jack Jessop, a County under-17 top order batter, has joined us from South Northumberland, and James Richards, a medium quick bowler, is a former junior who is returning to the club after spending the last four years at the Northern Cricket Club.
“On top of that, Andrew Gray has looked good in the nets, so there is plenty to look forward too.”
However, two players – Neil Wood and Chris Watson – will not be playing on Saturday for different reasons.
“Neil has retired whilst Chris has a knee ligament injury and looks likely to be sidelined for around eight weeks,” added Thewlis.
“I reckon for us to attain a top six finish is a realistic assessment.
“The game against Annfield Plain will provide us with an interesting start because it will give us something of a benchmark as to how our season may pan out.”
Saturday’s match has a 1.30pm start.