Despite back-to-back defeats in the Central Lancashire League at the weekend, Radcliffe cricket club captain Sean Gibson is confident his team can be a force this season.

The club spent much of last season pushing for promotion but fell away in the final weeks, eventually finishing in fifth place.

“It was very positive last year and we are hoping for more of the same this year,” he said.

“The top two get promoted and last year we ran it close as we were in second and third before dropping a couple of places in the last few games,” said Gibson.

“Teams change every season so a side that was poor last season could be good this time around. “Until we’ve played everyone we won’t know where we are. “It’s going to take around seven or eight games to understand what we are going for but I’m confident this team can challenge for the top places again this season.”

Gibson, who took over the captaincy from Mark Robinson at the start of the season, is happy with the squad he has at his disposal.

“We’ve got 11 first-team players at the moment and we’ve got a couple more players to come back from university in June, so we’ll have a nice squad of 13 by then.

Despite losing by four runs at Monton & Weaste on Saturday, Gibson was pleased with the way his Radcliffe side performed.

“There were loads of positives to take from the game,” he said. “As a team we batted well and there were also some good individual scores.

“To score almost 200 runs is always good.

Despite being dismissed for a duck in Radcliffe’s innings of 199, professional Nadeem Ashraf impressed by taking six wickets from his 50 balls, a display which earned him praise from Gibson.

“Ashraf is a good all- round player and he bowled well.

“He had a bad day with the bat and a good day with the ball.”

New signing Jimmy Dixon also bowled well taking 3-53.

“It was disappointing to lose but we enjoyed playing in a close fixture,” said Hafeez Afridi was Radcliffe’s top scorer with 54 runs, with both Gibson and Chris Berry notching up 41 apiece.

In reply, Monton’s duo of T Sandham and J Lenneham made a stand of 84 runs before being bowled by Ashraf as the hosts eased to a score of 203 to narrowly beat Radcliffe by four runs.

On Sunday, Radcliffe fell to a nine-wicket home defeat to Crompton.

The hosts had no answer to the bowling of Black (3-7), Austin (4-11) and Taylor (2-5) as they were bowled out for 47.

Only Faisal Ali (12) and Charlie Hamilton (11) scored anything of note for the Radcliffe side.

In reply, J Tolley (8), Z Jatsi (15) and S Wright (17) scored the runs Crompton required to secure victory.

On Saturday, Radcliffe are at Middleton before hosting Royton on Sunday.