AFTER finishing last season as runners-up to all-conquering Bowdon, Nantwich are hoping to go one better this summer.
The squad at Whitehouse Lane has been strengthened by the arrival of two talented youngsters and captain Andy Newton is hopeful of more success.
He said: 'We've brought in a new Aussie to replace Dave Celep. He's an all-rounder called Leigh Murphy who comes highly recommended after an excellent season playing first-grade cricket in Melbourne. He's predominantly a batsman who can also bowl a bit of leg spin. He won't be 21 until July but he finished in the top 20 run scorers in the Australian first-grade competition so he obviously has some pedigree and will bat at either number three or four.
'We've also brought in Oliver Sadler from Audley. He's only 17 but had a very good season last year and I think he will open the batting.'
The Dabbers have had to withstand an exodus to Alsager with pace bowler Phil Cottrell joining Steve Armitage, Mark French and Ian Ellis in making the short trip to Fairview Avenue.
Yet with Nantwich's flourishing youth section producing a number of county age-group players who are now knocking on the first-team door, their squad should be able to cushion the impact of the departures.
Ray Doyle, who had trials last summer with Derbyshire, will figure again and youngsters such as Philip Stockton, Robert Cook-Sievewright and Chris Simpson are expected to give the selectors something to think about.
The pivotal performers in Nantwich's excellent 2003 campaign are also raring to go.
Quickie Barrington Browne took 60 wickets at an average of 15.13, while the evergreen Jeff Maynard topped 600 runs and Newton himself topped the batting averages with 460 runs at 41.82 in the middle order.
Newton said: 'It would be nice to think we can go one better than last year. I think it's going to be an extremely competitive league this season with Bowdon, Oulton Park, Alderley Edge and Chester well capable of challenging for the title, and I also think Widnes, who came up from Division One last year, look very strong so it won't be an easy task.
'Having said that, our indoor nets have gone very well and everyone is looking forward to it.
'We have two home games to begin with, against Chester and Oulton Park, and it is important that we get off to a good start.'
Meanwhile, the club's junior section should be reaping the benefit of first-rate coaching credentials. Eleven new coaches passed their ECB level one courses during the winter while Dave Sadler has qualified as a level three coach.