OSWALDTWISTLE Immanuel start the defence of their Ribblesdale League crown tomorrow with captain Jack Harrison admitting ‘there is no expectation’.

Harrison felt the title-winning campaign of 2018 took everyone by surprise and while the aim will be ‘to do it again’, he accepts they won’t be among the fancied teams this year.

But that suits Harrison, and his team, just fine. They host Brinscall at New Lane in their season opener, having been beaten in the inaugural Birchall Cup last weekend by Ramsbottom Cup winners Padiham.

“There is no expectation really,” Harrison said.

“Oswaldtwistle had never done it before so for us it is about building on the success of last year, keep a group together, and see where it takes us.

“The league looks strong, so we’ll just look to consolidate.

“There is a lot of money floating about in the amateur game at the minute which puts pressure on people.

“We are mainly a group of local lads who love playing for Ossie and without that pressure and just see where we go with it.

“Last season was completely out of the blue and I don’t think a lot of people had realised what we had done until we won it.

“It was the best experience of my sporting career by far.”

Ossie will be without the services of last season’s professional Shubham Khajuria who played a vital role in their success. Elsewhere, John Baldwin has joined Cherry Tree while Andrew Metcalf will miss the whole season with a shoulder injury.

Akhil Rajput, a 27-year-old from Mumbai, will come in as the professional for the 2019 campaign and is a left-handed batsman who bowls right arm off spin.

He missed the Birchall Cup defeat but is in line to make his debut this weekend.

“With Shubham not coming back I think people will assume that we’re not going to be as strong,” Harrison added.

“He really was a freak of nature.

“I can understand that people might think we’re title contenders, but we will go about our business as the quiet neighbours.”

Ossie were well beaten by Padiham in the curtain raiser, bowled out for 104 before losing by six wickets as Padiham reached their target inside 17 overs.

Harrison expects the Arbories outfit to be in the mix this season, along with 2017 winners Settle and Read.

He said: “I expect a competitive league. The top league will be really competitive and the usual suspects of Read and Settle we expect to be up there.

“We played Padiham last week and think they will be very competitive and were a good bunch of lads.

“The bottom league will play a part and teams have got stronger. The league is going in the right direction I feel and look forward to some competitive games.”

Other fixtures: Barnoldswick v Feniscowles, Baxenden v Earby, Read v Salesbury, Ribblesdale Wanderers v Euxton, Settle v Padiham, Whalley v Cherry Tree