THIS was always going to be a season of transition for Accrington Cricket Club after losing key personnel and suffering relegation last season.

But as it turns out, playing any sort of cricket is something of a blessing for the Property Shop Arena club as it looks to blood the next generation of players.

While many clubs are using the President’s Cup to give youngsters some first team game time, for Accrington, they have had little choice.

On the back of their relegation last season, where Accrington finished bottom of Division One winning just five games, star man Kieren Grimshaw along with Jake Clarke, opted to stay in the top flight and both joined Ramsbottom.

Sam Bancroft returned to Edgworth while two other players moved out of the area.

So Accrington have had to blood youngsters earlier than they would have liked and now have two opening bowlers in Tom Walker and Ben Makin who are just 17-years-old.

However captain Graeme Sneddon, who took up the post this season, is happy to be overseeing the transition.

Sneddon knows all too well about breaking in to the first team at a tender age as he was just 14 when he made his Lancashire League debut.

He has since ploughed a lot of cricket in to his 33 years and has knowledge and experience he is more than happy to pass on.

“I’m really enjoying it, especially working with these young lads,” he said. “I’ve been at the club since I was eight or nine years old and what about 14 when I got in to the first team so I know how they feel.”

But Walker, Makin and fellow youngster Raheem Kasser are not just there to make up the numbers – Walker proving that point by taking an incredible 5-5 in last weekend’s win over Great Harwood.

“Not a bad way to get your first five-for," added Sneddon. “These young lads are keen as mustard, I’m sure they go to bed in their whites!”

Accrington have made a fine start to Group Two with wins over East Lancs and Great Harwood but Sneddon knows his side are up against it at Church tomorrow who arguably are the form team in the league – winning all three matches in the Hyndburn T20 competition and two out of two in the league.

“We go there as underdogs but we’ll go with smiles on our faces,” added the captain. “There is no pressure on us, with so many youngsters coming in, it was always going to be a season of transition. Mind you, this is not the sort of season I thought we would be having.”

Sneddon says replacing so many key players – especially Grimshaw – was always going to be a tough task but the current crop of youngsters have their chance and a potential push for promotion next season is a possibility.

“Kieren was the best amateur all-rounder in this league in my opinion and any team is going to miss a player of his standard,” said Sneddon, who has won three titles and a Worsley Cup with Accrington.

“Kieren and Jake both wanted to stay in the First Division after we were relegated and you can’t blame them.

“It’s tough when you lose so many players but it just means other players now get a chance to stake a claim. This gives us a chance to build for the future and for next season and, who knows, perhaps mount a challenge for promotion.”

Fixtures – tomorrow: Group One: Littleborough v Ramsbottom, Norden v Middleton. Group Two: Accrington v Great Harwood, Enfield v Church, Rishton v East Lancs. Group Three: Bacup v Nelson, Haslingden v Clitheroe, Rawtenstall v Colne. Group Four: Crompton v Todmorden, Rochdale v Darwen, Walsden v Lowerhouse.

Elsewhere, it's a double header in the Ribblesdale League this weekend and both Ribblesdale Wanderers and Settle will be looking to maintain their unbeaten records in the league and cup.

Wanderers, who finished third in the Ribblesdale League B Section last year, have won all three league games and lead champions Settle by two points at the top of the table.

They host Oswaldtwistle Immanuel today before turning their attentions to the T20 Cup on Sunday when they host Feniscowles in the quarter-finals.

Settle are in league action at Feniscowles this afternoon and are on the road again tomorrow as they face Barnoldswick in the cup.

The league, which is now just one division after being slimmed down to 12 clubs, sees teams play each other just once this season due to the late start.

Wanderers and Settle have already put down their markers as title contenders with Read, Feniscowles and Padiham all having impressive starts to their respective campaigns.

Wanderers struggled last time out against Cherry Tree and it took knocks from Gary Barker (38) and Alistair Marsh (30) to help them reach their 122 total.

Wanderers face an Ossie side that have won one of their opening three games and were beaten by Brinscall last weekend.

Settle travel to a Feniscowles side who have already won half as many games as they managed in 21 games last season.

Fenny finished rock bottom of Section B with just four wins but have already beaten Salesbury and Earby this year.

Read are the closest of the chasing pack and will be looking to take advantage of any slip-ups from the top two when they travel to Salesbury.

Padiham will be looking to bounce back from their first defeat of the season to Settle last weekend when they host Whalley.

Elsewhere, Earby host Cherry Tree and Barnoldswick travel to Brinscall.

On Sunday, T20 Cup holders Salesbury will be looking to book a place in the semi-finals when they travel to Brinscall.

As well as Barlick v Settle and Wanderers v Fenny, the other quarter-final sees Read host Padiham.