A DEFEAT in last season’s final has only made Wharton Cons hungrier to go one better, according to their captain.

However a date with six-time previous winners Lloyd Hotel in the last 16 on Saturday means the Winsford club won’t be looking that far ahead.

“It’s a big test for us,” Mark Winnington told the Guardian.

“And given the strength of our section of the draw, there will be others to follow just to match what we did last year.

“But the Brunner Cup is our number one priority, just as it is at the start of every new campaign.”

Wharton Cons have lifted the trophy three times, most recently in 2012.

A date with Tixall last summer, which they lost by 70 chalks, marked their first appearance in the showpiece since then.

Their line-up this weekend includes several changes from that one.

Owen Cookson, captain of Cheshire’s away side during a victory at Greater Manchester in a British Junior County Championship opener earlier this month, makes his competition debut.

Martin Kettle has made an impressive start to the new season, including an eye-catching victory over former All England champion Darren Plenderleith in the Rudheath Spring Open a fortnight ago, after returning to regular duty again.

Winnington said: “There is a more youthful feel to our team, and that has an impact on the rest of us.

“That’s balanced by plenty of know-how and experience given that we have a handful of former Cheshire Senior Merit winners too.

“To have any chance of beating the best teams in the Brunner Cup, you have to put out 12 good blocks.

“Looking down our list, we’ll be doing that this weekend.

“If that proves not to be good enough, then we’ll shake our opponents’ hand.”

He believes a meeting with Castle A in the Mid-Cheshire Bowling Association’s top-flight on Friday night can set a tone for the weekend.

Their old foes have started the season with five successive wins, and have an eight-chalk advantage at the top of the table.

Winnington added: “If we can run them close and play well, then that will give us a lift for Saturday.”

Wharton Cons take on Lloyd Hotel at Congleton Cricket Club, from 2pm.