Double-header weekend in National League
03 March 2017
Results at the top and bottom of this weekend’s men’s and women’s National League competitions could be significant.
Bromac Kelburne have opened a gap in their bid for a 13th consecutive men’s first division league title, they lead Grange by five points although the latter do have a game in hand.
Like many clubs, this weekend is a double-header for the Paisley side - on Saturday they travel to Auchenhowie to face a Western Wildcats` side they beat 4-0 in the first league encounter. On Sunday they entertain a Grove Menzieshill side who are at present in third spot.
Last weekend`s 3-0 defeat of Grange at Glasgow Green provided the champions with a cushion at the top. There is a feeling that it may in fact take a supreme effort by one of the chasing pack to dislodge Kelburne from their perch.
Grange coach David Knipe is hoping that lightning strikes twice, last weekend his charges gave Grove Menzieshill an 8-1 defeat in the semi-final of the Scottish Cup, and now the Taysiders revisit the capital on league business this time.
A similar result is perhaps a little optimistic but the three points are essential if Grange are to keep in touch with Bromac Kelburne at the top. Knipe said: "It`s not often you play teams back-to-back, so this is a new challenge for us."
The Edinburgh side are only three points ahead of the Taysiders in the table, so there is no room for error by Knipe`s charges if they are to hold on to second spot.
Last time out Grange and Grove Menzieshill fought out a curious 3-3 draw, the latter were strolling home with a comfortable three goal lead, then allowed the Edinburgh side to grasp a share of the points, all in the final ten minutes.
Knipe`s charges have another league assignment at Hillhead on Sunday, that will also be an interesting challenge as the Glasgow side have made strides forward under the coaching eye of Mark Ralph.
Ralph was left frustrated last weekend, his side coasted into a 2-0 lead against Western Wildcats only to throw it away and finish 4-3 down. "It was a bit frustrating, but we need to learn about being in those situations and finishing off games," said Ralph.
Knipe remarked: "We played a close game against Hillhead in the cup earlier, so we know their quality." In the end Grange won that match 4-2, although that was in Edinburgh.
Edinburgh University are still in fourth spot and will hope to consolidate that position with six points from outings against Gordonians and Clydesdale, both in the lower reaches of the league.
Graham Moodie`s squad held Kelburne to 2-2 in normal time in last weekend`s Scottish Cup, that sort of form could see the students in good stead. In addition, Edinburgh`s lethal penalty corner routine with Dan Coultas seems in good working order, four goals in last weekend`s league and cup matches.
In the relegation play-off zone Gordonians, despite picking up their first point this season, are still detached at the bottom, but further up only three points separate the next four sides.
After a promising start to the league campaign Watsonians have slipped into the zone, so their clash with Clydesdale could be a chance to reverse that trend. However, the Glasgow side have home advantage and returned after the winter shutdown with an impressive 2-1 away win at Uddingston.
Wildcats have also started the second half of the season on a positive note, a 4-3 win over Hillhead last weekend has lifted some of the concerns. This weekend may not be the time to consolidate that progress as they are at home to leaders Kelburne, they lost 4-0 the last time the teams met.
Uddingston recorded a couple of good wins just before the winter shutdown and lifted themselves up to sixth in the table, but last weekend`s 2-1 defeat at the hands of Clydesdale was a cause for concern for the team management.
In Women’s National League 1, Wildcats` player/coach Kareena Cuthbert believes that her side are on the verge of mounting a serious challenge to the country`s top outfits, encounter with league leaders Edinburgh University will test her confidence.
The Auchenhowie side are only three points behind Edinburgh but with a game less played.
Cuthbert said: "I am delighted with the progress the girls have made this season, and for a brief hour we even sat top of the league which is a first in the history of the club."
Wildcats should have taken the points in the earlier league encounter, they led through a Catriona Booth strike, but then Sam Judge levelled for the students with the last hit of the game.
There is no rest for Cuthbert`s charges, they then take on third-placed Milne Craig Western on Sunday to complete a massive double header weekend.
"We will play our own game against both Edinburgh and Western and we have no doubt we can take points. Of course it will be tough, but we are ready for the challenge," Cuthbert said.
However, an Edinburgh victory on Saturday would retain pole position, but the chasing pack have games in hand and could start to put pressure on the students.
Grove Menzieshill are now the only unbeaten team in the division and will hope to take six points from this weekend`s outings against Erskine Stewart`s Melville and bottom side CALA. That could take the Taysiders to within a point of the Edinburgh and still with two games in hand.
Western could also make up some ground, as well as playing Wildcats the Titwood-based outfit have a league encounter against Hillhead, they will hope three points here are on the cards.
A huge gap is developing between the top four and the other sides in the first division, it has now increased to 14 points.
Apart from CALA who have yet to break their duck in the campaign, only one point separates the next six sides in a bottom half of the table log-jam. The sides most likely to avoid the end-of-season relegation play-offs could become clearer after this weekend`s action as several are involved in head-to-head engagements with teams in a similar predicament.
Watsonians versus Hillhead on Sunday already looks set to be a game of massive importance, with Hillhead currently leading their opponents by just one point. Kelburne’s meeting with Dundee Wanderers is also a tasty prospect with both sides level on points.