Another big weekend in Men’s National League 1

Photo by Mark Pugh

Kelburne are at the top of Men’s National League 1, sharing the perch on goal difference from Grange and Western Wildcats. It is a position they will undoubtedly retain if they can take the six points from this weekend`s double header away to both Grove Menzieshill and Hillhead.

Kelburne coach Gordon Shepherd is rather down-to-earth regarding winning competitions – when asked at the end of last season if the Paisley side were lucky to win the league, he replied: “No, in the end we got more points than our rivals, so we deserved to win.”

A similar approach prevails this weekend. “Every game is important if you are aiming to win the league,” said Shepherd. “Both Hillhead and Grove Menzieshill will pose a good challenge for us this weekend.”

The Taysiders, who finished a very creditable third last season, should present a good challenge to Shepherd`s aspirations. Although Grove Menzieshill have started the season modestly, a 3-1 win over city rivals Dundee Wanderers was followed by a narrow 2-1 reversal against Grange, but the feeling is they have more to give under Gavin Byers.

In contrast, Hillhead have yet to get off the mark, and their 4-0 defeat at the hands of Wanderers was a disappointing outcome.

Once again, it is Kelburne`s cavalier approach to attacking hockey that has come to the fore, eleven goals in two games with Michael and Johnny Christie along with set piece expert Josh Cairns the early clinical finishers.

On these games Shepherd said: “In our first two games this season we have had some periods of good performance, but there are areas we clearly need to improve.”

But Shepherd is also looking forward to a week to the EHL and will use the Grove Menzieshill and Hillhead games as preparation. “It will allow us to experience the back-to-back game format we will experience the following weekend in the EHL.”

Grove Menzieshill have a second chance to pick up points when they travel to Lanarkshire to take on Uddingston on Sunday.

Grange and Wildcats will look to maintain the pressure on the champions, the former take on Hillhead at Anniesland while the latter entertain Dundee Wanderers at Auchenhowie.

The Edinburgh side have started with two wins although Coach David Knipe did admit that his charges did not play to their potential against Grove Menzieshill, but still managed a 2-1 victory courtesy of goals from Frank Ryan and Dominic Wild from a penalty corner.

Wildcats have made a solid start to the campaign with narrow wins over Hillhead and Uddingston, teenager Rob Harwood getting the only goal from the spot in the latter encounter.

Edinburgh University certainly made an impact in their debut match of the season two weeks ago with an astonishing 8-5 win over Inverleith – the question is, will this sort of form be repeated in their home fixture against Clydesdale at Peffermill on Saturday.

Coach Graham Moodie has mixed feelings. “To be honest we just want to improve on what was a really positive first game.

“Great to score so many goals, but I’m not sure we can afford to let in five a game all season.”

Clydesdale had a difficult opening this season with the nightmare start of Grange and Kelburne in their opening two games, but they did hold the latter to a 2-2 scoreline at half-time.

Moodie has taken this into account and said: “I think this will be a really competitive game between two young sides and it`s a game we want to win. If we can continue to be clinical in front of goal and improve defensively, we`ll give ourselves every chance.”

It will be interesting to see if South African recruit Davyn Keuter can come close to his six set piece goals against Inverleith, the Titwood side will need to work on not giving away soft penalty corners.

The final fixture on Saturday`s card pairs Uddingston against Inverleith, with both sides yet to get off the mark.

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