Huge weekend of hockey in Women’s National League 1
There is a whiff of competition in the air, and nowhere more obvious than at Peffermill where champions Edinburgh University take on Milne Craig Clydesdale Western who sit in pole position in Women`s National League 1 on goal difference.
It is a difficult one to call, only two league games have so far elapsed, and both sides have lost experienced international players since last season.
Sam Judge, Edinburgh`s player/coach, is under no illusions about the task ahead on Saturday. “It’ll be a tough game and a real test for us. They have a lot of good players but these are the games that we want to play.
“We have won both our opening games but we are a very different side, I’m trying out a few different things to find what works best for us. Our more experienced players are having to take on more responsibility.
“We’re looking forward to the game and we can then gauge where we are at by playing against several internationalists.”
The champions have certainly started off on a positive note, scoring five goals in each of their victories over GHK and Watsonians. But Judge is correct to infer that Western will be a different hurdle altogether.
The present Western side is perhaps far from the halcyon days of the `80s and `90s – they have won the league only twice since 2004 – but they have a sizeable representation in the present Scotland squad.
Coach Derek Forsyth has revived the fortunes of the Titwood side in the last couple of years.
He said: “We are looking to be in the position of challenging for the league title at the end of the season.
“We feel we can go one better this year having lost the play-off final at the end of last season.”
Edinburgh University was in rampant form during last season`s play-off with a 5-1 victory over Western, perhaps not an up-to-date form guide as both sides have several changes in personnel.
However, Western have started off their league campaign with comfortable wins over newly promoted Grange and Kelburne, with Heather Lang and Lucy Lanigan top scorers.
There is another intriguing contest at Auchenhowie where Wildcats entertain Dundee Wanderers.
Player/coach Kaz Cuthbert has overseen a steady rise in the Wildcats` fortunes over the last few years – they are now well established as a top four pack.
The Auchenhowie side has made a promising start to this season`s campaign, back-to-back league wins over Hillhead and GHK without conceding a goal, but more impressive is that last Sunday they eliminated Western from the first round of the Scottish Cup, albeit in a penalty shoot-out after a 1-1 draw in normal time.
“Obviously I’m delighted to start the season off with wins,” said Cuthbert. “We have a large squad this season with many talented players, so the next few weeks are about getting everyone up to full speed and continuing to convert from the many chances we are creating.”
The Wildcats` coach then handed out a bit of a warning to Wanderers who come calling. “Auchenhowie is a bit of a fortress for us and we intend to keep it that way this weekend.”
However, Wanderers have also made a promising start to their campaign, a draw with city rivals Grove Menzieshill followed by a five goal victory over Hillhead.
Although the Taysiders have lost the services of Vikki Bunce and Becky Ward – the latter ironically to Wildcats – they have potential match-winning goalscorers in Amy Snelle along with teenagers Charlotte Watson and Emily Dark.
Grove Menzieshill will sit in the wings of this new competitive environment this Saturday and hope to pick up three points at home against Kelburne.
Watsonians are the only other side to get points on the board and will look to double their tally away to GHK.
At the other end of the spectrum four teams – Grange, Hillhead, Kelburne and GHK – sit without points at the foot of the table. Either Hillhead or Grange, or possibly both, will collect their first points as they clash head-to-head in Glasgow.
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