National League 1 and Scottish Cup double header
This weekend`s double header of National League 1 fixtures and Scottish Cup quarter final ties throws up some mouth-watering possibilities – the league and cup clashes between Edinburgh University and Clydesdale Western stand out over the two days in the women`s competition, while Clydesdale`s home cup tie against Grove Menzieshill looks to be the pick of the men`s round.
Three points separate the top four clubs in women`s National League 1 – so it could hardly be tighter. But only six goals divide Clydesdale Western and Edinburgh University at the top, both are on 31 points but the former also have a game in hand.
The champions have made a slow start to the defence of their title since the winter break – a 3-2 loss to Wildcats was followed by a narrow 2-1 victory over Watsonians. In contrast Western`s only outing was a convincing 6-0 win over GHK.
Further, when the sides first met back in November it was the Titwood-based side that emerged 1-0 victors courtesy of a first half strike by Fran Lonergan.
Derek Forsyth`s squad will have the bonus of the return of Jen Eadie and Heather Howie, back from international duty in Italy.
However, all this may pale into insignificance compared to which side is the hungrier on the day…or days on this occasion.
Waiting in the wings at the top of the table are third-placed Western Wildcats, they are only two points adrift and are favourites to take the points away to Hillhead. Recent wins against Edinburgh University and Grange have propelled the Auchenhowie side into genuine title contenders. Depending on the result at Peffermill, Western Wildcats could be sitting in second spot by Saturday evening.
Dundee Wanderers have also taken the full six points from their two games since the shutdown and they are only one point further back. Again they are at home and will aim to see off the challenge of Glasgow University, especially having totalled eleven goals in their last two outings, Vikki Bunce and Charlotte Watson being the main strikers.
Watsonians have slipped back to sixth in the table but will target a return to winning ways against bottom side Grange. Coach Keith Smith was buoyant about his side`s performance against Edinburgh University last weekend. “We played well and restricted them to just a handful of chances and no corners, and created plenty ourselves. We just lacked that clinical edge a little at the crucial moment.” If that latter failing is solved, then a victory over Grange could follow.
Fifth-placed Grove Menzieshill could continue their drive towards a top four spot with an away win over GHK, but at the moment they are ten points adrift but with a game in hand.
In the cup on Sunday the clash between Watsonians and Western Wildcats could be a close encounter, although the latter won the equivalent league fixture 3-1, Catriona Booth (2), and Rachel Bain provided the winning goals.
A team from the lower divisions is a certainty in the semi-final draw as Erskine Stewart Melville are at home to Stirling Wanderers. In the final tie Wanderers have the challenge to try and see off Uddingston on Tayside.
Grange survived their visit to Auchenhowie last weekend, they emerged with a 1-1 draw and maintained their six point cushion at the top of the men`s National League 1. With only five games left the Edinburgh side is in a good position to retain its crown, especially as the chasing pack of the Western Wildcats and the Hill have drawn games.
The champions will be out this weekend with the aim to collect another three points at home to eighth-placed Watsonians at Fettes. However, the earlier league encounter in November wasn’t convincing, only a second half counter by Duncan Riddell separated the sides.
Second-placed Western Wildcats have a tricky away clash with a Hillhead side that are keen to hang on to fourth spot. Mark Ralph`s side have won both their games since the restart, and have yet to lose a goal in the process, but they have been against the bottom two sides in the division.
Western Wildcats are playing some good stuff, they were perhaps unlucky not to take more from last weekend`s clash with Grange. But putting the ball in the net is something for coach Harry Dunlop to work on during this week`s training sessions if they are to emerge from their present drawing mode.
However, Western Wildcats did give Hillhead a 6-0 defeat in the initial league fixture; an Andrew McConnell hat-trick was the catalyst.
Elsewhere, Grove Menzieshill should return to winning form against Kelburne at Glasgow Green, while Edinburgh University`s clash with Clydesdale could be the closest encounter of the day. A Clydesdale victory here could propel the Titwood-based side into the top four should Hillhead founder at Anniesland.
In the cup on Sunday Grange, Edinburgh University and Western Wildcats will hope to enter the semi-final draw – but there are no real certainties in such one-off clashes.
Fifth versus third at Titwood is an enticing prospect. In October the Taysiders came to the south side of Glasgow and emerged with a comfortable 4-0 victory, Cameron Golden got three while Albert Rowling the other. Then two weekends ago Clydesdale emerged from Tayside with a 1-1 draw, Chris McFadden`s second half penalty corner strike cancelling out the opening from Grove Menzieshill`s Chris Moon. This could be one of the games of the weekend.
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