Top Six Emerging
This weekend sees the final schedule of Premiership fixtures before the leagues divide into top and bottom six competitions in the new year, and there are a couple of issues still to be resolved.
In the men’s, Western, Grange, Edinburgh University, Dunfermline Carnegie and now Watsonians are already assured of their top six status. The final spot will involve a tussle between Uddingston, Clydesdale and Inverleith.
Watsonians confirmed their status in the top tier with a comfortable 5-0 win over Grove Menzieshill on Tuesday evening. Goals from Fraser Sands, Danny Cain and Robbie Greenaugh put the Edinburgh side three up at the interval. Despite going down to ten players, Watsonians stuck to their task and further strikes came from Andrew Fraser and Roddy Craig.
Watsonians, Clydesdale Western, Edinburgh University and Wildcats are in the women`s top six, GHK and Hillhead are almost there, and only Glasgow University can overtake them.
As far as the top sides are concerned, the first part of this season`s Premiership is more about finding their sea legs after the COVID-imposed sabbatical rather than worrying about table placings – the business end of the competition starts in the Spring when they will play each other twice.
Uddingston presently sit in sixth spot with 13 points, Clydesdale share the points total but are six goals adrift – but all that could change on Saturday.
The two sides could have simplified the issue last weekend when they met head-to-head, but the confrontation ended in a 1-1 draw – a result that arguably helped neither side.
The Lanarkshire side now have the dubious honour of visiting Auchenhowie on Saturday to take on a free-scoring Western side that have slotted home 54 goals in nine games – so their goal advantage over Clydesdale could take a pounding.
In contrast, Clydesdale have a home game against Hillhead with a reasonable hope of picking up the three points – any side that can put four past the Grange defence, goals shared by Andrew Allan and Ben Cosgrove, cannot be underestimated.
But there are two additional factors to take into account. Firstly, Uddingston have a game in hand against Watsonians – not an easy assignment, but a possible three points.
Secondly, the final top six spot is not a two-horse race, there is still Inverleith hanging around in the wings. The Edinburgh side are three points adrift of both Uddingston and Clydesdale but are at home to Kelburne on Saturday and have last week`s abandoned match at Menzieshill still to play – a final tally of 16 points is well within their grasp.
So, three clubs are vying for the coveted final spot in the top six.
At the top of the table, Western could extend their lead to five points if they can overcome Uddingston on Saturday, and bottom side Menzieshill on Sunday – that should be well within the capability of Vishal Marwaha`s charges.
Grange moved back into second spot after their 6-4 win over Clydesdale last Sunday and are at home to Watsonians – perhaps not the easiest of assignments given the latter`s improved form this season.
There is an intriguing clash in store at Peffermill, where third-placed Edinburgh University take on Dunfermline Carnegie, only one place below them. The students have extended their unbeaten run to seven and are certainly on a roll, but Carnegie`s 3-3 draw with Grange last weekend showed that the league`s newcomers can now live with the “big boys”. And for them, the penalty corner expertise of Aidan McQuade is a powerful asset.
Finally, the Tayside derby between Menzieshill and Dundee Wanderers, once a highlight of the season in the past, is now sadly reduced to a contest to avoid bottom spot. How that will finish is anyone`s guess, but at least Wanderers have a win under their belt.
The women`s scenario for the final top six is rather simpler: Glasgow University need to win their remaining games against Edinburgh University on Thursday evening and then Dundee Wanderers on Saturday to upset the aspirations of either Hillhead or GHK. The Glasgow students have done well to have spent some time in the top echelons of the table – much improved from previous seasons – but a run of four straight defeats have taken their toll, finally.
The scrap between Glasgow rivals, GHK and Hillhead, for fifth place in the table has been refreshing, especially as both sides have at one time occupied pole position. Neither side have easy tasks at the weekend, GHK take a trip to third-placed Edinburgh University, while Hillhead travel to Titwood to face a Clydesdale Western side that have yet to drop any points at all in the campaign. So, GHK`s present single point advantage could well be the deciding factor in the end.
There might, in fact, be a change at the top of the table by the end of the weekend. That is, if Clydesdale pick up nine points from home games against Erskine Stewart`s Melville (Thursday), Hillhead (Saturday) and Dundee Wanderers (Sunday). That would then put them three points ahead of Watsonians.
But, present, leaders Watsonians have a double header weekend: Grove away on Saturday; and a tricky assignment against an improving Wildcats pack the day after.
Watsonians, under coach Keith Smith, have developed into a good, balanced side and received the following accolade from Hillhead`s Jenny Sinclair after last Saturday`s 4-0 defeat. “Watsonians were very well organised and although we gave them a competitive game, the best team won on the day.”
Watsonians’ last four outings have been particularly impressive – 18 goals and four clean sheets, and that included a 3-0 win over Edinburgh University. The strength of the side stretches from Lucy Camlin between the sticks, to Sarah Jamieson in the goal-scoring department.
However, the Wildcats have also shown a good piece of form recently, winning their last five games with Alex Stuart, Olivia Finch and Kate Holmes picking up regular goals. So, this could be an interesting tussle.
On Saturday, Wildcats should continue their recent good form with a home win over Gordonians.
Finally, Uddingston may not make the top six but the newcomers to the top-flight have done well to occupy eighth place, and perhaps could advance further with a home win over ESM on Saturday.
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