Wildcats And Grange In Search of Top Perch
With Bromac Kelburne away in Barcelona on Euro Hockey League business, Western Wildcats and Grange are poised to leapfrog the champions into pole position in the men`s first division, both have home fixtures against Inverleith and Dundee Wanderers respectively.
Victories for Wildcats and Grange would put the pair a point ahead of the Paisley side, with Wildcats at the moment a couple of goals ahead of their Edinburgh rivals. Wildcats coach Harry Dunlop is purring quietly about his side`s positive start to the season, nine points from their opening three games is the reward.
“The squad at Western is really settling in well, each area of the field has become more effective, creating more positive outcomes and continuing to reduce errors.
“So I hope the quality of our play will continue to improve throughout the season and positively affect our results.”
On Saturday Wildcats play host to an Inverleith side who are still trying to find their feet in the top flight.
“You must never underestimate this team regardless of their early results, Inverleith will improve quickly now that they are back in the first division,” said Dunlop. “As a coach you can never be confident of a win, however we are training hard and are very focused on staying top of the division this week.”
Perhaps Wildcats have yet to test their resolve against the top sides in the division, but nonetheless full points from the opposition in front of them is still a start in the right direction for the Auchenhowie pack.
Grange certainly have a perfect record after three games, but last weekend coach David Knipe watched his charges dominate proceedings against Hillhead without the desired reward, and then relied on a last gasp strike from Luke Cranney to finally seal the three points. Grange could have a similar scenario against newly promoted Wanderers, so this time they need to hit the target with their many chances and come away from Fettes with a convincing victory to show they are real title contenders.
Grove Menzieshill moved into fourth spot in the table following a draw with Kelburne and a narrow 3-2 win at Uddingston in last weekend`s double header. On both occasions the Taysiders showed considerable spirit to overturn a deficit, they were two down to Kelburne in the second half and earned a draw with strikes by Jamie Golden and Aidan McQuade. The Dundonians were also a goal adrift at Uddingston but stormed back to lead 3-1 at the interval.
On Saturday Menzieshill entertain an Edinburgh University side that are perhaps still finding their feet this season under Graham Moodie. Last weekend Moodie summed up his side`s 2-1 reversal against Clydesdale as “disappointing but probably got what we deserved.”
While on paper Menzieshill should consolidate their fourth place with another three points from a home win, there is always an air of unpredictability about the students` performance as Moodie completes the annual task of rebuilding the side after the departure of several players from the previous campaign.
The outcome of the Clydesdale – Uddingston clash at Titwood is anyone`s guess. At the moment both sides sit on three points after three games, Clydesdale beat Edinburgh University 2-1 at Peffermill while the Lanarkshire side added seven goals to Inverleith`s rather miserable start to the top flight. Whatever the winner, that side will certainly move out of the bottom half of the league, at least for a while.
There can be no doubting the women`s first division game of the day, the Tayside clash between Grove and champions Edinburgh University. At the moment the students share top spot with Wildcats while the Taysiders are two points adrift courtesy of a 3-3 draw with city rivals Wanderers on the opening day. But coach Sam Judge said: “We always have a good game against Grove, they have a good mixture of experience and youth. We`re not quite at full strength yet, we have a few illnesses at the moment but hopefully they`ll be fine at the weekend.”
Judge was happy with progress so far, nine points out of three games with 17 goals in the process must be considered a promising start to retaining their league title.
In particular, the Grove management will reflect with trepidation Edinburgh`s seven goal demolition of Milne Craig Western two weeks ago. The students` goals are coming from several quarters with Sophie Maunder, Ella Watt, Laura Swanson, Louise Campbell and Hanna Mckie all making a significant contribution. Whatever the outcome in Dundee, Western should recover their composure and take the three points from their home encounter with GHK.
Similarly, Dundee Wanderers should return to winning form at home against Grange, despite the latter`s recent victory over Hillhead. Wanderers are playing some attractive hockey under the coaching aegis of Ben Gibson and Bruce Rowan, but perhaps lack the pace against the top sides. Two weeks ago they competed well in the first half against Wildcats, but ran out of steam in the second.
Another intriguing confrontation is scheduled for the Capital where Watsonians host second placed Wildcats. The home side lie fifth in the table and have already tasted victory over Kelburne and GHK, their only reversal was 5-2 against the champions. Wildcats certainly have a perfect record so far in the campaign, but their goal tally is modest with Alex Stuart and Lucy MacArthur both scoring twice. However, in contrast, the Auchenhowie side have been solid at the back with only a single goal conceded. The Watsonians confrontation could be the first real test of the Wildcats` league credentials.
The final fixture on Saturday`s card brings together Kelburne and Hillhead, both pointless at the moment, so at least one of them should move off the foot of the table.
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