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Scotland: Can Watsonians and Grange be caught in the women`s and men`s Premiership?

After this weekend`s action both the men`s and women`s Premiership have only three games left to either make the top four to qualify for the play-offs or avoid the relegation places at the other end of the table – so the pressure is mounting.

At the moment Watsonians women have a healthy cushion with a five point lead over second placed Edinburgh University, and if that can be maintained, or even increased, after back to back games against Clydesdale Western and Grange, then they can start dusting down the silverware. But then again, you never know when the pressure is on towards the denouement of the season, and coach Keith Smith is not one to count his chickens until the destiny of the title is totally clear.

Two weeks ago the champions may not have been firing on all outdoor cylinders after just returning from the indoor Euros, but they still managed to score seven against Inverleith followed by a clinical 2-0 win at Wildcats. You would imagine their outdoor form can only get better as the season progresses.

It also means that the chasing Edinburgh students cannot afford any slip-ups against Grange and Wildcats. And that is precisely what they did against Grange earlier in the season when Jika Nyirenda`s goal was cancelled out by Grange`s Heather Croll for a share of the points…and Grange also knocked the students out of the Scottish Cup.

Wildcats are still in third spot, but only on goal difference from Clydesdale Western, and need to steady the ship a little after record defeats at the hands of Watsonians and Grange.  Kaz Cuthbert`s charges could start on Saturday with three points against GHK, a side they beat 2-0 on the opening game of the season.     The bad news for them is that GHK`s more recent form has been impressive, six victories out of the last eight games, and the reversals to Clydesdale and Watsonians were only by a single goal – so perhaps no pushover here.   Then on Sunday it is Edinburgh University calling at Auchenhowie, and in October they were comfortable four goal winners at the same venue.

However, it is no easier for Clydesdale, the champions on Saturday and GHK the day after. So who will be third by the end of the weekend – Wildcats or Clydesdale?

Grange have done well to make the top six this season – in fact they currently hold fourth spot but would do well this weekend to make up any of the four points on Wildcats and Clydesdale – they face the Edinburgh students and Watsonians.

 

 

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In the men`s Premiership Grange hold a four point lead over Edinburgh University and Western, and on Saturday are at home to the former.    Should Grange triumph on Saturday and retain their four point cushion, then that would be a giant leap towards retaining the Premiership title.   They could then afford a defeat in the final three games and still take the silverware!      Back in November Grange were 3-1 winners with a double from Dylan Bean along with Archie Stephen – a similar outcome would suit coach Stevie Grubb.

So for the students the task is clear, only a win would open up the contest and give them a shot at the title.    And they have the firepower to do it – 59 goals in twelve games makes them top goalscorers in the division.

Western Wildcats will sit in the wings with one eye on the result at Fettes as they prepare to take on Hillhead at Auchenhowie.    The home side have already recorded two wins over Hillhead this season – 5-3 in the league and 2-0 in the cup – so it would be a surprise if they did not notch up the treble on Saturday and keep up the pressure at the top.

In the other top six fixture Watsonians have the chance to cement their hold on fourth spot if they can overcome Uddingston in Lanarkshire.    Earlier in the season Watsonians won the fixture 3-2 at home, so away on Saturday the outcome could be a close affair.   Uddingston under coach Tom Hyndman have done well to make it into the top six, now they must show that they can live in this company, although they started off with a 6-1 defeat at Edinburgh University.

So what about the issue of relegation!

Kelburne are becoming a little detached at the foot of the men`s table, at the moment they trail ESM by five points and that is who they play on Saturday.   If the Buddies lose this one it is difficult to see them escaping the automatic drop with only three games left.    To date, they have only recorded one win in twelve outings and lost 2-1 at ESM earlier in the season, Paddy Crookshanks and Rich Wright getting the goals.  However, the Edinburgh side have not been too successful recently either with only one win in the last six games and they went down 2-1 to Grove Menzieshill in their opening bottom six fixture.

This is a crunch one for both sides.

Grove Menzieshill is beginning to edge away from the bottom rungs and are engaged in the Dundee derby against Wanderers on Saturday.    Wanderers` recent renaissance has been impressive, especially their 3-1 away win at Inverleith with the usual suspects Bobby Ralph, Sean Dowie and Kennedy Gibb on target. Consequently they have pulled themselves up to eighth in the table and away from the relegation zone.   So Wanderers must be favourites for this one – but predicting the result of this fixture is a non-starter.

The final fixture brings together FSEG Clydesdale and Inverleith, at the moment both are clear of the relegation area but also both are disappointed to lose out on a top six place.

At the moment Gordonians look a lost cause to the women`s Premiership with only a single point, but that could all change if they could take six points away to Uddingston and Inverleith at home. While possible, the Aberdonians have only scored ten goals in their eleven games so far – so the odds are not so good.

The play-off relegation spot looks to be between Hillhead and Glasgow University with the latter holding a three point advantage. Hillhead have had a challenging season to date, but this weekend have home advantage for their games against St Andrews University and Uddingston, although both sit at the top of the bottom split.  In contrast, Glasgow are away for both games against Inverleith and St Andrews. Earlier in the season Glasgow did up a point in a 1-1 draw with Inverleith while Hillhead lost both games.

 

by Scotland Hockey

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