SEVEN games left, six teams still in contention for the title and the top four of them are in direct opposition this afternoon.
The numbers add up to a thrilling finale to the Western Premier title race.
Pacesetters Prestwick entertain second top Ferguslie at the start of a potentially season-defining three weeks which also sees them line up against Uddingston and Ayr – the sides who currently occupy the other top four slots.
It is a daunting prospect for the Ayrshire club who were only promoted to the top flight last season but Andy Tennant, their coaching consultant, believes his players can rise to the challenge.
He said: “We’re not looking too far ahead but, of course, I’ve looked at the fixture list and we always knew July was going to be a very demanding month.
“Our aim was to be in contention at the start of this period and now the plan is still to be in a strong position at the end of the month.
“The team ethos each week has been to stay in the game and it’s the same looking at the bigger picture: we want to stay in the game and have a chance of winning the title going into the final week.”
Prestwick are currently on an impressive four-game winning run but Ferguslie, who have also had their turn at the top of the table, returned to form with victory over Ayr a week ago.
Tennant added: “Ferguslie are a very strong side and it’s going to be another tough game where the guys are going to have to dig deep.
“The pleasing thing is that we have often found a way to come through the challenging spells in games and different players have stood up when needed.”
Ferguslie skipper Jamey Carruthers said: “I’m not surprised that Prestwick are in a strong position as they have a good balance of youth and experience and I’m sure they will offer us a really tough test as they always do.
“For us, we want to go out and improve on last week’s performance and guard against complacency.”
If Prestwick hold pole position, derby rivals Ayr are not far behind and they can enhance their prospects with a home win against an Uddingston side who have lost their last two games after briefly topping the table.
Ayr skipper Andi McElnea said: “We know it’s important to win to stay in touch but Uddingston are a good side and will be dangerous opponents.”
Poloc, who share fourth spot, have home advantage against Greenock but will take nothing for granted against the team with whom they were promoted last season.
The Shawholm team are bidding for a fourth straight win while the visitors, having lost to East Kilbride a week ago, still have work to do to ensure top flight status.
Champions Clydesdale can climb into the top half of the table with victory over Dumfries at Titwood while East Kilbride should advance their survival prospects when they entertain winless Kelburne at Torrance House.
ARBROATH have defied the odds by bolstering their status as title pacesetters – in spite of being significantly under strength throughout the campaign.
Today they make the trek to Mannofield to face an inconsistent Aberdenshire outfit and on paper they will be clear-cut favourites to take another stride towards the championship.
Their power will be bolstered by the return of skipper Marc Petrie, Greig Peal and Calvin Burnett.
Cautious captain Petrie, however, still regards the hosts as a major threat.
He said: “Results may not have gone their way, but they have a couple of players in pretty good form, particularly Chris Venske and their pro.
“But they will find it tough if our new-ball attack performs the way they have done over the past few weeks.
“As ever, our approach is to take every match as it comes and keep on enjoying our cricket.”
Neighbours Forfarshire can do Arbroath a huge favour by taking the scalp of second-placed Grange at Forthill, while the other prime contenders – Glenrothes and Heriot’s are away from home.
Revenge will be on the minds of the Glens men when they square up to SMRH at Inverleith.
The Edinburgh side created one of the big shocks in the first half of the season by winning at Gilvenbank.
And Fifers’ skipper Safyaan Sharif is expecting another tough examination of character.
He stated: “We really want a win and keep up our momentum.
“However, we have seen what SMRH can do and we will have to work hard to achieve the right result.”
Sharif Confirmed the Robert “Bod” Hutchison will replace Graham Dodds.
Falkland – almost certainly consigned to relegation – have another busy weekend.
First, they collide with champions Carlton – then head to Yorkshire for another attempt to beat Sessay to claim a place in the quarter finals of the British Village Cup.
Last week’s initial tussle was wrecked by the weather.
Heriot’s cross the capital, hoping to make amends for their recent Scottish Cup defeat at the hands of Watsonians.