Colin Mitchell, the Clydesdale manager, believes his side can give leaders Ferguslie a run for their money in today’s top Western Premier clash.
It is second versus first in the Titwood sunshine and Mitchell is convinced a resurgent Dale will be much more competitive than they were during a heavy defeat to the Paisley team on the opening day of the season.
They have recovered from that reverse and have worked hard to cope with the absence through illness of player-coach Con de Lange to emerge as genuine title contenders.
Mitchell said: “Given the continued long-term absence of Con and his undoubted influence on the club the boys deserve enormous credit for the way they have dug deep and found a way to win.
“We’re delighted to find ourselves where we are in the league and we have probably surpassed early expectations. But now we have to re-set these expectations.
“Ferguslie are the outstanding team in the league – they have assembled a powerful team and are playing some good cricket.
“They were worthy winners on the opening day of the season but we felt we were much closer to them in the cup a few weeks later and we have nothing to fear.”
Clydesdale are without Scotland U17 batsman Angus Guy but Ferguslie are at full strength and their skipper Jamey Carruthers knows victory would open a significant gap at the top,
He said: “It’s a huge game for us after a good win last week. As always, it will be tough against Clydesdale but we are looking forward to it.”
Ferguslie will tomorrow turn their attention to the Scottish Cup and a home quarter-final against Carlton.
The only other Western Premier side still in the knockout competition are Uddingston who visit Ayr today before travelling to Arbroath where they won the tournament against Dunfermline in 2011.
Elsewhere, Poloc go into this afternoon’s home clash with West of Scotland in high spirits following a record-breaking batting display against Greenock.
However, they will take nothing for granted against the Hamilton Crescent outfit who were unlucky to lose the corresponding match in a last-over thriller on the opening day and have since got the better of today’s hosts in the Rowan Cup.
Poloc are without Hasseb Zaker and Calum James but Amaan Ali returns while James Fennah and Simon Naitram miss out for West.
Champions Prestwick are not only bidding to bounce back from last week’s heavy defeat to Ferguslie, they also want to avenge their opening day loss to Stirling when they visit New Williamfield while bottom-of-the-table Dumfries hope to break their duck when they entertain second bottom Greenock.
GRANGE’S ambitious bid to bring former England star Ryan Sidebottom to Raeburn Place has been thrown into doubt.
The international seamer had been due to link up with the club for the second half of the Eastern Premiership campaign.
However, it has emerged that Sidebottom has been offered an extension to his contract as a red-ball bowling consultant with Surrey.
The connection with Grange had been made through player-coach John Blain, an ex team-mate of Sidebottom’s at Yorkshire.
Blain said: “Ryan’s deal with Surrey had been unexpectedly extended. It could be an issue – we will have to wait and see.”
Without Sidebottom, Grange cruised through the first half of the league programme with a 100 per cent record – and they will be expected to continue in the same vein today at the expense of Aberdeenshire at Mannofield.
Blain added: “We are a match for any team at the moment, while also bringing through our young talent from our Academy. This is very important to us.”
Chief chasers Heriot’s, who have lost only once, make the short but tricky trip to face RHC Lions.
Forfarshire – perhaps the surprise packages of the term thus far – are sitting handily in third place and ready to cash in on any slip-ups by the top two.
The Broughty Ferry boys opened their season in ideal fashion by crushing Watsonians, however skipper Umair Mohammed is expecting a much tougher examination in the return encounter at Myreside.
Mohammed said: “Sonians are always a handful, especially when they are on home turf.
“Since we beat them at Forthill they they have been gathering some momentum now with some good wins.
“But if we stick to our game plan we can come out on top again.”
Forfarshire will be without Scotland all-rounder Michael Leask, who is appearing for Tigers in the Norwegian T20 Premier tournament in Oslo.
Captain Marc Petrie is likely to be still on paternity absence from the Arbroath line up as they tackle Stew-Mel at Inverleith.
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Stand-in skipper Ross McLean stated: “It was a disappointing performance against Heriots last week, especially with the bat.
“We will be looking to bounce back with a strong display.”
And winless Glenrothes will mean the start of the second half of the championship will signal a change of fortunes when they go into battle with Carlton at Grange Loan.