THE Ferguslie juggernaut clicked back into gear at Meikleriggs on Saturday as the league leaders took another step towards the Western Premier title with an eight-wicket win over Stirling.
Beaten in a Scottish Cup semi-final thriller at Grange six days earlier, the Paisley side shrugged-off that disappointment in convincing fashion as Stirling’s four-game winning run was brought to an end.
It was another test successfully negotiated for the champions-elect and skipper Jamey Carruthers admitted: “It was important for us to get back on track in what was a big game.
“Stirling had won four in a row but we were phenomenal in all aspects.”
Carruthers himself set the tone with three early wickets as the visitors were reduced to 24-2 before an excellent century stand between Brandon McMullan (73) and Tom Bradburn (45) stalled Ferguslie.
However, Michael English removed both batsmen en-route to his own three-wicket haul and, with Hamza Tahir chipping in with two, Stirling were eventually all out for 191.
English and Elliot Moses put the chase firmly on course with a sparkling second wicket stand that yielded 122 runs before the former was out for 69.
However, Moses finished unbeaten on 73 as the leaders surged to victory.
Title success would set up a likely return meeting with Eastern Premier leaders Grange in the Grand Final in September and Carruthers acknowledged: “I’m sure that could happen but we’ll concentrate on winning the league first and take care of anything else after that.”
At the other end of the table Greenock and Ayr boosted their survival hopes with victories at Prestwick and West of Scotland.
Having restricted Prestwick to 196-7, Greenock’s re-jigged batting order carved-out a six-wicket win, Chris Hempsey taking advantage of the chance to open by top-scoring with 60.
The Glenpark side have moved out of the relegation places but a club spokesman said: “It was an outstanding knock from Chris and a great win but we’ll need a few more to ensure we stay in the Premier League.”
Meanwhile, Ayr came back from the dead to move off the foot of the table with an astonishing recovery at Hamilton Crescent.
Defending just 181, defeat looked inevitable when West reached 140-2 but a flurry of wickets – three each for Scott McElnea and Anwar Hafeez – saw the hosts all out for 169.
Dumfries drop back to the bottom after their 112-run defeat at Clydesdale while Uddingston are up to third after Poloc, chasing a modest 173, collapsed from 132-2 to 168 all out at Bothwell Castle.
THE tussle for the title is now a two-horse race.
Forfarshire’s slim hopes of figuring in the scamper to the line evaporated as they were toppled by champions Heriot’s, who are the only side that can prevent Grange lifting the silverware.
And winless Glenrothes now look destined for the drop following the demolition job by the Raeburn Place outfit.
Of Heriot’s triumph over the Broughty Ferry boys at Goldenacre, a thrilled skipper Keith Morton said: “It was a huge result for us following our loss to Carlton the previous week
“We knew we had get back to form quickly and Forfarshire were always going to pose a strong challenge.
“With the bat we thought we were few below par but Elliot Ruthven’s opening spell turned the game in our favour and our spinners were as reliable as ever.
“We’re in a great position as a club with all three teams challenging for silverware and we’re all looking forward to the final few weeks of the season and the exciting occasions that lie in store for us.
“I don’t think there’s any pressure on us, it’s just important we continue playing positive cricket and enjoying our days together.”
Chasing a modest 176, Forfs were shot out for only 125, Ruthven accounting for Chris Greaves, Craig Wallace and Michael Leask at the top end.
A superb knock of 118 by Dylan Budge paved the way for Grange’s home-turf success.
Preston Mommsen weighed in with 68 as the hosts surged to 284 for four.
Their Scotland mate Safyaan Sharif was the only Glens man to offer significant resistance with 48 not out.
Charlie Peet was the pick of the Grange attack, taking there for 21.
Arbroath captain Marc Petrie admitted the Lochlands hammering by Carlton was “a bad day at the office which is becoming a bit too common.”
But he defiantly stated: “I am backing the lads to make it right and turn things around soon.
“We have a a young and inexperienced squad who will learn with every win – and even more from the defeats. “
“I am still as proud as ever to lead this team.”
Rory McCann hit 85 to send the capital outfit to 260 for six.
The writing was on the Arbroath wall when Petrie and Hayden Laing were out before a run was on the board.
There was no recovery route and they plunged to 82 all out.
RHC Lions claimed a robust four-wicket victory over Watsonians at Myreside.
And Stew-Mel tripped up again at the hands of Aberdeenshire at Inverleith.