Domestic Preview - Week 14

29 Jul
Cricket Media preview the fourteenth week of domestic action in the Eastern and Western Premier Divisions. 

Title pacesetters Watsonians will be on a double-pronged Eastern Premiership mission today when they make the awkward trans-capital jaunt to Goldenacre.

Priority will be to earn a crucial triumph over their old rivals, but to achieve that they will have to shake off the Adrian Neill hoodoo.

Paceman Neill will be champing at the bit to run in with the new ball, having destroyed Sonians twice in the space of a year.

First, he entered the record books by grabbing all 10 wickets while still with Aberdeenshire - then he returned to Myreside earlier in the current campaign to snap up seven cheap scalps.

The question is: can he maintain the upper hand on home turf?

Forfarshire player-coach Graeme Beghin believes his side will have momentum in their favour when they square up to Arbroath at Broughty Ferry.

Shire’s title prospects may only be hanging by a thread, but there is no doubting their determination to deal out another dose of misery to their Angus rivals.

Beghin pointed out: “The Arbroath guys know exactly what we are capable of doing.

“We beat them at their place earlier in the season - and then we repeated the feat last weekend in the T20 tournament, also at Lochlands.

“But, as is always the case in derby matches, the honours will go to the better team on the day: one thing IS certain - we are right up for the challenge.”

Forfs are boosted by the return of all rounder Aman Bailwal and bowler Liam Sweeney, so they send a full-strength squad into battle.”

Arbroath skipper Marc Petrie will order his troops not to take the eye off the ball by over-concentrating on keeping the shackles on home captain Craig Wallace, who has been in such destructive form with the bat.

He said: “Craig is one of the hardest hitting players in the country, however they are far from being a one-man outfit.

“Beghin is the highest run-getter in the league and we must make sure we capture ALL the big wickets as early as possible.

“It is always a great track and fast outfield at Forthill, so the spectators should be treated to a pile of runs, hopefully with most of them being in our favour.

“We are looking forward to a typically feisty and exciting match.”

Arbroath will be without the injured Brendon Ford and Ryan Cameron, while Calvin Burnett is at a wedding. In come Craig Cameron and Euan Small.”

Glenrothes will fancy their chances of taking the scalp of struggling Aberdeenshire at Gilvenbank, while Falkland will have to dig deep at Scroggie Park to derail second-placed Carlton.

Anything other than a Grange success at the expense of basement boys Stoneywood-Dyce would be the shock of the season.

Clydesdale may have taken a giant leap towards retaining their title with victory over Ferguslie last week but a few hurdles remain to be negotiated if the trophy is to head back to Titwood.

The first challenge comes in the form of a trip to Cambusdoon to face the 2014 champions Ayr, a team more than capable of beating the best on their day.

Ayr simply haven’t hit top form often enough to mount a title challenge this season and sit disappointingly in third bottom place but it is tight in mid-table and the Alloway men have just one victory fewer than Uddingston who are fourth.

Majid Haq, the Clydesdale captain, therefore knows it would be folly to under-estimate today’s opponents especially since they contain some of the most distinguished performers in the league with both bat and ball.

An obvious danger is posed by Michael Papps, the former New Zealand Test batsman, who has been so prolific that he has the landmark of 1,000 runs in his sights.

Papps, with four centuries to his name, has already amassed 827 runs while opening partner Neil Smith has 382 – both higher than Dale’s top run scorer Con de Lange who has 321.

Interestingly, Ayr also boast the leading wicket-taker in either side though home skipper Scott McElnea has played in three more matches for his 21 than Haq who has one fewer.

Such statistics are unlikely to worry the Clydesdale captain who knows that team-work rather than individual heroics have been the key to success.

Haq, though, does acknowledge the dangers that lurk in Burns country, saying: “Ayr is always a tough game and with the form Papps is in we will need one of our bowlers to produce a beauty as he doesn’t give his wicket away easily.

“I would love someone in our team to get a big hundred and we have guys who have been threatening to do so.”

Elsewhere, Ferguslie must put a stop to the run that has seen them lose their last three league matches as well as suffering defeats in the Scottish Cup and Rowan Cup.

The Paisley side may have lost matches but not their competitive instinct which was evident in last week’s narrow loss at Titwood and they will start favourites to return to winning ways when Prestwick visit Meikleriggs.

Having won their last four matches in-form East Kilbride have second place in their sights though they will have to be at their best to win at Dumfries where Robert McBride’s side have recaptured form of late.

Uddingston, another of the division’s form horses, are aiming for a fifth straight win when they visit a Stenhousemuir side who are staring at the prospect of an immediate return to the First Division.

Second bottom Drumpellier have a more realistic chance of staying up and they could kick-start their survival bid when they entertain a Kelburne outfit who have slipped into the bottom half of the table after losing their last four matches.

Drumps spokesman Gordon Shaw said: “It’s going to be difficult but we just have to treat every game as a cup game.

“And to be honest if we could have converted our cup form into the league we wouldn’t be in the position we’re in.”

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