Domestic Preview - Week 15
While new Eastern Premiership pacesetters Carlton square up to previous leaders and neighbours Watsonians at Myreside, there is arguably an even more important encounter up at Aberdeen, where survival-seekers Glenrothes go head-to-head with basement boys Stoneywood-Dyce.
As Fifers’ skipper Kenny Crichton stressed, an away victory would effectively seal the relegation fate of the hosts at Peoples Park, while Glens would celebrate the fact that they have all but confirmed their place in the top flight following a testing first season at that level.
Crichton says his squad will travel north with confidence, but without complacency for the showdown with their winless opponents.
Despite last weekend’s home defeat at the hands of Aberdeenshire, Crichton said: “We have a high degree of belief that we can come back with the result we so badly want.
“We have our strongest line-up up of the campaign and we have beaten them earlier in the summer.”
Widening the gap between themselves and the Granite City brigade is not the only thing on the minds of Crichton and Co.
A win would leave them well-placed to finish above local rivals Falkland, who are unlikely to emerge from their wretched run of losses when they face Arbroath at Lochlands.
Crichton added: “Though we have confidence in our abilities, there is no getting away from the fact that this weekend could be a banana-skin occasion.
“There have been a few funny outcomes this year and we are hoping our match won’t fall into that category.”
While Arbroath ought to be too strong for the Scroggie Park outfit, Forfarshire aim to consolidate third-place by getting the better of Aberdeenshire at Mannofield. Form suggests it should be the visitors who will be sporting the smiles - certainly on the evidence of their derby triumph over Arbroath last time out.
In the capital, Sonians will be determined to bounce back from their humbling at the hands of Heriot’s and they will be hoping home-turf advantage will tilt the balance against Carlton.
Heriot’s themselves will be in buoyant mood as they make the short journey to Raeburn Place, where champions Grange await - fresh from their trophy-grabbing efforts in the national T20 Finals in Glasgow on Sunday.
Clydesdale may have moved tantalisingly close to retaining the Western Premier title but nobody at Titwood is taking anything for granted.
Ferguslie’s recent collapse has made things look a little more clear-cut at the top of the table but Majid Haq’s men must negotiate several hurdles before the celebrations begin.
The most difficult of these remaining tests may come today when Dale entertain an Uddingston side whose recent form as been of championship-winning proportions.
Indeed, the Bothwell men must bemoan a slow start to the season since their current run of five consecutive wins has propelled them into the top four but with just too much to do to repeat their own title success of 2013.
Dale, meanwhile, have been frustrated by the weather, completing only one of their last five scheduled fixtures and may be a little rusty going into such an important fixture.
However, Haq said: “I believe we have plenty in the locker and I’m expecting some big performances from our team and to finish the season stronger than we started.
“We have an excellent side with every base covered and now it’s a case of going out and expressing ourselves.
“We know every game at this stage of the season is going to be tight.”
Uddingston skipper Bryan Clarke said: “The title is Clydesdale's to lose but it can be tough in the run-in and it might be hard for them having not played for a few weeks.
“The percentages can change quickly when you lose one or two at this stage but Clydesdale are a very good side.
“From our perspective we've had a great few weeks and really enjoyed ourselves. I think we've managed to play to our potential and proved to ourselves we are capable of competing properly again.”
Clarke, whose side held their nerve when the pressure was on three years ago, added: “We've a decent record at Titwood and when they lost to us chasing a low total in 2014 it maybe cost them the league that season so I'm sure they'll be well prepared for us!
“Our guys have done very well as the season has gone on and the big thing for me is the younger guys coming through - Niall Macleod, Dennis Eyles and Allan Laycock are really beginning to contribute which is very pleasing.”
It is a measure of Clydesdale’s strength in depth that they can bring in Zulfi Shahid, one of the leading run scorers in Scottish club cricket, to replace Zeeshan Bashir who is unavailable.
With Zain Ashraf and Andrew Guy also out, Andrew Scobie returns to keep wicket.
East Kilbride have emerged as Clydesdale’s closest challengers and skipper Harmanjit Singh should lead his side to a home win against struggling Drumpellier while hoping that his old Dale team-mates slip-up.
A Paisley derby may provide Ferguslie with the perfect platform to recapture form, the Meikleriggs men aiming to end a four-game losing sequence when they make the short trip to Whitehaugh to face a Kelburne side who ended their own slump by beating Drumpellier a week ago.
Derby pride is also at stake at Henry Thow Oval where Prestwick can put distance between themselves and Ayr if they avenge their defeat at Cambusdoon earlier in the season.
Dumfries should move closer to mid-table safety with victory over doomed Stenhousemuir at Nunholm.
Headline photo: Cameron Munro