After seventeen weeks and fifteen rounds of matches, the Western Premier Division has come down to the last. Clydesdale and Ferguslie meet at Meikleriggs in a winner-takes-all decider for the title, and with eleven wins out of twelve for the visitors and a run of ten straight victories for the hosts, both go into it with considerable momentum behind them.
“We’ve been saying every week that we’ve not been thinking about it, that we’re taking each week as it comes, but when the fixtures get announced you always look for certain games and Ferguslie away is always one of them,” said ‘Dale skipper Paddy Barbour. “With it being the last game of the season, we thought it’d be interesting if there was something riding on it – and it turns out there is.
“Looking at the fixtures I didn’t think we’d drop any more points and Ferguslie have obviously been in great form as well, so we’re really looking forward to it. These are the sort of games you want to be playing in, where there’s a lot riding on them. It should be fun.”
“We’re excited,” said Ferguslie’s Riyaad Henry, “really excited. It’s a really cool thing for the league to come down to the last game like this. It’ll be a tough challenge – Clydesdale are always a really good team – and it’ll be tense, but I think it’ll be a really good game.”
As was their first meeting at Titwood back in July. On a baking hot day on the southside of Glasgow, a century from Riyaad and a four-fer from Hasseeb Zaker saw Ferguslie put the only blemish onto Clydesdale’s league campaign. Nonetheless, as was demonstrated in their nerve-jangling win over Langside two weeks back, the leaders’ season has still been characterised by a happy habit of getting themselves over the line when it matters.
“We’ve just been finding a way to win,” said Paddy. “There have obviously been games where we’ve been comfortable, but I would say that we could have easily lost a third to a half of our games at some point.
“But when we’ve not been playing well we’ve still found a way, and I think that’ll stand us in good stead. If we’re put in a difficult position on Saturday we’ll hopefully be able to call on that experience and find a way to get through one more time.”
“If I had to put our season into one word,” said Riyaad, “it would be ‘potential’. At times we have shown, both with bat and with ball, that we have the ability to really dominate and to be a league-winning team, but if I were to add in another word I would have to say ‘inconsistent’. There have been games that we had to win with the bat and there have been games that we had to win with the ball, but we’ve never found that game where we’ve done both equally well.
“But we’ve shown that the two aspects of our game are there, and we’ve also shown that we can take incredible catches and make game-changing run-outs in the field: we just need to find that formula and put it all together.
“We’ve got so many all-rounders,” he went on. “As captain it’s hard, but it’s also nice that I have so many bowling options and so many different batting options in different positions, and trying to find the right combination of that on the right day is tricky.
“But the boys are fantastic, they’re always wanting the ball in their hand or to go out and bat for us, so it’s been really, really good.”
While the home side’s second-highest wicket-taker Haroon Tahir is unavailable due to work commitments, Clydesdale face Ferguslie without Scotland all-rounder Richie Berrington for the second time this season. But with both sides otherwise at full strength, a terrific summer is all set for what is sure to be an outstanding finale.
Western Premier Division – 18 September 2021
Greenock v SM Cricket Stirling County (at Glenpark)
M8 Driving Ferguslie v Clydesdale (at Meikleriggs)
McCrea FS West of Scotland v Tunnock’s Uddingston (at Hamilton Crescent)
Poloc v Langside (at Shawholm)
Prestwick v Your Move Dumfries (at Henry Thow Oval)
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