Scotland: Challenging day for men’s champion’s Western Wildcats while Watsonians start the defence of their women’s title

The women`s indoor competition starts on Sunday and it`s all to play for. And in the men’s, after one round of matches Inverleith, Grove Menzieshill and Western Wildcats and Dundee Wanderers are in good positions to contest the top spots in the league part of the men`s indoor championship.

Last season Watsonians won the women`s indoor crown with a narrow 5-4 win over Clydesdale Western and will consequently make their European debut in the EuroHockey Club Cup in Turkey in February.

But the triumph was a close affair…in fact Watsonians only went ahead for the first time with 30 seconds to go with a strike from Katie Stott.

So what about this season? Watsonians coach Keith Smith revealed: “We relied on a small core of players last season indoor, with others coming in and out for a weekend here or there, but we should have a bigger pool of players this year.

“We`ve also got the indoor Euros to prepare for in February, but with the outdoor Euros only a month later, we don`t have a lot of time in between, so the indoor season is even more important for us this year as it also serves as a big chunk of our preparation for when we start back outdoor too.”

Although Smith`s charges have several irons in the fire in the coming months, Watsonians must start favourites to retain their indoor crown. They start their campaign on Sunday with two games against Edinburgh University and then Wildcats.

So what of the challengers? Last year`s finalists Clydesdale must rank as one of them, they have shown resilience in the outdoor Premiership and have several internationalists in their ranks. It will be interesting to see how they line up on Sunday against Edinburgh Hockey Club, Hillhead and finally Inverleith. Even if there are changes from last season, nine points could be in the bag.

Then there is Wildcats who are doing well outdoors and finished in third place in last season`s indoors. Despite losing the semi-final 6-1 to Watsonians, they beat Dundee Wanderers 2-1 for third, Lucy Findlay and Becky Bruce were their scorers and the ever-reliable Amy Snelle replied for the Taysiders. Wildcats are late on the boards on Sunday with fixtures against Watsonians and then Hillhead.

Whether Wanderers will there or thereabouts this season remains to be seen as they are now in the second tier outdoors. The Taysiders are on early doors against Edinburgh Hockey Club and Inverleith – that should give us an early indication of their threat.

And there is also Edinburgh University who have put in quite good performances indoor over the last few seasons – can they do so again? As well as Watsonians the students face Inverleith.

It will be interesting to see if any of the other sides – Inverleith, Edinburgh Hockey Club or Hillhead – can make their mark this season. Sunday should provide the evidence.

This Saturday the pressure is on the men’s champions Western Wildcats – they have three games to play and that includes toughies against Grove Menzieshill and then Inverleith.

Wildcats purred into action last Saturday with modest wins against Watsonians and Grange – but six points gleaned nonetheless.

Vishal Marwaha, the Wildcats` indoor coach, reflected on the opening two games. “I was satisfied with the performance. It`s always difficult at the start as it can take a little time to find your rhythm. There were some positives but also things we need to work on at training this week.”

On this weekend`s action, Vishal reflected a positive approach. “It is a tough weekend with three games. We will take one game at a time and we go into every game with a positive mindset to try and win. It`s going to be a challenge but we look forward too. It`s good to be involved and in such a competitive league.”

There is a wealth of international experience in the Wildcats pack, starting with Gavin Sommerville in goal, then on to Callum Duke and Hamish Galt and finally with Rob Harwood, Fraser Moran, and Andrew McConnell up front.

Certainly the Wildcats clash with Inverleith could well decide the league part of the competition and a win for the latter could see their pole position confirmed. And that is a distinct possibility as Keir Robb, Kyle Taylor and Charlie Jack were certainly on goal scoring patrol last weekend.

Inverleith will aim to start off the day with three points against a Watsonians side that have yet to break their duck, although they finished only two goals shy of Wildcats last week.

And there is Grove Menzieshill who drew a complete blank against Inverleith in their opening game last Saturday only to recover their composure with victories over Watsonians and Dunfermline Carnegie to finish in second spot on goal difference over Western, but now with a game more played.

There is still a lot of talent in the Taysiders line-up with Luke Cranney, Mike Ross, Ollie James and Gavin Byers who have all been about a bit. Grove Menzieshill`s other outing is against Grange.

Dundee Wanderers are presently fourth and could make a serious bid for the top echelons with a possible nine points on offer against Grange, Clydesdale and Watsonians – but the issue is, will this come to fruition. Possible…as they have the mercurial Bobby Ralph in the pack – after all he scored five in last weekend`s two games.

The other four sides have only two wins between them – and that goes to Dunfermline Carnegie and Clydesdale. On paper Carnegie looked the best placed to pick up additional points as they play both Grange and Watsonians – but that may not be how it pans out on the court.

Clydesdale`s will be hopeful of picking up another three points when they meet Wanderers – they do score goals, twelve last weekend in their three games with Cameron Moran netting in every game.

Watsonians and Grange are pointless so far but both have three games on Saturday – so which side will be first to break their duck?



by Scotland Hockey

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