Scotland: Places in the Gala Day Finals at stake

This season`s Indoor National League 1 experience is coming down to the wire this weekend with the top four sides in the men`s and women`s competition playing each other for the right to participate in the Gala Finals the following Sunday.

The men`s top pool is still very much up for grabs with nine points being the possible tally for each team on Saturday. At present Western Wildcats have a three point advantage over both Grove Menzieshill and Inverleith who are only separated by a couple of goals. The match between these two sides could be a juicy affair.

Watsonians have done a Houdini act to get into the top four, collecting 13 points in their last five games – good effort. But they have now a bit to do being at least three points adrift of the other clubs.

With each team playing each other during the course of the day, it is a gruelling assignment and somewhat of a cut throat affair. And it is a rather pointless exercise trying to predict the outcome. After all, earlier Inverleith beat Grove Menzieshill, Wildcats drew with Grove Menzieshill, Wildcats beat Inverleith, and Watsonians drew with Inverleith. Not much of a pattern there.

But each side have their talisman that could swing it at the end of the day. For Grove Menzieshill there is Luke Cranney, for Inverleith it is Kyle Taylor, Dan Coultas for Watsonians although Wildcats have Fraser Moran, Andrew McConnell, Rob Harwood and Jamie Golden – they have all shown they can turn the tide of a game.

However, the advantage does lie with Wildcats, they have a three point advantage and a superior goal difference.

As the old saying goes – it will probably come down to the sides that perform on the day…or has the slice of luck.

The women`s race looks to have only two horses – Watsonians and Clydesdale Western. It would take a monumental effort by Wildcats and Dundee Wanderers to make up the sizeable deficit. Although anything is always possible in indoor hockey.

The highlight of the competition will again be the head to head between the top two sides and although respective coaches Fiona Semple and Keith Smith will be out to win, in the bigger picture it will not affect the destiny of the championship – that will up for grabs the following Sunday.

However, Watsonians are one up in the series so far with a narrow 5-4 win – there were two goals each for Emily Dark and Clydesdale`s Fiona Semple.

The scrap to avoid the relegation places is a bit in front as these teams have only two games left to play this weekend. The bottom side is automatically relegated while the club that is second from bottom will play-off against the runners-up from the second tier.

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In the women`s Edinburgh HC seem in the toughest position with only three points and they have Edinburgh University and Hillhead to play, the latter game could be especially crucial. Hillhead did win the earlier encounter, but only by the odd goal in five with Olivia Robertson, Jenny Sinclair and Alex Burdon on target for the Glasgow side. Earlier Edinburgh lost 5-0 to the students – so a repeat of that form would consign them to the second tier.

As well as Edinburgh HC second bottom Hillhead have Inverleith to play and last time out a goal from Marnie Arnold settled the issue for the capital side. So Hillhead have a bit to do on Sunday to ensure their survival.

At the moment Inverleith and Edinburgh University with points in the bag might look the most likely to retain first division status next season – but they also still have work to do to ensure that.

The men`s relegation scenario is much tighter – only three points separate Grange, Dundee Wanderers, Clydesdale and Dunfermline Carnegie. So all to play for.

Grange sit top of the lower pool with seven points but their results this season have been somewhat inconsistent. For example, Saturday`s opponents are Clydesdale who they lost 4-0 in the earlier encounter and Dundee Wanderers who they beat 4-2. Grange`s survival may well depend on the quality and number of players they bring to DISC on the day.

Wanderers have fallen from grace, losing their last three outings and slipping out of the top four. Once again Wanderers still rely a lot on striker Bobby Ralph to keep their goal tally ticking over – he has scored ten out of their overall total of 24, an average of three a game. The Taysiders line up against Dunfermline Carnegie and Grange, earlier they beat the former and lost to the latter.

The Fifers are presently the bottom side, two points behind Clydesdale, and the later head to head between these sides may decide the automatic relegation spot and they did win the first encounter 5-4.

Clydesdale did help their cause with a 4-2 win over Wanderers in the final match last weekend, courtesy of a hat-trick by Cameron Moran who has been a regular scorer during the season. Back to back wins over Grange and Dunfermline would see the Titwood side safe for another year.

by Scotland Hockey

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