Scotland: Titles, top four and relegation up for grabs

With three weekends left, the race for the Premiership titles is hotting up.

The scenario at the beginning of the week for the women`s silverware is simple – on Thursday evening Watsonians, presently unbeaten, will retain the title if they overcome rivals Edinburgh University.   A draw would keep the race open for another week. A win for the students would put real pressure on the champions whose lead would drop to two points – and anything can happen in the denouement.

Over the piece, these two sides have effectively dominated the campaign with comfortable victories most of the time, although the Edinburgh students did drop two points in a draw with Grange. In the first meeting between the sides back in September Watsonians raced into a three goal lead through Jess Garden and a double from Emily Dark. Edinburgh retaliated with strikes by Louise Campbell and Jika Nyirenda, but it was not enough to share the points.



So what was the outcome? A 1-1 draw. Watsonians remaine five points ahead of their major rivals Edinburgh University. Watsonians` coach Keith Smith will be the happier with the result – although that was the first points dropped this season.

The champions can pick up the required three points from their remaining fixtures against Wildcats and GHK to retain the Premiership title. And that is assuming the students do not drop points in their games against GHK and Clydesdale Western.

Thursday`s contest was goalless at the interval. It was Watsonians who took the initiative in the third quarter with a penalty corner strike by Emily Dark. The same player almost sealed the three points for her side but this time her set piece effort cannoned off a post to safety. Almost immediately after that Edinburgh`s Louise Campbell levelled with a composed finish at a breakaway. And that is how it ended.

Both sides are obviously assured of a top four place for the European play-offs – while Clydesdale Western and Wildcats are favourites for the other two. And they meet on Saturday at Titwood. Last time out goals from Emma McDiarmid and Rachel Bain secured the points for the Cats – not easy to predict as both sides are relatively evenly balanced.

The apex of the men`s Premiership is more delicately poised following Grange`s recent defeat by Edinburgh University. Grange lead the table by a single point from Western Wildcats and Edinburgh University, and they play the former at Fettes on Saturday.

Grange won the previous meeting 2-1, Dylan Bean and Jamie Green were on target, a similar result would keep the Edinburgh side in pole position. And subsequent wins over Watsonians and Uddingston would suffice. A draw would clearly suit the Edinburgh students while a Wildcats victory would put the Auchenhowie side in the driving seat – so there are several permutations out there. It could come down to the final game of the season when Wildcats entertain Edinburgh.

Predictions are one thing…but when the tension mounts the outcome can become unpredictable.

Edinburgh University is at home to Watsonians and you would expect the students to triumph – but earlier in the season they succumbed to a Dan Coultas hat-trick. But Watsonians have dropped out of a top four place after back to back defeats at the hands of Western and Uddingston… so their recent form is not great.

Fourth place is now occupied by Uddingston, and to retain that position Tom Hyndman`s charges must take the three points from their home clash with Hillhead. The latter have lost both their top six matches 5-1 to Grange and Western, but did hold the former to a 1-1 draw before the split – so they are a force in the land at times.



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And so on to the unpleasant topic of relegation.

In the women`s table Gordonians case for survival looks forlorn – only one point and a loss of 104 goals does not make pleasant reading. In fact, the Aberdonians’ single point came from a 4-4 draw with Hillhead – Saturday`s opposition in the North-East.  But to rescue their Premiership status they will need to take all three points from Hillhead`s visit. However, if the Glasgow side hope to escape the play-off slot they need to win to catch up with Glasgow University in tenth place.

However, Inverleith are not out of the woods and they might find it difficult taking three points from their visit to St Andrews University.

And so to the men. The once-mighty Kelburne are on the verge of automatic relegation, they must beat Dundee Wanderers at Glasgow Green to save their status – not easy as the Taysiders have had a belated renaissance.

The quest to avoid the play-off spot looks to be between Grove Menzieshill and ESM who are a point ahead. ESM entertain a Clydesdale side that have recovered some of their composure with two wins since the split while Grove Menzieshill are at home to Inverleith. While the latter are a few points ahead of the relegation zone, their recent form has been indifferent and only a kick-start of form will guarantee safety.


by Scotland Hockey

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