Scotland: Watsonians women and Grange men return from Euros in search of domestic silverware

Watsonians and Grange had a successful EuroHockey Club Trophy campaign, but now both sides turn their focus on domestic challenges ahead.

Keith Smith`s charges are a whisker away from retaining their Premiership title – three points against Western Wildcats will secure the silverware, at the moment they are five points ahead of rivals Edinburgh University with only two games left. The champions won the earlier encounter 2-0 with Emily Dark and Katherine Holdgate on target – a similar outcome would suit the Watsonians` coach.

In addition, Watsonians will approach the contest on the back of a successful Euro campaign in which they finished in fifth place, two above their seeding.

Western Wildcats have slipped back to fourth in the table after taking only one point in their three games since the split, and although they’re still in a good position for a top four place, it is still not confirmed.

In contrast, Edinburgh University and Clydesdale Western are secure in the top four – the former in second spot will visit GHK who, like Grange, have a chance of fourth spot. GHK and Grange are both locked on 20 points, five adrift of Western Wildcats, but they do have a game in hand against each other.

Edinburgh University certainly won the earlier clash against GHK, but only by a single goal scored by Jika Nyirenda in the final quarter. However, the students need to win to keep alive their forlorn hope of a Watsonians slip-up.

Clydesdale, in third place, have recovered well from an inconsistent start to the season and are showing signs of their former selves. While Grange have had a good season to date it might be difficult to put a dent into Clydesdale`s encouraging progress.

And so to the other end of the table. What has already been decided is that Uddingston and St Andrews University are safe from relegation concerns and Gordonians are down. But only a single point separates Inverleith, Hillhead and Glasgow University – although the latter have a game in hand. The students could go a long way to securing their safety if they can come away from Aberdeen with a crucial three points.

As it stands Inverleith have that one point advantage and have Hillhead as visitors in a match where the loser will emerge as favourite for the relegation play-off spot.

Hillhead looked dead and buried earlier but wins over Gordonians and St Andrews since the split have resurrected their fortunes. And Hillhead did win the earlier contest by a single late strike by Orla Parsons – such an outcome could consign the Edinburgh side to the play-offs for a second year in a row.

The final match in the lower tier is between Uddingston and St Andrews University – the prize for the winner could be seventh place overall.

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And so on to Sunday and the men`s Scottish Cup semi-finals at Glasgow Green.

The draw has not been kind to Grange and Western Wildcats – they are playing each other.

Grange seem to have the initiative this season, so far they have won both league games – 2-1 and 4-0 with the latter a particularly sound performance. And the Edinburgh side emerged from the Euros in fourth place with two wins and a draw in normal time, the only loss being to eventual gold medallists Lisnagarvey.

However, a warning for the Grange management. Over the years this fixture has been impossible to predict, so any attempt is not worth the effort. Further, although Western Wildcats have slipped back to third in the Premiership, any side with the strike force of Rob Harwood, Fraser Moran, Fraser Calder and Jonny Christie and others can never be discounted. And indeed Western Wildcats went on to win the Scottish Cup and the European play-offs last season beating Grange in the process. So this should be a cracker, with an uncertain outcome.

The other tie brings together Kelburne and Watsonians – both have had their issues this season.

Kelburne of course have been officially relegated. Coach Chris Caldwell has had few high points in the league but his side have done well to reach the penultimate stage of the Cup. And they did well to defeat Clydesdale 2-1 at Titwood in the previous round, courtesy of a last gasp strike by Tommy Austin.

Watsonians did make the top six split but since then have lost their last three games and slipped back to fifth, so there’s no real form here either. However, Watsonians did win the league encounter 3-0, one of their five victories in the Premiership. They did reach this stage of the competition by eliminating Grove Menzieshill in a shoot-out following a 2-2 draw.


by Scotland Hockey

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