Winter Cup Preview
After Gullane’s gallop to the league title attention now switches to the Cup which tees off this Sunday.
And the first round throws up some intriguing encounters, with top billing being the clash at Amisfield Park where an in form Haddington play host to the newly crowned champions. George Blair’s side looked to be in trouble a couple of months back when they were on the receiving end of a crushing defeat at Gifford. And with an earlier reverse at Whitekirk that left them seemingly going nowhere this term. But subsequent wins against Dunbar, Tantallon and Craigielaw have changed all that. They now find themselves in second place and perhaps just two games away from a return to the top flight. But the question is whether home advantage will be enough to help them over the line against an all conquering Gullane side. The visitors no longer have league distractions, and have already found success on the road at North Berwick, Musselburgh, Glen and Kilspindie. They will be focused on extending their 100% record for the season.
There’s another 1st vs 2nd division clash at Longniddry, but this one looks set to be a handful for the top flight side. The hosts have recovered well from a tough start to the season but still find themselves propping up the Division 1 table. Meanwhile Sunday’s visitors Royal Musselburgh will be more than a little encouraged by their recent run of form – four whitewashes in their last five outings have helped move them into pole position in their league, and they look set for a quick return to the top six.
Glen travel to Musselburgh for the latest instalment of what has been the closest match-up this season. Glen managed a narrow home win when the sides met in their season opener back in October, but there was stalemate in the return league match just four weeks ago at Musselburgh. The top three ties finished all square that day and the only guarantee is there will be no repeat, with Cup rules requiring each tie to be played to a finish.
Whitekirk go looking for a repeat of the win they produced on their last visit to Craigielaw two years ago. And if Cam Murray’s side don’t quite manage it this time they won’t have to wait long for a second bite at the cherry. The two teams meet at the same venue in the league just two weeks later. The record book shows Whitekirk have won every time the teams have met in the 2nd Division, but Craigielaw have prevailed when they have met in the 1st. They haven’t met in the Cup before so this one could go either way.
Thorntree have every reason to focus their attentions on the Cup. The league’s bottom team have had to endure another tough season, but the draw has been kind to them. Home advantage against Musselburgh Old, just one place above them in the league table, is as much as skipper Grant Fleming could have asked for. And although it was the visitors that emerged with a narrow win when the teams met at the same venue in this season’s opener, progress since then has been slow for both sides.
Dunbar will be favourites to progress at home against Gifford. In their 27 previous meetings there have been 23 wins for Dunbar and three draws, with Gifford’s solitary success coming at home and as far back as November 1991. But that was then and this is now. Dunbar only managed a 3-2 win in the league back in October, however Gifford didn’t seriously trouble them that day and aren’t expected to this time either.
There will be a sense of stepping into the unknown for Tantallon when they go to Castle Park. Andrew Doig’s side have only once before been required to make this particular trip, and that was just three months ago in the league. Three out of five matches went to the last green on that occasion and although the visitors came away with the points they knew they had been in a match. They go back as favourites but will have to play well.
Kilspindie’s match at North Berwick will have to wait a week after it emerged no tee booking had been made. No matter, the clash will go ahead on 19th January, giving both sides a chance to size each other up just seven days ahead of their league encounter at Kilspindie.