Plenty to play for as league enters closing stages
This weekend focus switches back to the league, and no fewer than eleven teams still have something to play for this season:
Royal Musselburgh top the 1st Division, and they entertain fellow title challengers North Berwick on Sunday. A win for the home team would ensure they stay on top, and would leave them needing a draw at Gullane on 19th Feb to secure the title. If they draw this week (or even if they lose 3-2) they can still become champions with a win at Gullane. A bigger defeat this week and points difference becomes a factor. In their best case scenario they win on Sunday and Gullane lose – in which case Royal would end the week celebrating a first league title in thirteen years.
However there’s no reason to write Gullane off. A fourth consecutive league title will be theirs with wins in each of their remaining two fixtures. In fact even a draw this weekend at Kilspindie would leave them needing any sort of win at home to Royal Musselburgh on 19th Feb for the title. But defeat on Sunday would most likely end their title aspirations.
North Berwick’s title hopes suffered a blow when they lost at Gullane earlier in the month. They still have a chance of becoming champions for a second time, but they now need some help. To retain an interest Chris Wood’s team need to win at Royal Musselburgh by a minimum 3½-1½ margin. If they do that they must then hope Royal can win at Gullane in February, whilst matching or bettering Royal’s points haul in their own final outing at home to Haddington.
In the race for survival Haddington can eliminate Longniddry with a home win on Sunday. But that won’t be enough to ensure their survival unless Kilspindie lose at home to Gullane. Anything less than a win and Haddington will almost certainly need some points from their final match away to North Berwick.
Longniddry have been bottom of the table all season, but they face both of their relegation rivals in their final two fixtures. Their equation is simple – win both matches and they survive, lose either one and they face the drop.
Kilspindie must take something from Sunday’s home match against Gullane should Haddington win. But whatever happens this week they face a crucial trip to Longniddry in February, and they need Haddington to falter at North Berwick.
In the 2nd Division Craigielaw are assured a promotion spot, but they can still be caught by Musselburgh in the title race. However home wins against Glen this Sunday and Thorntree on 19th February may well be enough to secure the title.
Musselburgh can match Craigielaw’s points total with wins in their remaining fixtures, all three of which are at home. They aren’t in action this week but will be favourites against Musselburgh Old and Gifford in February. Win either one of those matches and they will secure promotion. With good wins in both they can go into their final assignment (against Tantallon) knowing exactly what’s required to steal the title.
Tantallon’s promotion hopes took a severe blow with defeat last Sunday at Thorntree. That leaves them in a three way scrap with Glen and Gifford for the last promotion spot, and this Sunday they entertain Gifford. A win is needed for Fraser Symon’s team to steady the ship, and after that they probably need at least two more points from their final two fixtures on the road at Musselburgh Old and Musselburgh.
Glen’s chances received a boost with Tantallon’s reverse last week, and they now face perhaps their most difficult, but potentially their most rewarding match of the season. Away to a Craigielaw side on an eight match winning run (in league and cup), John McMorland knows the assignment is tough but even a draw would leave his team as favourites to grab the precious third promotion spot.
Gifford must win at Tantallon this week if they are to retain an interest, and even if they do that they will probably need another win at Musselburgh in three weeks’ time. A tall order perhaps, but Thorntree’s success last week won’t have escaped their notice and they will be up for Sunday’s match.