Last gasp Glen survive in top flight
Glen skipper Innes Christie breathed a huge sigh of relief on Sunday as his team came out on top in yet another cliffhanger at North Berwick’s East Links. With the score even at two apiece, and the experienced Gus Wilson and Don McKinnon two up with three to play, visitors Longniddry looked set to secure the points. At that stage the home team captain might have been forgiven for hoping for nothing more than a share of the spoils.
But his players delivered more. Paul Howson and Barry Ford took the sixteenth and seventeenth to level the match before Ford applied the coup de grace. The 25 footer he drained on the final green was enough to win his tie and the match, and guarantee the Glen a place in the top flight next season.
On the sidelines visiting captain Paul Gibson was left to rue the missed opportunity and commiserate with his players. Had his team held on to their advantage they would have moved within a point of their opponents. And with two home matches remaining (whilst Glen face difficult visits to North Berwick and Gullane), Gibson’s men would perhaps have been favourites to survive the axe.
Along the coast North Berwick moved one step closer to safety thanks to their win at Kilspindie. Last year’s champions have neither threatened the title nor looked like relegation candidates this season, however three defeats in their previous four outings left them with something to prove. And they duly delivered on Sunday. Bob Humble and David Watters took a point for the hosts at the top of the order, but elsewhere it was one way traffic in the visitors’ favour before Kilspindie young guns Rob Paterson and Carter Jerome closed with two birdies in their final three holes to snatch a consolation half point against Torquil McInroy and John Stewart.
With the league title already secure Gullane showed no signs of slowing down. They dealt efficiently with the visit of Musselburgh, their resulting victory leaving Alex Chisholm’s team just one place above the relegation line, but still three points clear of the bottom two. Musselburgh can book their place in next season’s top flight with a win at home to Kilspindie in two week’s time.
So Kilspindie and Longniddry are left firmly in the relegation zone, and both teams now know survival depends on more than just victory in their two remaining fixtures.
Meanwhile in the second division the scramble for two promotion spots edged a little closer to resolution. Tantallon and Craigielaw were both forced to sit the weekend out as their respective matches fell victim to the weather. And whilst promotion remains a possibility for both teams it seems a whole lot less likely following Dunbar’s narrow win at Musselburgh Old.
Dunbar have undoubted pedigree in this competition, but on a cold windy day at the Racetrack that counted for little. With the first and last ties decided (one in favour of either side) there was nothing to pick as the remaining three headed in turn to the eighteenth tee. The visitors edged ahead, courtesy of a last hole win for Graeme Reid & Dave Campbell, before Keiron Blyth & Scott Higgins levelled the score once again with a one hole win for the hosts. But in the end Darren Kilfara and Stevie Nicol took the last hole to secure their match and both points for Dunbar.
The win leaves Gary Queen’s team in third place on ‘goal difference’ but with the top two set to face each other in their final outing the Dunbar skipper knows his team can book a promotion spot with a win against bottom team Thorntree in a fortnight.
Royal Musselburgh and Haddington had no difficulty dealing with the visits of their respective local rivals, setting up the title decider that has now seemed likely for several weeks. Both teams suffered defeat on the same Sunday in mid-November, but each has put together an unbroken string of victories since then. However something has to give when the leading pair go head to head in a fortnight, and Dunbar’s resurgence has added spice to the Prestongrange clash – whilst the second division title awaits the winner it’s odds on that the loser will not only miss out on the silverware but also on promotion.
Before then there’s Cup action this Sunday as deposed league champions North Berwick travel to Gullane looking to avenge their two league defeats this season, whilst holders Musselburgh face a difficult trip to Tantallon.