DERBY matches between Border rivals Gala and Melrose are always ferociously contested affairs and Saturday’s National One meeting looks set to carry on that fine tradition.
The Maroons were really struggling in the first stage of the 2019-20 league season, but recent triumphs over Boroughmuir, Ayr and Dundee HSFP has catapulted them up to fifth in the table. They are still nine points behind catching third placed Melrose, but with exciting players scattered through both sides it could be a very close match up.
“It was our first away win of the season at Dundee last week and our confidence with ball in hand is getting better,” Gala head coach Opeta Palepoi said. “Our defensive effort is getting better too, but last week we created two or three great chances that we didn’t take in attack and against better sides you cannot afford that. We sometimes get a little frantic and try and force the issue which we must improve on.”
His opposite number at Melrose, Stuart Johnston, stated: “We are under no illusions that this will be a tough game, it is a Border derby. It is the sort of game that as players you look forward to and hopefully there will be a good crowd down to watch it.
“If we play in the right areas and get our attack shape right then I think we can cause Gala a lot of problems, while we also want to defend with good line speed and aggression. The squad is back to nearly full strength.”
There is another derby in west Edinburgh with ninth placed Watsonians welcoming 11th placed Boroughmuir to Myreside. The hosts have won their four home games to date this season, but they know that a defeat in this one could make things a whole lot tighter in the bottom part of the league.
And Boroughmuir make the short trip across Colinton Road feeling pretty positive having earned a hard fought losing bonus point against Heriot’s Blues last time out.
“With two home games now coming up [Ayr are in town next week] we are very focused on continuing to do well at Myreside,” Watsonians second-row Tom Richardson explained. “This is a young squad and it has taken us a bit of time to gel, but we know that on our day we can compete with all the teams in this division and we are growing as a group week by week.”
Leaders Biggar are on the road to Cartha Queens Park looking to keep their amazing run in the league stretching back to mid-September going.
“Saturday is going to be a tough task against a very big Cartha team,” said Biggar player/coach Craig Borthwick. “They thumped Melrose a few weeks back so we know they can be dangerous when they get it right.
“We just need to try and control the game from the start and apply pressure when we can. Every team is looking to knock us off our perch just now so we have to keep setting goals along the way and focus on the job in hand.”
Cartha are seventh in the table and although they were edged out last week by Stirling Wolves they beat Melrose convincingly, as Borthwick alluded to, in their last home game a fortnight ago.
At Goldenacre, Heriot’s Blues will be looking to keep the pressure on Biggar whilst trying to build on their recent two wins. Since they lost to the league leaders at the start of the month they have beaten local rivals Watsonians and Boroughmuir with bonus points. They take on Ayr this week and matches between these two clubs are invariably feisty affairs.
Ayr have conceded 107 points in their last three games since giving Premiership top-dogs Marr a tough match in the Scottish Cup, so head coach Stuart Fenwick and his players know the defence has to be better in Edinburgh.
Fouth placed Highland head to Bridgehaugh to take on Stirling Wolves as they look to bounce back from last weekend’s defeat to Melrose. When the sides met at Canal Park in Inverness in the Scottish Cup at the end of last month, the home team won 38-18 in the end, but expect this contest to be closer.
Kelso have won their last two matches and as a result they have now escaped the drop zone to 10th in the table. They will want to keep the upward curve going when they welcome bottom of the table Dundee High to Poynder Park. The Taysiders still have a lengthy injury list and losing this game would mean that they would have 11 defeats from 11 against their name at the halfway point in the campaign, so Colin Sangster’s men will be ready to scrap for every point available..
This weekend’s National League Division One fixtures (2pm unless stated) –
Heriot’s Blues v Ayr
Cartha Queens Park v Biggar
Watsonians v Boroughmuir (3pm)
Kelso v Dundee High (3pm)
Stirling Wolves v Highland (3pm)
Gala v Melrose (3pm)