AFTER a number of tight score-lines in round one – including two draws – pre-season predictions that National Two is shaping up to be a nip-and-tuck battle appear to be bang on the money.
In their opener, Glasgow Accies drew 13-13 with Newton Stewart and now head coach Andy Jackson takes his side to The Gytes to face Peebles. Jackson is assisted with the coaching by Glasgow Warriors full-back Ruaridh Jackson and former Scotland and British & Irish Lions prop Ryan Grant.
“They have both played at the highest level recently and have worked under some of the top coaches, so they are able to get messages across to the players in a good manner and the players really listen to what they are saying,” said the head coach. “They are good for me, too, because I have been coaching for a few years and I am always wanting to learn new things and help the team progress. They both live locally to our ground and we all like having them about.
“On the pitch, players like Kenny Beattie [a former Glasgow Hawks and Watsonians man] and Tommy Spinks [ex-Glasgow Warriors and Ayr] are key because they drive standards and help the younger players around them achieve their potential.
“Last week we didn’t quite hit our straps, but it was good to come away with something to show from it and now we get ready to go to Peebles where we had a hard game last season.”
Peebles, meanwhile, go into this one off the back of a hard earned 18-10 win at Gordonians.
Falkirk – with former player Finn Russell in the crowd watching older brother Harry play – lost out to Stewart’s Melville 24-21 last time out. They are heading to Glasgow in week two and Falkirk head coach Steven Leckie is looking forward to meeting up with his former Edinburgh district age-grade team mate Peter Wright, the head coach of GHK, on the touchline.
“Peter has obviously played and coached at the highest level so to have someone like him in National Two is great for the league,” said Leckie. “GHK have a good set-up and every match, especially away from home, will be tricky this season, but at the moment I am just loving being at Falkirk.
“It is a new challenge for me,” added the former Royal High supremo. “The club and the group of players have been brilliant with me so far. They work so hard and want to get better while I and the other coaches have tried to give the players ownership to take control on the pitch if they see an opportunity arising.
“Last week was frustrating to lose, but we were in the game until the final minute and this team certainly has character.”
Gordonians head coach Ryan Morrice thinks his players have learnt a few valuable lessons from recent losses to Hamilton Bulls in the National League Cup and Peebles in the league.
“We have learnt that if you start slowly against teams at this level or give them too much respect early on then they can turn the screw and start to put points on the board,” Morrice stated.
“I think the players are starting to realise that they do belong in National Two and we can cause teams problems if we get it right so we have been working hard on our defensive shape and accuracy in attack.”
Hamilton Bulls are looking to build on their 40-36 triumph over GHK when they head to Newton Stewart. This week they announced that former club captain Craig Inglis – who has sustained a season ending injury – has joined the coaching team, working alongside head coach Kenny Brown and assistant Alex Edmonstone.
“I’m obviously gutted not to be involved as a player this year, but having had numerous conversations with Kenny and Eck over the summer I’m really excited about staying involved with the group in a coaching capacity,” said Inglis. “It’s a strange feeling not playing on a Saturday, but hopefully I can still support and add value to the group whilst recovering from my injury.”
Stewart’s Melville’s first game of the season is at Inverleith against Kirkcaldy, 24 hours after the hosting a pre-World Cup ‘long lunch at Prestonfield House Hotel on Friday to support the club and Edinburgh Headway Group, brain injury charity.
Dumfries Saints secured a late win away to Kirkcaldy in week one and they host Whitecraigs in week two.
This weekend’s National League Division Two fixtures (all 3pm) –
GHK v Falkirk
Newton Stewart v Hamilton Bulls
Stewart’s Melville v Kirkcaldy
Dumfries Saints v Whitecraigs
Preston Lodge v Gordonians
Peebles v Glasgow Accies