It might have escaped many people’s notice, amidst the abandonments and apocalyptic conditions in this wretched summer, but Watsonians are in the process of amassing a remarkable record in their 2012 League and Cup assignments.
To date, and even with the rider that many of their fixtures have fallen victim to the weather, the Myreside maestri have maintained their 100% win ratio in both the Eastern Premier Division and the Scottish Cup, which has steered them to the brink of a noteworthy double.
Yet, according to their flinty captain, Stuart Chalmers, any mention of the latter word has been forbidden in the Watsonians ranks, not least because this is a squad which remains a work in progress. We might be able to gauge how they respond to pressure by watching how they fare next weekend, when they tackle Heriots at Goldenacre on Saturday, as the prelude to entertaining Stenhousemuir in the Cup semi-finals 24 hours later.
But Chalmers is adamant that his charges will stick to their policy of focusing on the next fixture and treating every single contest as if it was a title decider. And, to be fair, that approach has not exactly hindered them in their ambitions, particularly when they swept aside the challenge of Grange to preserve their victorious sequence last Saturday.
We have a good mix of players in the squad and although we are missing one or two talented individuals at the moment, with the likes of Craig Wright and Paddy Sadler being in Australia [for the Under-19 World Cup), and after Ewan Chalmers [no relation] was called up to the Saltires, we still believe we have the ability to move forward, but you can’t afford to take your eye off the ball,” said the skipper, whose tenacity and tough-as-teak temperament have transformed the situation where Watsonians were once regarded in some quarters as lacking the steel to challenge for major prizes.
“The Grange victory was a big confidence-booster for us, because we were without a few of our bowlers, but Peter Legget chipped in with a terrific spell and, although we knew they would fight back at some stage, we still ended up winning fairly comfortably. But it has been a strange season, with all the stops and starts, and you can’t afford to get ahead of yourself. Heriots are still in with a chance of winning the title, they have found some good form recently, and we realise they will be hard opponents.
“Hopefully, we have learned from the mistakes made in previous years and have gained experience which will help us in the next month. We have plenty of motivated guys in the dressing room, and there is a strong youth set-up at this club, so the future looks bright, but, for the present, everything is geared towards what happens next weekend.”
On paper, the Stenhousemuir tussle appears a fairly predictable one, especially with The Tryst organisation’s president, Peter Moses, affirming to CricketEurope that his priority lies in his players extricating themselves from their basement position in the second tier. However, Chalmers, a relative veteran at 29, has witnessed sufficient shocks and tales of the unexpected throughout his career to be conscious that nearly anything can materialise in the one-day milieu, with the triumphant team gaining the opportunity to tackle either Heriots or Carlton in the denouement at Titwood in Glasgow on September 2.
“Stenhousemuir have already beaten some quality teams in the competition [including Ayr and Forfarshire] and this is the kind of match where they might feel they have nothing to lose and that will allow them to relax, free themselves up, and just go for it,” said Chalmers, whose charges will be minus Wright, Sadler and also South African professional, Jean Symes, for the second half of their looming double-header.
“So we have to be careful and treat this with the same intensity as every other game. If we get the basics right, and concentrate on our strengths and showing the same discipline which has taken us to the semi-finals, we should be okay. But, Stenhousemuir have a proud history, and I have no doubt they will want to be in the final every bit as much as us.”
What both clubs can definitely agree upon is the importance of the elements relenting to permit sustained action at the climax of the campaign.
“Of course it has been frustrating, because we were just hitting our stride in May with victories against Carlton and Stoneywood-Dyce, then it tipped down for the next six weeks, and the momentum stalled, not just for ourselves, but everybody else,” said Chalmers.
“It’s nice that we have stayed unbeaten in the league. But don’t forget we have only played five matches!”
None the less, given their impressive march, Watsonians have the quality to transcend any obstacles and should continue their quest for silverware in the days ahead.