Big games at both ends as season enters final stage
BIG GAMES AT TOP AND BOTTOM AS LEAGUE SEASON ENTERS FINAL FURLONG
The results of the past seven days have certainly made things very interesting at both ends of the Long's SuperValu Division 1 table ahead of this weekend's matches and matters are now very delicately poised heading into the home straight. Coleraine's form will have surprised many, particularly in light of the fact that the Bannsiders are without Scott Campbell and Chinthaka Jayasinghe but despite a difficult looking run-in, they still have to be caught. Ian McGregor's team have a big chance to keep ahead of the chasing pack when they entertain a Fox Lodge side that has been playing well in the past month and who will be keen to stay ahead of Glendermott in that 8th place spot. The visitors recorded wins over Strabane and Bready as they improved from a poor start and then lost very narrowly to Brigade earlier this month before recovering to beat Bonds Glen last time. Gordon Montgomery's men still have a couple of games in hand over the Foxies however so points are at a real premium here and Jonny Robinson's men have plenty of motivation to knock over the league leaders.
The Brigade v Bready clash will see to it that one of them is completely out of the title race albeit both of them need the sides ahead of them to all slip up if they are to feature. It has been a fairly indecisive season from both teams if truth be told however Brigade will be more than happy to be housing the Club Turf Ulster Cup over the winter. Had the Beechgrove side been able to re-produce their form from that competition including wins over Waringstown, North Down and CSNI into the domestic league programme things would surely have been different. Bready haven't really built on last season's cup triumph as many had expected either so David Scanlon's side will look to finish with a rattle and try for a top three finish.
It is now a huge weekend for the three bottom sides as well after Bonds Glen ended their 13-match quest for a first league win of the season when they beat Glendermott in a T20 game on Monday evening. The Bee Gees have waited patiently for their overseas man Gihan Dilruk to find his early season form and the Sri Lankan came good just at the last minute to breathe life into Richard Hepburn's side's relegation scrap. That win meant that just two points separated the bottom pair after Creevedonnell 's poor run continued at the weekend and with the teams due to cross swords in a T20 at the Glen on Sunday it could be a very nervous afternoon. The basement pair are also in action on Saturday with the Bee Gees having the onerous task of trying to de-rail Donemana's title challenge at the Holm. Richard Kee's side still have several games in hand but Saturday's defeat at Strabane was a body blow and they can afford no more slip-ups.
Creevedonnell meanwhile have another crunch game on Saturday when they host Glendermott when a win for either side could be vital. Stephen Scroggie's outfit fielded without six first team regulars against Donemana in midweek but will be desperately hoping to be back to near full strength for this one. The Creevies will meet a Glendermott team no doubt wounded by their loss at Bonds Glen but knowing Gordon Montgomery he will be demanding that his side makes amends here and with the stakes high it could be some contest.
Game of the day could well be at the Hunter Grounds where the two sides sitting on Coleraine's tail, Limavady and Strabane, lock horns. Given both team's run-ins it is fair to say that plenty of work remains to be done whatever the outcome but it is equally hard to argue that the winners of this will go in to the final series of games with their tails up. Andrew Britton wasn't able to take his place in the Ireland team this week through injury and it will be interesting to see if the pace man recovers in time to play here but you can be sure that Limavady will want him if he can walk. If not ready, Britton's absence would be a big loss but both sides have a plethora of match-winners in their ranks. Strabane professional Faisal Iqbal looks as good a player as any in the country and if he gets away the Roesiders could be chasing big. Pound for pound the hosts might have the edge but again it could well depend on availability for both teams and it looks too close to call until the team sheets are exchanged.
The Roesiders were expected to have a double-header this weekend with their home game against Bready being touted for Sunday but that won't be happening now and the clubs have provisionally agreed to play on 2nd September. That leaves just the Bonds Glen v Creevedonnell match as well as what could be a fizzing Waterside derby at the Rectory on Sunday as well as Eglinton's attempt to bring the Club Turf Ulster Shield to the North West for the first time. The villagers actually have back-to-back cup finals this weekend as they meet Drummond in the Sammy Jeffrey decider at Eglinton on Saturday as well and with an 8-point lead in the league table this could be a big week for Karl O'Doherty's team.
This weeks North West fixtures-
Long's SuperValu Division 1
Coleraine v Fox Lodge
Brigade v Bready
Creevedonnell v Glendermott
Limavady v Strabane
Donemana v Bonds Glen
Sammy Jeffrey final
Drummond v Eglinton (at Eglinton)
Long's SuperValu Division 2
St Johnston v Burndennett
Killyclooney v Ardmore
Long's SuperValu Division 1
Glendermott v Brigade
Bonds Glen v Creevedonnell (T20)
Club Turf Ulster Shield final
Eglinton v Muckamore (at Limavady)
Long's SuperValu Division 2
Ardmore v Sion Mills