West Lothian look to finish promotion march

IT’S Championship High Noon. The Premiership beckons. Early tomorrow night, following a dramatic double-header weekend of play-offs, two teams from the top four – West Lothian, Dumfries, Poloc and Renfrew – will be celebrating promotion to the elite flight, one of them as title-holders.

Long-term leaders West Lothian, who face Poloc at home today and Dumfries away tomorrow, remain firm favourites. Their fate lies entirely in their own hands. “This is our biggest weekend for over 15 years,” said skipper Andy Raven. “The tradition in Linlithgow after winning a sporting trophy is to march three times around the Cross Well. So it’s fingers crossed that, after all their hard work and dedication, our boys will be marching come tomorrow night.”

Davie Fleming misses out today attending a wedding, and is replaced by Dougie Voas, but the veteran keeper returns for tomorrow.

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Vibrant Dumfries, though, could spoil the Boghall party. “This is our first chance to reach the top level in Scotland,” said veteran all-rounder Davie Davidson, “and we’re determined to move up either as champions or runners-up, so that we can then challenge ourselves against the best. But first we must overcome a potential banana-skin in Renfrew, who seem to be our bogey team.

“Their crushing nine-wicket win over us in the Scottish Cup back in late May will doubtless fill them with confidence, but we played extremely well against a strong Poloc side last Saturday, and again on Sunday at Stirling when we beat East League Champions Fauldhouse to lift the SCU Trophy.

“We’re at full strength. If we beat Renfrew, and Poloc can do us a favour at Boghall, it would set up a Championship final with West Lothian at Nunholm tomorrow. Run machine Kruger van Wyk is obviously West Lothian’s danger man, but their emerging young bat Mikey Miller by all accounts acquitted himself superbly last week with a 50 in testing circumstances.”

Similar self-belief abounds at Shawholm from where third-placed Poloc today travel to Boghall without key men Dan Walton and Hassan Akram, although young batter Scott Millen returns.

“Our destiny isn’t fully in our own hands,” said ‘Loc skipper Matty Coyle, “but we can control the controllables, which means performing much better with the bat, and finishing an encouraging season on a high note.”

Renfrew, notwithstanding last week’s reverse in a tempestuous tussle against West Lothian, also have an outside chance.

“We can still achieve promotion if we win both games and other matches go our way,” explained captain Sai Majeed, “but it’ll be especially tough as eight of our squad will be fasting.” Ryan Murray returns for Adil Hussain in an otherwise unchanged side.

Elsewhere, the remaining 11 sides play out their final two matches, with some lingering academic interest focused on whether Penicuik can avoid the wooden spoon at the expense of either Edinburgh Accies or Stenhousemuir.