Wednesday, 21 February 2018

West League Update - West 1 - 18th February 2018

As we get down to the business end of the campaign so we're splitting our West League update into three, one for each of the West Region Leagues - we've just got too many scenarios to explore for one update.

In West 1, the number of unfulfilled games have piled up so the end of the campaign has started to slip - mathematically it could be done and dusted by mid April, but by the same token, Carrick and Garnock are scheduled to be playing into May.

Of the three main challengers, Carrick and Garnock have 9 games remaining whilst Glens have 10 - there's 7 points between these three.  East Kilbride in fourth are 13 behind Carrick in top spot and have only 8 games remaining.  However, they do have each of the top 3 to play at home, so they're still in with a shout, even if it is only very slim.

Sitting in pole position, Carrick may be viewed as current favourites, but their next two league games have them hosting and then visiting Glens - for both, these two game could make or break their season.  In addition to these games, Carrick have to make trips to EK and Annan, neither of which will be easy, and they also have the uncomfortable 4-hour bus journey to Oban to make (the only one of the top 4 still to make the trip).

In addition to the Carrick double-header, Glens have Garnock and EK to play away, in both games they'll need to be on top form.

Garnock in third are 7 points behind Carrick but they'll be looking to close on the top two in their next couple of games when they face Irvine away and then at home.  They then have a more difficult run of matches when they host Glens and then are away to both Annan and East Kilbride.

If Carrick beat Glens both home and away, the Championship could be as good as over, but anything less and we'll be carrying into April when the crucial games for the top three all include their visit to East Kilbride.  Stay tuned, plenty of action to come in the West 1 Championship race.

The West 1 action isn't just about the Championship race though, as there's four teams slogging it out for two relegation spots.  Having received another three-point deduction, Helensburgh are as good as down, but there's not a lot between the other three - Cambuslang, Oban and Irvine.

Cambuslang on 17 points have 8 games remaining.  Oban are five points behind, but with two games in hand, whilst Irvine are another three points adrift, but with three games in hand on Cambuslang. Irvine can cut the deficit this Friday when they welcome Helensburgh, a win will jump them ahead of Oban.

Cambuslang's last 8 games include Irvine away & Helensburgh at home, with Oban away currently scheduled as their last game.  Oban have arguably the harder of the fixtures, with both Helensburgh and Irvine away, and Cambuslang at home.  Their other games include away games at Greenock, Annan, Carrick and Garnock, all of which might add a big number to the away points column.  As well as having a few games in hand on the other two, Irvine have home games against their three relegation competitors as well as an away game at Helensburgh, in addition, they have also to host Greenock, which may yield them something - Greenocks only away win this season has been at Helensburgh.

There's no easy games for the teams battling relegation, so whilst wins may be hard to come by, bonus points will be crucial.

Home advantage is often important in the West leagues, and if it proves to be the case moving forward, then come the end of May, it could well be Irvine who remain in West 1, with either Oban or Cambuslang joining Helensburgh in the lower leagues - who knows, perhaps a winner takes all final game of the season at Glencruiten on 12th May.

We're going to stick our necks out and make a few predictions for the end of the season.  At the top it's very tight and likely to go to the last few games, we're thinking it's probably between Carrick & Glens, with gut feel pointing to Glens scraping it.  At the foot, we've got Helensburgh as first to be relegated.  We're going with Irvine finishing 9th, and the remaining relegation place between Cambuslang and Oban - if it goes to that last game, we'd go with home advantage being the difference - trip to Oban on the 12th May already in the diary.

There's one other factor we still need to consider.  Aberdeenshires withdrawal from National 2 has the knock-on effect that only two Clubs will be relegated from National 3.  Until last weekend, Dalziel were one of the favourites for relegation, but a big 36-19 win against Orkney leaves them only four points behind Orkney, who are currently in 10th - the North Lanarkshire boys have a game in hand.  There are 6 rounds of games left in National 3.  If Dalziel make it to that 10th spot, then we're assuming relegation from West 1 will be reduced to one, as there will be no Club coming down from National 3.

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