Edinburgh & Leith have fulfilled their early season promise by finishing top of the East section of the Cities & Counties Championship (Hamilton Trophy) thanks to a battling 113-101 victory over West Fife at Bainfield in the final qualifying fixture.
Having lost to West Lothian in the opening match of the campaign E&L have since pleased and in most cases impressed their sometimes-critical support by going on to record six straight wins.
E&L won the last of their ten Hamilton Trophy titles back in 2001 but have failed to reach the knockout stages since losing the 2004 final.
There was a huge reluctance for E&L to go down the modern route of appointing a team manager however officials did cave into outside pressures at the start of this season and hey presto Willie Watson of Parkside has made a significant difference.
Watson’s influence can be measured by a more sensible shape being brought to the six rink selections and a massive leap in self-belief that has in turn generated an exciting brand of team spirit. And it is to the new manager’s credit that he has achieved such improvement despite the handicap of several of the Capital’s prominent stars still making themselves unavailable for selection.
“It’s great for all connected with E&L that the first part of the job has been accomplished and although more tough challenges lie ahead we are in good shape to have a crack at going all the way,” said Watson.
The match against West Fife was a critical climax in the battle to finish in the top two and the build-up to it became highly charged when ace skip Robert Marshall was forced by ill health to pull out.
Watson’s response was to promote Colin Hutchison from third to skip Marshall’s rink then push Gavin Smith up to play third to team captain Billy Mellors allowing him to bring in Craig Paterson at second.
E&L only achieved 50 per cent success but wins on the rinks skipped by Willie McDonald, Paul O’Donnell, and Hutchison, plus a peel for Mal Higgenbotham more than covered the losses sustained by James Hogg, and Mellors.