Edinburgh Accies coach Simon Cross will be looking for his experienced players to set the tone for his young guns when they welcome RBS Premiership pacesetters Ayr to Raeburn Place tomorrow (kick-off 3pm).
Injuries have forced Cross to make several changes to his line up as Accies bid to derail the Ayr bandwagon, but the loss of key players, notably leg-break victim Jamie Farndale, has been offset by the availability of others.
The coach welcomes back Josh Pecqueur, an absentee last week through illness, whose fellow winger and younger brother Sam earns his first start, while hooker Callum Black is another who makes his debut. Also available is Edinburgh prop Lewis Niven and former professional Alex Blair who returns to the fray for the first time since injury curtailed his career in the full-time ranks.
After a draw and three narrow defeats in their opening three matches, Accies broke their duck away to Heriot’s two weeks ago and built on that success with a comfortable win over Dundee High last Saturday. Cross will be looking for the senior players to lead by example. The input of Dan Teague, Iain Berthinussen and Greg Campbell was a feature of the win at Goldenacre to which Cross referred when writing last week’s programme notes.
The coach knows that Accies are facing a stiff challenge as they bid to move up the league. “The strength and depth of our squad will be tested over the coming weeks, but this group of players has shown great character so far this season and I’m confident they will continue to give their all,” he said. “Ayr will come to Raeburn Place as massive favourites and rightly so, we will be looking to cause an upset.”
Ayr coach Kenny Murray also makes several enforced changes, with winger Kerr Gossman having broken his arm and scrum half Peter Jerecivich absent on Scotland sevens duty. Murray’s side top the table and have the best defensive record in the league. He wants to preserve those statistics but anticipates a difficult afternoon against an Accies side with searing pace behind the scrum, and he will be looking to starve the hosts of possession.
“We expect another quick game of rugby and will have to get on the front foot straight from the start if we are to break down their defence,” he said.
Elsewhere, a Heriot’s side vanquished in tight encounters by Accies and Ayr over the past two Saturdays will be looking to rediscover the winning feeling when they host basement side Aberdeen Grammar, who have been playing with great flair but have yet to win.
Heriot’s coach Phil Smith has a fairly settled side, strengthened this week by the return of CJ Ozawuma after sevens duty with Nigeria, although winger Marc Teague has failed to shake off a knock and is replaced by Andy Scott, who makes his first start of the season.
Smith expects an open contest which promises to keep the scoreboard operator busy. He said: “With both teams having scored a lot of points already this season I am sure it could be an end-to-end match.”
Another side that has more entries in the defeat column than wins is Boroughmuir. Fergus Pringle’s squad is bolstered by the inclusion of Edinburgh duo Harry Leonard and Sep Visser, as well as contracted sevens player Russell Weir as they travel to face Melrose.
Currie will have pros Fergus Scott and Dougie Fife in their line-up for the trip to meet Stirling County, while John Houston starts on the bench as they bid to bounce back from last week’s disappointing loss at home to Gala.
Meanwhile, Watsonians meet Biggar at Myreside on National League duty, looking for a win to maintain the pressure on leaders Glasgow Hawks, who will be at Inverleith to face Stewart’s Melville, who have posted two successive wins.
Championship B table toppers Musselburgh face a test of resilience after a surprise defeat last week. They welcome fifth-placed Lasswade, who could assume the league leadership if results go in their favour. Meanwhile, Murrayfield Wanderers host Howe of Fife and Haddington will be looking to open their account at home to basement side Morgan Academy.