Heriot’s coach Phil Smith insists his side’s superiority in recent matches against Currie will be of little significance when he takes his men to meet their Capital rivals in tomorrow’s BT Premiership play-off semi-final (kick-off 3pm).
Currie last posted a win against the Goldenacre men in March 2013 and, in the nine subsequent meetings, Heriot’s have posted eight wins and a draw. Indeed, since Ben Cairns took the coaching reins at Malleny Park, Heriot’s are the only top-flight side his men have failed to beat. Among those losses was a 17-13 reverse at the same stage last season when Heriot’s went on to take the title. However, Smith knows that Cairns has continued to develop a talented squad and the Heriot’s supremo is under no illusions about the magnitude of the task that faces his men.
“It’s in our favour at the moment if you look at the cold results, but it’s hard,” said Smith, who admitted that his men had appeared ring rusty last Saturday when they progressed to the BT Cup final after a draining 100-minute epic against Glasgow Hawks. And he believes the hosts, whose last competitive outing was against Gala three weeks ago, could be in a similar situation tomorrow, adding: “Currie may have the same issues as they come in cold. However, I am sure home advantage and a good home support will quickly help them focus.”
And he knows that past results will be irrelevant in a match where a win for Currie would also give them home advantage in the final should Melrose repeat last weekend’s win over Ayr in the other semi.
Smith said: “While our most recent games against Currie have seen us edge a few close wins, we are preparing for an even more determined opposition who will undoubtedly feel that they owe us one. That said, my players are absolutely determined to defend their title for as long as possible.
“Currie are a good team. They have improved most of the season. But we are going to go there full of confidence,” added Smith, who pointed out that belief at Goldenacre is high for good reason. “We haven’t lost this year. We are doing well and we are getting players back.”
Among those returning to action will be Jason Hill and Struan Dewar, both of whom were absentees last Saturday. Smith has also shuffled his half backs, with Hugh Fraser and Rory Carmichael starting in place of Tom Wilson and Gregor McNeish, who drop to the bench.
Cairns has seen his team come close on several occasions in the six matches between the sides since he took over. With self-belief among the players in his ranks having blossomed in the second half of the regular league programme, tomorrow may be the occasion to halt the losing trend. The former Scotland centre feels that home advantage will also be a factor, and was delighted when his team earned the right to play on their own patch.
“It makes a massive difference to us. We have talked about making this place a fortress and we know that generally teams don’t like to come to Malleny,” he said. “Play-off matches are always special games to be involved in and it’s great for the club to have the reward of a home semi for all their hard work throughout the season.”
Cairns has selected a settled side and will be relying on all seven of his substitutes to play a major part, adding, “With such a strong bench we will expect real impact when they are called upon.”
Currie: H Elms, C Gray, E Efthymiou, R Nelson, C Logan, J Semple, R Snedden, J Cox, M Goodwin, A Hamilton, M Vernel, S Ainslie, L Crosbie, T Brooke, R Weston
Subs: G Carson, A McWilliam, S Ruwers, H Bain, T Gordon, C Shiel, M McPhillips.
Heriot’s: J Semple, J Rae, M Learmonth, C Ferguson, C Simpson, R Carmichael, H Fraser, M McCallum, M Liness, S Cessford, R Nimmo, J Turley, I Wilson, S Dewar, J Hill
Subs: D Mason, M Bouab, R Van Heerden, J Syme, A Henderson, T Wilson, G McNeish.