Bowls: Porty hope debut boy Billy can give them the edge

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Portobello will hand a debut to East Lothian outdoor star Billy Dunleavey as they visit Headwell in Division 1C of the national indoor bowls league tomorrow.

Dunleavey will play second in Andrew Caldwell’s rink, which also comprises teenager Ross Thomson at lead and reigning club champion Ian Fleming at third. It’s another crucial fixture for Portobello, who top the table by a point from Tweedbank and Abbeyview. Dunfermline side Headwell are a further three points adrift in second bottom place, but they are 
formidable at home.

Portobello team organiser Robert Wood said: “Headwell are hard to beat on their own carpet but not invincible as they lost to Tweedbank. We have much to do as we only managed a peel with them when they 
visited us at Portobello earlier in the campaign.”

Wood continues to be an absentee and is joined on the sidelines by Craig McCall, resulting in the introduction of Dunleavey and the switching of Davie Brown to play third to team captain Stuart Betts.

As well as Caldwell and Betts, Portobello’s other skips are Chris Steven and George Johnston, while BJ Smith and Josh Spalding will occupy the reserve bench. The other match in the division pitches Porty’s two main rivals together, with Abbeyview, another Dunfermline side, hosting Tweedbank. Bainfield represent the Edinburgh banner in the higher echelons of the sport but their automatic survival in the Premier League is put under risk by their visit to foot-of-the-table Coatbridge. The Lanarkshire side have lost all eight of their games and are already doomed to relegation, so Bainfield will be hoping to get the win that will ease them away from the second-bottom play-off spot.

It is unusual for team manager John Bell not to announce his line-up but the continued absence of James Hogg and the late collapse against West Lothian has left him with some problems to solve.

“Winning this game will lift a heap of pressure off us but I don’t expect it to be a dawdle as Coatbridge will be battling to salvage some pride,” said Bell.

Midlothian are currently the likeliest candidates to finish second bottom but can shake things up if they win their derby away to an East Lothian side who are in good form.

Both teams will be hoping their recent World Bowls gold medallists can return from Australia and hit the ground running, although Midlothian may need David Peacock more than East Lothian need Alex Marshall.

West Lothian pair George Sneddon and Thomas Mann are also back from Australia in time for the top-of-the-table visit to Falkirk.

Meanwhile the latest play in the East B section of the Seniors League saw leaders East Lothian stay four points clear of Bainfield with a 67-48 away win over Midlothian. Bainfield were 70-49 winners at home to Balbardie, while West Lothian won 78-46 away to Tweedbank, and Portobello won 64-58 at Teviotdale.