​Hawick head coach Matty Douglas hoping play-off semi-final versus Kelso will be a happy homecoming

Hawick head coach Matty Douglas is hoping his side’s Scottish Premiership play-off semi-final hosting Kelso at Mansfield Park a week tomorrow will be a happy homecoming after not having played there for almost three months.
Lee Armstrong on the ball for Hawick during their 61-7 win at home at Mansfield Park to Kelso in September (Photo: Malcolm Grant)Lee Armstrong on the ball for Hawick during their 61-7 win at home at Mansfield Park to Kelso in September (Photo: Malcolm Grant)
Lee Armstrong on the ball for Hawick during their 61-7 win at home at Mansfield Park to Kelso in September (Photo: Malcolm Grant)

The Greens beat Kelso home and away on their way to finishing top of the table, on 77 points from 18 fixtures – by 61-7 in September and 28-20 in November respectively – but Douglas is expecting their Border League rivals to prove a tougher proposition in next weekend’s one-off knockout fixture.

“What a game that’s looking to be,” he said.

“Kelso are on a real roll and it was phenomenal the scalps they took over the last few weeks of the season, so credit to them.

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“Early on, the result that we got against them at Mansfield probably made them realise that you can’t switch off in the premiership, and from there, they’ve pieced together some good performances.

“At home at Poynder Park, they’ve been really good – they’ve beaten Marr, they’ve beaten Currie, they’ve beaten Accies.

“We’re just about the only side that’s won there, along with Selkirk. They’re a tough team to beat at home.

“They’ve got a lot of quality players and we respect them, but at the end of the day, we’ve got a target – to win the premiership – so we’re really looking forward to them coming to Mansfield and we’ll see how we go.”

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Playing in front of a home crowd will be a treat in itself, according to Douglas, as that’s something Hawick haven’t experienced since they gave Jed-Forest a 59-12 hiding there back on Saturday, December 9

“We’re actually just looking forward to getting back to Mansfield, to be honest, after four away games on the bounce,” he told us.

“We’ve not played there since the middle of December and we’re always better at home, even when we’ve been in the kind of form we have been away, so we’re really looking forward to it.”

Looking back over a regular season that saw his side beaten only once, by 24-5 away to Marr in September, and win all but one of their 17 other matches, Douglas admitted it had been tougher than their undefeated campaign the season before, made up of 17 wins and one draw, plus play-off last-four and final victories.

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“It was always going to be harder,” he said. “Once you’ve been through a season unbeaten, there’s a lot of pressure there but we’ve thrived on that.

“Coming into this season, teams were wanting to get a scalp, and that’s credit to the playing group we’ve got at Hawick that people are thinking of us that way.

“Some of the games have been tougher, especially the ones at the top of the table, putting a lot more pressure on us, but the players have delivered again.

“Apart from a blip at Marr in our second game of the season, it has been faultless basically and that’s a sign of a really good side that they’re able to back it up for a second year running.”

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Hawick’s last match of the regular season was a 59-3 away win at Selkirk on Saturday, February 3, returning the Bill McLaren Shield to the late sports commentator’s home-town, and Douglas is glad to have it back after almost a whole season without it, having lost it at Marr, and he’s not intending to relinquish it any time soon.

“We had it for a long time last season and it’s quite fitting that we won it back in the last game of this season, and hopefully we’ll keep it going through the play-offs and we’ll be looking to hang onto it for as long as possible,” he said.

Kick-off at Mansfield Park on Saturday week is at 3pm.

This year’s other play-off semi-final sees Marr hosting Edinburgh’s Currie Chieftains in Troon at the same time.

The South Ayrshire side finished second to Hawick in the table, on 71 points from 18 fixtures, with Currie third, on 65.

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