Graham says Gala are better placed with pressure off

GALA’S Premier A title challenge is all but over – but coach George Graham believes it could prove beneficial to the Netherdale team, writes Kenny Paterson.

The Maroons travel to Dundee HSFP this Saturday, tied on the same points as the Tayside club, with both teams six points adrift of leaders Melrose.

But Gala have played a game more, and Graham thinks the gap is too much to overcome.

He told TheSouthern: “I think the Stirling game (which Gala lost) has seen any sort of inclination that we can win the league vanish.

“But it maybe a wee bit of a blessing. We had started to feel the pressure after the fantastic start to the season.

“We want to enjoy ourselves without the pressure and get ourselves as high up the league as we can to get a British and Irish Cup place.”

Chris Auld is out for the season following a serious knee injury, while Luke Pettie (toe) and Shaun Law (knee) are likely to miss the trip to Tayside.

Full-strength Melrose host Stirling County, and are hoping to capitalise on Dundee and Gala’s clash.

Director of rugby Mike Dalgetty said: “The gap is not big enough for us to take any risks and there are still 20 points to play for.

“Obviously, something has to give between Dundee and Gala and we have to make sure we are in a position to take advantage. But we are concentrating on our own game.”

In Premier B, Hawick are on a superb run of form under Phil Leck, unbeaten in seven games, including six wins.

They are tied on top spot with Heriots, who the Mansfield Park men face in another crucial match. And with the top two teams earning a place in Premier One next season, victory would be another massive result for The Greens.

Coach Leck told us: “All I have done since I came in is given them a bit of direction. The lads weren’t playing very modern rugby before and I have just given them some ideas.

“We have improved quite dramatically in defence and that seems to be a badge they are wearing with pride at the moment. It will have to be top-notch again if we are to keep Heriots out.”

Long-term absentee Kieran Willison will miss the clash.

The other Borders team in Premier B, Jed-Forest, travel to bottom-of-the-table Hamilton.

Selkirk will expect to defeat Hillhead/Jordanhill in Glasgow in Premier C, while Kelso host Biggar.

While Selkirk and Kelso are in a good position to maintain their Premier rugby status, Peebles coach Gerry McGuinness has resigned himself to relegation.

Defeat to Whitecraigs at The Gytes could officially see Peebles drop into the regional leagues in next season’s reconstruction.

McGuinness said: “I think we are staring at Championship East rugby next season.

“The Falkirk game (26-10 defeat) was probably our last chance as I don’t think three wins from our last three games with bonus points will be enough.

“But the aim is still to take three wins and end the season on a high.”

McGuinness expects Dale Clancy, Alan Warnock and Johnny Morris to return to the squad, but lock Jake Serex is expected to join Switzerland’s national squad for a training camp ahead of a game against Slovenia.