STIRLING have not enjoyed the best of starts to the 2013 season but the mood remains optimistic as the New Williamfield side prepare for a potentially daunting trip to face West of Scotland today.
While Stirling narrowly avoided the drop last season and have been tipped to endure another relegation battle this term, West were only denied the title on the final day.
Yet skipper Graeme Taylor is relishing today’s trip to Hamilton Crescent. He said: “It was a disappointingly close defeat to Drumpellier last week but we’ve shown great fighting spirit in that game and against Forfarshire [in the Scottish Cup].
“We believe a win is just around the corner and we are prepared for a West backlash after their defeat to Uddingston.
“The guys are looking forward to the challenge of mixing it with one of the league favourites.”
Taylor keeps faith with the side that went down last week but West, determined to bounce back from that defeat at Uddingston, have major selection worries. While Dave McNulty returns to bolster their attack, the batting is severely weakened by the absence of Dougie Lockhart, Andrew Umeed, Stuart Murray and Ian Young.
The day’s top fixture may well be the one at Titwood between Clydesdale and Uddingston but it is slightly undermined by the absence of Majid Haq from the Dale line-up and Calum MacLeod from the visitors’ team.
Both would have been expected to play key roles with both bat and ball but Haq is injured and his Saltires colleague is in transit for tomorrow’s YB40 clash at Essex.
There is therefore an opportunity for others to stand up and be counted in a contest between two of the sides fancied to be challenging for the title.
A superb century from Chris Bellwood helped Dumfries demonstrate that they intend to mount a stout title defence as they opened their campaign with victory against Renfrew.
The Nunholm side, though, may find it a little tougher against a Drumpellier team who are unbeaten in seven games in all competitions, having enjoyed a nine-wicket success against West of Scotland in the Rowan Cup in midweek.
Dumfries will be on familiar lines but Drumps are boosted by the return of Zaheer Mohammed and skipper Graeme McLaren who said: “Dumfries will be a real test especially at Nunholm where they have a great record.
“But I’m very confident as I don’t see any real weakness throughout our side.”
Meanwhile, Ayr and Renfrew are targeting their first win of the campaign.
While the hosts start favourites, the Cambusdoon side know they will have to improve on last week’s below-par showing at Clydesdale against a Renfrew side anxious to prove they belong in the top flight.