Accies face Stirling in bid to move away from bottom

EDINBURGH Accies and Stirling County face each other in a crucial RBS Premiership match this afternoon (12:30pm) with both sides eager to move further from the bottom of the table.

Boroughmuir are seven points adrift at the foot and they look likely to finish in the automatic relegation spot come the end of the month.

However, from Melrose, way up in fourth, to Accies, in ninth, there are just seven points separating six clubs, which means it will be a fascinating end to the campaign.

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The team that finishes ninth come 23 March will play a play-off match against the team that finishes second in the RBS National League to determine who plays in the top flight in 2013-14.

Suddenly, from targeting a top-four place in mid-February, successive defeats to champions Ayr and Aberdeen Grammar have left Accies in that ninth spot at the moment.

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County, on the other hand, have won their last two matches against Currie and Gala, but such is the tight nature of this division they are still just four points clear of the capital side. When the teams met at Bridgehaugh earlier in the season, County had built up quite a handsome lead until Accies fought back. County then needed a late converted try by then Glasgow Warriors’ man Troy Nathan to snatch it 34-32.

A similarly close and entertaining encounter is expected at Raeburn Place today, although Accies are missing club international players in the shape of Alex Allan and Hamish Watson as well as some under-20s squad members.

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For the home side, Alex Blair comes in at full-back after some excellent performances in training and for the second XV, while Nyle Godsmark is on the wing. Sam Pecqueur drops to the bench while back-row Robin Snape is on the bench after a year out through injury.

Accies’ head coach Simon Cross said: “We will need to overhaul a powerful and in-form Stirling side.”

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Edinburgh’s Rob McAlpine is in the second-row for County while former age-grade cap Danny Gilmour returns in the centre. Young prop Colin Hutton retains his starting spot, keeping Garry Mountford on the bench.

In the RBS National League, title-chasing Glasgow Hawks have named an unchanged side as they head to Kelso today. Given the nature of their 67-27 win over Hamilton last Friday night, when 54 points came in the second 40 minutes, it was perhaps an easy decision for co-coaches Jamie Dempsey and Jimmy Sinclair to make.

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That result guaranteed the men from Old Anniesland a top-two finish and now they will have their sights on winning their last three matches with bonus points and pipping current leaders Hawick to the title. The back three of Mike Adamson, James Gormley and Tony Herron is as exciting as any in the division while last week, against Hamilton, half-backs Sean Yacoubian and Andy White linked up well. On the bench, Andy Kirkland is added to the replacements.

At Poynder Park this lunchtime, they will take on a Kelso side free from the pressure of relegation as they made sure of their place in the division a fortnight ago with an impressive 36-14 win at Watsonians. When the sides met in Glasgow back in September, Hawks won 38-9.

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In the other fixture in this division today, Biggar travel to Selkirk knowing that a win would take them above Hamilton and out of the relegation zone. The teams are due to meet twice in the next seven days. When Biggar originally travelled to Philiphaugh in October, they were 30-0 down in the 49th minute when referee David Proctor pulled up injured.

The game was then postponed and it is certainly a more confident Biggar who travel this time around, with a number of wins under their belts in recent weeks. The hosts currently sit in fifth, but with three matches to go will be keen to secure a fourth-place finish. Both matches kick-off at 12:30pm.