Alex Speers reckons Railway Union will pose a stiff test on Saturday at the Dub as Pegasus aim to close the gap at the top of the EYHL table.
And the former Ireland captain is well qualified to give a considered opinion, having spent four years with the Dublin club before returning home to join Pegasus. Speers has been in terrific form this season and has scored 15 goals in all competitions, including nine in ten matches in the all Ireland league.
Pegasus trail leaders Loreto by four points but have the benefit of a game in hand over the Leinster side, who beat Railway 3-2 last week. However, the previous week, Railway produced a master class in crushing Belfast Harlequins 5-1 at Deramore and then went on to beat Loreto in the Jacqui Potter Cup.
Pegasus recovered from a 3-2 loss to UCD to beat Pembroke 2-0 in their last outing but Speers knows they will have to be in top form if they are to make it two home wins in a row.
She said: “Railway have been in great form over the last few weeks with some impressive victories and our matches are always close.”
“We went behind in our league match with them before Christmas before grinding out a win so we know it won’t be easy on Saturday. They have talented players all over the pitch which I know from playing with the club can hurt us if we aren’t at our best. But we bounced back well in that win over Pembroke after losing to UCD and hope to keep that momentum going against Railway.”
Belfast Harlequins have slumped to third from bottom, after picking up just one point from a possible six in their last two outings.
However, it’s well within their grasp to still make the top four and a place in the end-of-season play-offs as just two points separate them from fourth placed Cork Harlequins. Davy Frazer’s side face a double header this weekend with a trip to Dublin to face Muckross followed by an away clash with their Cork namesakes.
After several weeks without Zoe Wilson, the Ireland World Cup silver medalist is set to return at the weekend, having been given the all-clear by her physio after an ankle injury.
“Zoe trained with us last week so fingers crossed she’ll be able to play in both matches which are vital for us,” said Frazer.
“It’s a massive weekend for us and it will either keep us in or around fourth place or we could be out of it depending on how the games go.”
Ards also have a double headed weekend as they host Loreto on Saturday before travelling to Dublin to play UCD 24 hours later. The Co Down side have their noses in front of Muckross at the bottom of the table but anything they can pick up from games against the last two year’s Champions Trophy winners would be a bonus.
At domestic level, Ulster Premier League leaders Ballymoney will be expected to consolidate their lead at the top with an away win over struggling Ballymena. Lurgan, who are four points behind Money, have a tricky trip to Magherafelt to face a resurgent Rainey side, who have pulled clear of the drop zone with two successive wins.
In the other top flight games on Saturday, Banbridge, who beat Randalstown 2-0 midweek with goals from Paula Haugh and Stef McCullough, entertain Dungannon and Queen’s travel to Lisnagarvey.
On the men’s scene at the weekend, the stand out tie in the EYHL sees Banbridge take on Lisnagarvey at Havelock Park.
Garvey have ominously found their form and they will land at the home of their big rivals on the back of recent wins over Three Rock Rovers and Pembroke. The Hillsborough outfit have also inflicted Bann’s only league defeat in the corresponding league fixture earlier in the season when they came out on top after a nine goal thriller.
With the likes of current internationals Jonny Bell and Matthew Nelson joining forces with ex international and short corner specialist Timmy Cockram in the Garvey team, they will pose a stiff test for Bann, who are hoping to keep pace with leaders Glenanne at the top of the table.
Garvey are tucked in behind so it promises to be a high octane shoot-out under the lights on Saturday evening. Bann coach Mark Tumilty will assess the status of his squad after last weekend’s double header with Phillip Brown, just recently returned from injury, a doubt as he continues his return to fitness.
Aside from Brown, Tumilty will put his side through their paces this week in training as they seek to tighten up their play and reduce their mistakes which has cost them some goals in recent weeks. Saturday’s game is at 6pm in an attempt to reach out to the wider local support and Ulster hockey family as the province’s top two sides will stand toe to toe in a crucial league game.
In the other games, Annadale take on Pembroke in Belfast while Cookstown have a tough one away to leaders Glenanne as they continue their battle in the drop zone.
Meanwhile, Instonians and Garvey are through to the semi-finals of the Anderson Cup after completing big aggregate wins during the week. Inst beat North Down 6-1 (11-3 on agg.)), with goals from Stephen Kelso (2), James Palmer, Ben Palmer, Dane Ward and Sam Brown, Josh Gilmore replying.
Garvey were 8-1 winners over Bangor (15-2) with Andy Williamson hitting a hat-trick and the other goals coming from Ollie Kidd (2), James Lorimer, Cole Chambers and Daniel Nelson with Matthew Willis hitting the seasiders’ consolation.
Ulster Premier League leaders Kilkeel are at home to South Antrim on Friday night while challengers Inst travel to Bangor on Saturday with Mossley away to North Down.
In the Intermediate League, there’s a top of the table clash between Ballynahinch and Ballymena at the Co Down venue.
Ulster Premier League: Kilkeel v South Antrim (8pm).
EYHL: Banbridge v Lisnagarvey (6pm); Annadale v Pembroke Wanderers (2.30pm); Glenanne v Cookstown (3.15pm); Dublin YMCA v Cork C of I (3.15pm); Three Rock Rovers v Monkstown (3pm).
Ulster Premier League Division A: North Down v Mossley (2.30pm); Bangor v Instonians (1pm).
Intermediate League: Ballynahinch v Ballymena (4pm).
Ulster Premier: Mossley v Randalstown (7pm)
Senior One: Portadown v Priorians (8.15pm)
EYHL: Ards v Loreto (2.30pm); Muckross v Belfast Harlequins (3.15pm); Pegasus v Railway Union (4pm); Pembroke v Cork Harlequins (2.30pm); UCD v Old Alex (2.50pm);
Ulster Premier: Ballymena v Ballymoney (2.30pm); Banbridge v Dungannon (2.30pm); Lisnagarvey v Queen’s (2.30pm); Rainey v Lurgan (4pm); Senior One: Castle v Raphoe (1pm); Club KV v Armagh (4pm).
EYHL: Cork Harlequins v Belfast Harlequins (12noon); Railway Union v Pembroke (4.15pm); UCD v Ards (1.30pm)