The 2021 North-East Championship season has been a steep learning curve for an Aberdeenshire team rebuilding after being relegated from the Eastern Premier in 2019.
With the 2020 season wiped out due to Covid, it has been a time to regroup and rebuild at Mannofield and captain Kenny Reid is looking for that education to continue in the remaining games of the campaign.
He said: “We set our stall out at the beginning of the season to make this a development year. We’ve got a lot of young players in our side.
“The feeling was if we did win the league and go up then that would have been a bonus, but we were not putting all our eggs in one basket.
“This season has been more about giving young players a chance to play and finding out about them while they learn how to play at this level.
“Ultimately our aim is to be at the highest level and we’re trying to give them the confidence and freedom to work towards that.
“Had we won gone up this year, I think it would have been too soon and next year could have been a tough one, but it has still been a huge learning curve for the team and the players are aware now of what is required to play at this level.
“This is a good league with some very good teams and the players have had a taste of that this year.
“They’ll have more of those opportunities in the final four games and then it will be up to us as a club to keep these players engaged, work with them over the winter and ensure we can come back stronger in March next year.”
That education continues at third-placed Gordonians on Saturday at Countesswells.
The Dons have been given hope of catching Freuchie in the run-in after the league leaders lost their first game of the season against Forfarshire 2nd last week, but Reid believes his team can take confidence from their win against Gordonians earlier in the season.
Reid said: “Falkland have been the best team we’ve faced this year, but if you look at Freuchie they have shown how capable they are of finding a way to win whether it is by five or 10 runs or one or two wickets.
“It’s something our young players need to learn. We face Gordonians, who we beat at Mannofield earlier in the season, and we know they will be wanting to rectify that at home this weekend.
“We know we can play at a level good enough to beat them, but it takes someone stepping up and doing something special or collectively chipping in together on a matchday. You have to find a way.”
Sixth-placed Huntly hope to get back to action when they host Strathmore. Jack Mitchell’s side saw their game at Gordonians rained off last weekend, meaning they have managed to complete just eight matches so far this season.
Bon Accord have mountain to climb to prevent Grammar winning Grade 1
Now that the dust has settled after the top of Grade 1 battle last week, winners Aberdeen Grammar FPs look to have left second-placed Bon Accord with a mountain to climb.
Bon Accord now need to win all their remaining four games, while hoping for favours from two of Grammar’s opponents.
The likelihood of the Rubislaw outfit losing twice are remote, although tomorrow’s opponents at home Siyapa, then Knight Riders, Gordonians and Crescent will all be attempting to delay or even scupper the Grammar celebrations.
The Bons will be pushed to win their remaining four games against Gordonians, Master Blasters Aberdeen, Siyapa and Inverurie, particularly as the latter are still set on claiming third place.
Elsewhere, Cults are still in with a chance of a top three finish, and will be marginal favourites to beat Master Blasters Aberdeen away from home this weekend, while Inverurie must beat Crescent if they are to claim the bronze medal position, as is the case for Knight Riders, who meet Grampian but will need to pull out all the stops after a poor run of form.
After the thrills and spills in the Bon Accord and Reid Cup finals, teams in Grade 2 and 3 return to league duty, but with only the minor places to be decided as Mannofield are home and dry in Grade 2, and 2nd Grampian are also out of sight in Grade 3 – with both sides celebrating league and cup doubles.
Mannofield are at home to 2nd Knight Riders and 2nd Grampian are away to Stonehaven Thistle.