National League Muscular Dystrophy UK Premiership MDUK Premiership Blog Week Four Preview 18/19 Muscular Dystrophy UK Premiership Week 4 Preview The 97-day (not that we’ve been counting) wait for Premiership action is nearly over! Next weekend the Muscular Dystrophy UK Premiership returns to the Lee Westwood Centre at Nottingham Trent University. Middlesbrough PFC will be looking to take their inspired Regional League and Cup form into this weekend’s national league after dropping to the bottom of the leaderboard in the latter stages of 2018. Currently right in the mix for the North East regional crown, Boro’s fixture list presents a number of opportunities to climb from the dreaded drop. A tough start against Aspire is far from ideal, but following fixtures against Brighton and Sale present more realistic opportunities for the side to register points in their pursuit of Premiership safety. Games on Sunday against Nottingham and Sevenoaks also seem winnable if Middlesbrough prepare diligently. With Leeds facing four of the top five teams across the weekend Boro will be looking to have leapfrogged their closely matched rivals come Sunday evening. It will be a busy weekend for unbeaten league challengers Aspire PFC, who will want to capitalise on a game in hand to ensure they maintain pace with both West Brom and Northern Thunder. The only side so far to secure points against the Champions, have the opportunity to start the weekend with a real statement of intent when they face the leagues bottom three sides (Sale, Leeds & Middlesbrough) in consecutive fixtures on Saturday. Sunday, on paper, presents more challenging games for Aspire, with games against Villa Rockets and St George’s Knights sure to test the team. Subject to them winning their game in hand, Aspire have the potential to surpass Northern Thunder in the standings and reduce the gap on league leaders to just three points. Having already surpassed their points, games won and goals total from last season (in eight fewer games), standout side, St George’s Knights will, no doubt, want to continue their current purple-patch in fixtures this coming weekend. St George’s will be gunning for the league double over Kent-based side Sevenoaks PFC in their first game this weekend after securing a 2-0 win back in October. If the table is a true representation of team ability, The Knights will want to secure back-to-back wins in games against Leeds Chariots and Brighton & Hove before a tough final fixture with Aspire PFC. Lucas Christer commented: "I think we have started the season really well. We are hoping that we can keep getting results and stay in the top 5 until the end of the season. We would really like to win against one of the top 3 teams." WBA Throstles will be keen to get back to winning ways after a disappointing weekend back in November. Opening the weekend’s action, The Throstles face a Sale Utd side they secured a convincing 4-1 victory over back in October. Second up, the Throstles will want to secure another league double over closely matched league rivals, Nottingham, before a number of tough Sunday fixtures. The battle of the West Midlands on Sunday starts with an intriguing matchup against Champions and League leaders West Bromwich Albion, followed by a great game in prospect, against Villa Rockets. With nothing to split the sides in a 1-1 draw back in October, this Sunday’s 15:30 fixture is one of the fixtures of the weekend. Having not secured a win since September, Sale Utd PFC slipped dangerously close to the relegation zone in the last round of Premiership. Despite a congested fixture list, Sale will hope for a positive start against WBA Throstles on Saturday morning at 09:15, before a tough second fixture against Aspire. Though they suffered a 2-1 defeat last time round, the side managed to nullify the potent attack of the title challengers for large parts of the game and will hope to produce a similar performance this time round. A crucial game against league strugglers and closely matched rivals, Middlesbrough, could serve in giving them some priceless breathing space at the bottom, should they win. The side shared the spoils with Nottingham back in October so will have a degree of confidence about securing further points in their matchup on Sunday morning, before a daunting fixture against champions and league leaders West Bromwich Albion. Last years Championship winners, Sevenoaks PFC, will be looking to put space between themselves and the relegation zone this coming weekend having settled back into the pace of the Premiership fantastically. The Oak’s will want to avenge a frustrating loss to St Georges Knight’s in their first game of the weekend. Despite the respective league positions, Sevenoaks will feel they can achieve something from their fixture with Villa Rockets on Saturday afternoon before facing unbeaten league challengers Northern Thunder for the first time this season. Sevenoaks will be gunning for the league double over the Premierships bottom side Middlesbrough PFC in their last game of the weekend. Harry Bestwick shared his thoughts on Sevenoaks upcoming weekend: “We’re all looking forward to this round of games, especially after such a long break. Our form has been good in recent Regional fixtures, so we don’t see why we can’t bring this into the National Premiership. The recent Sevenoaks derby has helped us focus during training so preparation has been good. Hopefully we can get the points we need to secure our place in the Premiership for another season.” With a fixture-list that avoids the leagues top three sides, Nottingham PFC have been given a good opportunity to climb the MDUK Premiership table this coming weekend. Currently seventh in the standings, Nottingham have fixtures against WBA Throstles and Villa Rockets on Saturday. Sunday’s fixtures against Middlesbrough PFC and Sale Utd PFC present easier asks of the local side, but nothing is ever a given in this highly contested league. All but safe from relegation, Nottingham will have the sole aim now of bettering last years seventh place finish in the two weekends of the competition left to be played. Sam Langley said: "Our first few weekends displayed various challenges that NPFC as a team needed to overcome. While we strived in some areas, we lacked in others that cost us points. Hopefully we will strike back in the next round of Premiership fixtures. I'm confident that if we keep our hopes up high, maintain good focus and work collaboratively, we'll have a higher chance of succeeding." An incredibly tough weekend for Leeds Chariots whose demanding fixture list is unfortunate to feature the Premierships leading three sides. Unlucky scheduling sees them start their difficult weekend against the league leaders West Bromwich Albion. Despite succumbing to a 3-0 defeat the last time the sides met, Leeds produced a real team effort against the Champions and will be looking to rekindle the same level of performance on Saturday morning. Following fixtures that day against St George’s Knights and Aspire PFC mark an extremely tough Saturday for the Yorkshire-based side. A matchup with Brighton & Hove Albion PFC may present their greatest chance of registering points on Sunday before a tough fifth and final fixture against Northern Thunder. With only two wins to their name thus far, South-coast side, Brighton & Hove Albion PFC will see the upcoming fixtures as the perfect opportunity to improve their current tally of wins. Games against Middlesbrough and Leeds present a great chance for the Seagulls to secure a further six points in their pursuit of a higher league placement. The side’s first league fixture against Northern Thunder (3-2 defeat) back in October was one of the games of the season; so all eyes should be glued on their 15:30 fixture on Saturday. St George’s Knights complete a mixed fixture list. Fresh from his first England call-up, Gregg Baxter shared his thoughts on Brighton’s weekend: “The winter break is a good time for us. Whilst the wait for the return of league action can be long at times, it’s an opportunity for us too evaluate what went well in the first half of the season, and what we need to work on heading into the second. We quickly highlighted the fact that we are not clinical enough in front of goal and we have all worked hard to rectify that problem over the course of the winter break. Looking ahead to our fixtures we have games that we would consider must-win in order to beat the drop this year, but we also have tough games against teams in the top half of the table where we know that if we play well we are more than capable of pulling off an upset and getting a result. Overall the mood amongst the team is great, and we are confident coming into the second half of the season of picking up points and moving up the table, dragging ourselves away from the relegation battle.” Villa Rockets will hope to improve their current league placement in respective games this coming weekend. The well-drilled side have performed consistently the whole season and are only four points off unbeaten Aspire- a feat in itself. Villa have kept clean sheets in five of their last six fixtures (in all competitions), scoring 12. Their first matchup of the weekend falls against a Sevenoaks side they assertively beat 2-0 in the last round of the MDUK Premiership fixtures. The side will be eager to avenge their frustrating league loss to Sale Utd in their second game of the day. A tough run of Sunday fixtures sees Villa Rockets pit their wits against title hopefuls Aspire and close competitors WBA Throstles. Currently occupying the fourth spot, Villa Rockets will want to ensure they better last years fifth place finish. Consistency is key in any title pursuit and having won their last 11 consecutive league fixtures, its safe to assume that West Bromwich Albion PFC have earned themselves the accolade of title favourites. The league leaders will want to bounce back after a disappointing cup exit to Northern Thunder last weekend. With an opening game against Leeds Chariots, WBA have a great chance to get some shooting practice in before their mouth-watering league matchup against with Northern Thunder. All eyes sure to be on this highly anticipated clash of the titans at 13:00 on Court A. It’s battle of the Brom’s on Sunday, when West Bromwich Albion face local rivals WBA Throstles. An action packed first meeting between the sides have left many with high expectations for this return fixture. With a final fixture against Sale Utd, West Brom will want to ensure they are still at the summit come the end of the weekend’s action. Unlike West Bromwich Albion, Northern Thunder won’t have the luxury of a warm-up game prior to their matchup with the Champions. With only five points separating the sides currently, the fixture promises to be a must-watch, and with a draw being sure to favour Aspire PFC, we can expect the leagues current first and second placed teams to go all out for those precious three points. Thunders second game of the day falls against a Sevenoaks side that they managed to put five past last time round. The side should feel confident approaching Sunday’s fixtures against Brighton and Leeds having beaten both sides already this season. If anyone is interested in sharing comments for either the MDUK Premiership or Championship then send me an email: [email protected] Best of luck to all competing!