GLENURQUHART manager Iain MacLeod is adopting a laid-back approach as his team face Kingussie in a top-of-the-table clash, where the winner could lead the Marine Harvest Premiership table on Saturday evening.
The Glen have three points from their opening two games, which included a creditable draw at home to champions Newtonmore a week ago.
With it being so early in the season though MacLeod, who took over from co-managers Dave Menzies and Billy MacLean for this season, is not getting carried away.
“Yes being top of the table would be nice but it is fairly meaningless at this stage of the season,” he said.
“The important thing is to keep winning. The priority is to avoid a repeat of last season where we spent too much of our time looking over our shoulder at the relegation battle.
“When I took over I made it a priority to get off to a good start and so far we have done that but there is a long way to go. It has been difficult with Kilmallie and Newtonmore but to be honest, there will be no easy games in this year’s Premiership and we aim to be prepared.”
MacLeod is pleasantly surprised by the emergence of a number of players, who last season spent most of their time playing with the club’s reserve side.
“We kind of threw down the gauntlet in pre-season training and I have to say the response has been terrific,” he said.
“Last Saturday we had eight guys from last year’s second team in the first-team pool against Newtonmore – the champions – and that was great to see.
“Lads like Daniel MacKintosh, the Lachie brothers, Calum Smith and Cairn Urquhart have come in and done well and there are others who I am very pleased with Gary MacKintosh has stepped in to avert a goalkeeping problem and has done really well, as has James MacPherson who has proved to be a goal threat.”
While the mood at Blairbeg is very upbeat, MacLeod is braced for a tough challenge against Kingussie.
“They have started the season well and will bring different problems for us to deal with. They will be very fit and up front they have pace to burn, so we have to be prepared,” he added.
MacLeod is waiting on the availability of John Barr and Andy Corrigan, who both work offshore and are crucial members of his squad.
He also has a serious injury backlog with Dave Smart (broken leg), James Hurwood (knee) and Stuart MacKintosh (knee) all out for the immediate future. Work commitments rule out Michael Brady for the whole of the season.
A win would take the Glen on to the five-point mark and with other leading contenders in the league facing each other, it could allow the Glen to go top.
Champions Newtonmore are away to Oban Camanachd, while league-leaders Kinlochshiel put their 100 per cent record on the line when they face Kyles Athletic in Tighnabruaich.
While Glenurquhart have hit the ground running in 2017, neighbours Lovat remain stuck on the starting line with two defeats in their opening two matches.
That those two defeats have come against two of the title favourites – Newtonmore and Kinlochshiel – will not have the alarm bells ringing quite yet at Balgate.
However, defensive weaknesses, with eight goals conceded in those opening two matches, will be of serious concern to new manager Fraser Gallagher.
He may be forced to shelve the ploy of playing defensive midfielder Craig Mainland in an attacking role, as Lovat have looked much stronger defensively when Mainland reverts to his usual position.
Danny Kelly is an injury doubt after he suffered a nasty head would in the second half against Kinlochshiel. For Kilmallie, Michael Rodger misses out after being sent off against Kingussie.
The final match in the Premiership sees a basement tussle between Lochaber and Mid Argyll.
Meanwhile in the National Division, Inverness are chasing their first points of the season with the visit of Inveraray to the Bught.
The city side were left frustrated by last Saturday’s defeat by Beauly after they had enjoyed the bulk of possession. Manager Drew MacNeil will be looking for a reaction against the Argyll-shire side, who completed a league double over Inverness in 2016.
Beauly face Strathglass in a local derby at Braeview, with the greens looking to improve after a faltering start to the season.
Strathglass have impressed on their return to the National Division and with Josh Fraser and Scott Douglas providing a real goal threat, they could produce an upset.
In the regional leagues, Glenurquhart’s reserves will look to get their North Division One campaign up and running as they host their Skye counterparts. A 4-0 defeat to Newtonmore sees them at the bottom of the table after their first fixture.
Beauly colts, who have been hit by two postponements, will try at the third time of asking to get their season going when they travel to Fort William.
In North Division Two, Inverness and Lovat’s reserve sides will look to get their first points on the board. Second-bottom Inverness are away to Kilmallie, who are a place above them, while Lovat host basement club Lewis.
Elsewhere, there are home ties for both Boleskine and Strathglass reserves. Boleskine are at home to Caberfeidh while Strathglass welcome Lochcarron to Cannich.