PLAYER boss Derek Gemmell hopes Ardeer Thistle's Tuesday's friendly clash at home to Irvine Meadow will leave them in good shape for the weekend Three Towns derby clash with leaders Ardrossan Winton Rovers.
And he is hoping to spring a surprise in the Ayrshire District League encounter at Ardeer Stadium.
The Stevenston side went down 3-0 away to Super First Division side Irvine Meadow in their last match before Saturday's eagerly anticipated showdown.
A Greg Vernon penalty just before the break and goals from Phil Dolan and Graham Boyd secured victory for the visitors in a game played in front of a reasonable crowd.
Gemmell, who played the full game, was encouraged with his team's efforts and said: "The game against Meadow allowed us to give players a run out and get the turkey out of their system. We had a few guys out through holidays and work and our numbers were a bit down. But the game was good preparation for Saturday's game - you can't ask any better than playing Irvine Meadow who are a league above us."
Winton ran out 2-0 winners in a Friday night game under the lights in November.
The Thistle player boss said: "We played well in the second half of the last game and came into it a lot more. We are looking to get a result - a victory on Saturday."
The manager is encouraged with his team's progress and said: "Our points total of 14 is already more than we had for the whole of last season. Our aim must be to finish in the top six."
Meanwhile Winton boss Sandy McLean is expecting a stiff test against their local rivals and said: "It's a tough game for us to start the New Year. Ardeer are a well organised side and we only sealed victory with a late goal in the game at Winton Park. It's never easy playing at Ardeer and it will be a battle. But we are top of the table and will be going all out to take the three points."
Five Winton players - Colin Stevenston, David McNeil, Bobby Colligan, Liam Caddis and Ross Kearns are carrying knocks but the Winton gaffer is hopeful they will all make the big match.
Beith Juniors will look to maintain their impressive record in the Super Premier Division as they host struggling Troon on Saturday.
The Bellsdale Park side recently shored up their squad by re-signing winger Joe Bradley on loan from Queens Park.
Manager Johnny Millar is looking forward to the game and said: "We are unbeaten at home in the league and will be looking to continue that by taking three points. Troon are a good side and I don't understand they they are placed where they are in the league. It's good to have Joe Bradley back. he has a lot of pace and should do well."