ARBROATH have defied the odds by bolstering their status as title pacesetters - in spite of being significantly under strength throughout the campaign.

Today they make the trek to Mannofield to face an inconsistent Aberdenshire outfit and on paper they will be clear-cut favourites to take another stride towards the championship.

Their power will be bolstered by the return of skipper Marc Petrie, Greig Peal and Calvin Burnett.

Cautious captain Petrie, however, still regards the hosts as a major threat.

He said: “Results may not have gone their way, but they have a couple of players in pretty good form, particularly Chris Venske and their pro.

“But they will find it tough if our new-ball attack performs the way they have done over the past few weeks.

“As ever, our approach is to take every match as it comes and keep on enjoying our cricket.”

Neighbours Forfarshire can do Arbroath a huge favour by taking the scalp of second-placed Grange at Forthill, while the other prime contenders - Glenrothes and Heriot’s are away from home.

Revenge will be on the minds of the Glens men when they square up to SMRH at Inverleith.

The Edinburgh side created one of the big shocks in the first half of the season by winning at Gilvenbank.

And Fifers’ skipper Safyaan Sharif is expecting another tough examination of character.

He stated: “We really want a win and keep up our momentum.

“However, we have seen what SMRH can do and we will have to work hard to achieve the right result.”

Sharif Confirmed the Robert “Bod” Hutchison will replace Graham Dodds.

Falkland - almost certainly consigned to relegation - have another busy weekend.

First, they collide with champions Carlton - then head to Yorkshire for another attempt to beat Sessay to claim a place in the quarter finals of the British Village Cup.

Last week’s initial tussle was wrecked by the weather.

Heriot’s cross the capital, hoping to make amends for their recent Scottish Cup defeat at the hands of Watsonians.