1954 - A Missed Opportunity

After the successes of 1952, the following summer had been somewhat of a let-down but there was good reason to believe that the team would feature strongly again in 1954. John Simpson took over as captain and Ted Whitfield returned for a third season as professional.

Slow start but pace picks up

League performances were sketchy in the first part of the summer but after the mid-season break, a string of winning performances was put together. Ayr were defeated by 4 wickets and then a hard-fought victory by 2 wickets was obtained over Clydesdale. West of Scotland were next to be beaten and although there was a disappointing 6-wicket defeat to Kelburne, Ayr were then dismissed for just 58 and Poloc were soundly beaten by 10 wickets

This run of 5 wins in 6 games meant that Greenock sat in second position going into the last game, just behind leaders Ferguslie and ahead of Drumpellier. These latter two sides were due to meet at Langloan whilst Greenock were away at Uddingston, who sat bottom of the table. A win for Greenock and anything less than a win for Ferguslie and the championship would return to Glenpark. However, the lowly position of Uddingston could not disguise the fact that Greenock had lost on their previous five visits to Bothwell Policies and they knew this.

Uddingston bogey strikes again

Ferguslie did not disappoint as they went down to a four-wicket loss at Coatbridge, which meant that Drumpellier had moved ahead of the Paisley team. At the tea interval, Greenock would have considered themselves to be well-placed, having dismissed their opponents for just 107, with Whitfield taking 7 for 47. But the second half of the game just did not work out as expected. From 32 for 2, the batting simply imploded to the slow bowling of the professsional Aitcheson and the veteran George Brown, and Greenock were dismissed for just 63 to lose by 44 runs. With that, the Uddingston bogey continued and the title disappeared from view with Drumpellier claiming the honours for the first time in 31 years. The Greenock Telegraph report on the match somewhat harshly stated that "This match demonstrated once again that, with a few exceptions, the Glenparkers cannot play slow bowling".

Rowan Cup captured

This defeat took some of the gloss off a season which had started well with the capture of the Rowan Cup. After wins over Glasgow University and Kilmarnock, Clydesdale were the opponents in the semi-final at Glenpark. Greenock batted first and their total of 138 for 7 in 20 overs gave them something to defend. Clydesdale came hard at Greenock and at 100 for 3, they looked favourites but the skipper bowled a decisive spell at this point and in a tight finish, Greenock prevailed by just 2 runs.

The final was played on a Monday evening at Whitehaugh with Drumpellier as the opponents. Greenock batted first but after their allotted 24 8-ball overs, one wouldn't have given much for their chances as they struggled to reach 84 for the loss of 9 wickets. In the context of a low-scoring game, the unbeaten partnership of 13 for the 10th wicket between Peter Smith and Ian Gilliland would prove to be a key moment in the game. When Drumpellier batted, they were faced by aggressive bowling from Ernie Armstrong and Duncan Drummond, backed up by tight fielding, which led to 3 run outs, and could not break the stranglehold that had been imposed. Their innings ended in the 20th over when their last man was dismissed with the score on 69 and Greenock had achieved a great team victory by 15 runs.

Little success was achieved in the West League Cup with only one victory gained in the group stages but there were big wins in the annual friendlies against Watsonians and Grange.

Whitfield's all-round supremacy

As far as individual performances during the season were concerned, Whitfield led the way with 619 runs and 89 wickets and he was given strong backing by Lawrence Proverbs with 620 runs and Mac Galbreath with 557 while skipper Simpson and Ernie Armstrong both took 45 wickets. In the league Proverbs led the way with the bat with 364 runs, Whitfield accumulating 298 runs but the latter was far and away the key bowler with 54 Union wickets in total.

Prospects for 1955 looked good. How wrong would that forecast turnout to be.