1968 - A season of great improvement

Ron Irvine continued as captain and Eddie Fuller as professional as Greenock sought to build on the progress that they had begun to make in 1967. And that progress did indeed materialise.

Good start flatters to deceive

The league campaign began promisingly with a win over Kelburne, a winning draw over Ayr and a crunching victory over Poloc, who were bowled out by Jack Clark and the skipper for just 54. In hindsight, this was probably not as good as it might seem as these three sides would fill the bottom positions in the league table at the end of the season.

That view would be borne out in the next three games which brought three defeats, firstly at that old bogey ground of Bothwell Policies and then heavy losses at the hands of West of Scotland and Clydesdale who would go on to contest the title. Greenock had no answer to the wiles of Pakistani test leg-spinner, Intikhab Alam who took 8 for 19 as the side slumped to 59 all out in a 75 run defeat to West of Scotland, the eventual champions.

Strong finish achieves Scottish Cup qualification

Greenock, however, regrouped after this run of defeats, claiming a winning draw with Kilmarnock and then defeating Ferguslie and Kilmarnock in the return game before Initkhab spun them out again at Hamilton Crescent. The double was done over Ferguslie but then Uddingston did the same to Greenock when they were victorious at Glenpark. That was the last defeat that Greenock would suffer as they won their last four games, the match with Clydesdale being abandoned with the Glasgow team poised for victory.

This late surge, which included a dominant win over Ayr who were unable to cope with Clark's pace, meant that Greenock finished in 4th place in the league table, their highest finish since 1963 and thereby qualified for next season's Scottish Cup, a competition which had come into existence in 1966. A start had been made in all 18 Union games, which was not a common occurrence, and even the two abandoned games made it to the second innings.

Another semi-final defeat in the West League Cup

Greenock made it to the semi-final stage of the West League Cup for the third season in a row where they were well beaten by the powerful Clydesdale side and they departed the Rowna Cup in the second round when a disappointing performance saw them lose to Kelburne, the bottom team in the Union.

Results were mixed in the friendly games but there was a fine win over the touring Australian Old Collegians, although Greenock had bolstered their team with Intikhab Alam and his brother Aftab, who was professional at Kilmarnock.

Clear improvement in the batting

A look at the averages showed clearly how Greenock had improved this season. Five batsmen scored more than 300 runs with Fuller leading the way on 707, followed by Riger Hardie on 544, David Rees 443, Wilson Evans 419 and Brian Lang 339, which was heavier scoring than for many years. Fuller scored exactly 500 runs in the Union, the first time that such a milestone had been reached since the days of John Kerr.

The trio of Fuller, Jack Clark and Ron Irvine dominated the bowling performances. Clark made a real breakthrough this season with 76 wickets in total, while Fuller with 56 and Irvine with 38 gave him great support. In the Union, Clark's tally was 53, the highest tally since Whitfield in 1952. Fuller and Irvine took 41 and 32 league wickets respectively.

This was undoubtedly the most promising season for a number of years although ultimately there no trophies were won. Hopes were high that such an omission would be rectified in 1969.