Greenock in need of full points from Forfarshire game

With just two games remaining before the SNCL Premiership split, Greenock have it all to do when the team travels through to Forthill in Dundee to take on Forfarshire tomorrow. Nothing less than full points will do as the the Glenpark men seek to do a Houdini act and escape from their bottom four position.

Greenock will be at pretty much full strength for once in this Premiership campaign in a season which has not had its player availability problems to seek. Australian professional Luke Butterworth returns after his Australia A tour to Zimbabwe and his teammates will be hoping that he can find the form in the final five weeks of the season which made him Australia’s top wicket-taker in their main inter-state competition, the Sheffield Shield. He is also a commanding batsman who has the potential to take apart an opposition's bowling. His all round ability therefore should provide Greenock with an extra dimension which has been missing for much of the Premiership programme.

Also back into the side at Forthill will be Alex Baum who was unavailable last Saturday for the clash with league leaders Carlton. Baum is a young player who has shown over the last two seasons that he can score runs against any of the Premiership sides and on his last outing at Dunfermline scored 30 runs in a fine late partnership with Jonathan Hempsey that very nearly brought a result for the team.

Hempsey scored 54 runs against Dunfermline and another 30 last week against Carlton and is in fine form having recently scored two centuries for the Sunday League side and also contributed well in a number of other matches in recent weeks.

In midweek, Greenock's Scottish internationalist, Richie Berrington, showed signs of the class which has made him one of the country’s top players. He scored over 20 runs in the Rowan Cup semi-final against Clydesdale before being caught deep in the field as the team chased a very challenging total. Richie will believe that he can get into the runs on Saturday on what is normally a very good batting wicket at Forthill and with others around him capable of scoring the Greenock has the potential to put together a very substantial innings.

Forfarshire, Greenock's opponents, are currently lying in third top spot in the Premiership but have played only seven matches in the competition all season which is the lowest number of any side.

Last Saturday at Hamilton Crescent in Glasgow, the Forthill side overcame McCrea West after chasing down over 230 runs, largely due to the contribution of former Scotland captain Ryan Watson who scored a century and the previous week Aberdeenshire were beaten when, once again over 200 runs were successfully chased. So there are runs in the Forfarshire side and Greenock will need to be at their best to ensure a much needed victory is secured.

Watson has been the talisman of the Forfarshire side for a number of seasons and if Greenock can capture his wicket early then there is every chance that the hosts batting line up can be punctured further.

Brendan Ford will be a likely opener for the Forthill side and he has been in reasonable form averaging just over 35 runs in matches played. The experienced Graeme Garden may be Ford’s opening partner, as he was against McCrea West last week, but he has featured in only two games this season.

Forfarshire have talent in their bowling line-up with Scottish internationalists Matthew Parker, Umair Mohammed and Aman Bailwal in their ranks. However, Parker will take no part in the match, having recently undergone a hip operation whilst Bailwal is currently in Ireland representing Scotland Under-19s in the World Cup qualifying competition. Mohammed has managed only 5 wickets in all matches this season at a rate of 46.8 and therefore the Forfarshire bowling attack will not be at its full strength for tomorrow’s encounter. This should give the Greenock players some encouragement, as should the fact that they chased down 267 last year when winning at Forthill.

Greenock travel to Dundee knowing that they need to perform in all areas of their game. In last Saturday’s match against Carlton no fewer than 39 extras were given away of which 20 were wides. When consideration is given to the twenty extra balls that were bowled as a result and the runs which came from these, the Glenpark men know that this generosity cannot be provided in any of the remaining matches. Fielding too has been less than the high standard which has come to be expected from Greenock teams of recent years and greater concentration in the field must be a priority.

Batting has been patchy from many players in a season when the weather and lack of regular match practice has been a problem. Tomorrow the top order needs to provide significant runs to enable a winning total to be compiled.

It is not quite win or bust for Greenock, but defeat will almost certainly mean being in the bottom four of the Premiership when the split takes place after next Saturday's league programme is complete. That would mean playing off against each of the other three teams in the bottom quarter and fighting to avoid being in one of the two relegation places. It must be full focus on a victory tomorrow.

The Glenpark XI play the Meikleriggs XI (Ferguslie's 2nd XI) at Glenpark in the WDCU SNCL Reserve League and will be keen to gain a win which will keep their quest for the Reserve League title alive.

The Hillend XI have no game this weekend.