Greenock head to Edinburgh in Good Spirits

Buoyed by their fine win last week over Ayr, Greenock 1st XI head to Edinburgh this Saturday in confident mood to take on last year’s title-winners, Grange.

In recent years, this has been a fixture that Greenock have met with some trepidation as Grange have undoubtedly been the dominant team in Scotland, to which 3 title wins in the last 5 years testify. But this year, the Edinburgh giants have struggled to keep pace with the leading teams and the chances of them retaining their title are receding with each game. Last Saturday they were well beaten by West of Scotland, a team that Greenock has beaten twice already this year, and they currently sit in 7th place in the Premiership.

Grange’s problems have partly stemmed from an inability to play a settled team each week, coupled with the loss of some key players from last season, such as Andy Wilson and Olly Hairs. Despite the re-hiring of professional Warren McSkimming, who had two successful seasons with the club in 2006 and 2008, their bowling has lacked penetration and their normally prolific batting line-up has struggled to cope with this year’s damp conditions.

Does all of this mean that Greenock can expect an easy win on Saturday? Not at all, but at least they can travel confident in the knowledge that their best could well be too much for their opponents. Much will depend on what team Grange put out on the field. Last week at West, they were desperately short of bowling options, but should Stuart Davidson be available this week, then he can make a considerable difference as on his day, his canny out-swingers can pose a test for the best batsmen. McSkimming is a class bowler and must never be under-estimated, and Andrew Brock is a slow left-armer of considerable promise.

As far as batting is concerned, Grange do have some redoubtable performers, led by their long-standing skipper, Sanjay Patel. Neil McCallum, who missed last week, and Gregor Maiden are current international players, whilst Giles Holmes and Simon Taylor plus professional McSkimming are eminently capable of providing strong support. It really all does depend on what eleven Grange are able to select.

For their part, Greenock are able to field a team that shows just the one change from last week, Willie Rowan replacing Aiden Forrest. The arrival of Tim McIntosh has definitely given the team a lift and there was a confidence in the team’s performance last week which has not been evident in previous games. Chris Bellwood, Richie Berrington and Andy Hislop all batted with assurance and ensured that Ayr’s imposing total of 249 was chased down with overs to spare.

There are still concerns about the bowling but Willie Rowan’s return will hopefully give some more penetration to the attack than was shown against Ayr. One bonus from last week was the performance of Phil McIntosh with the ball, taking 2 for 37 from his full allocation of 10 overs. But all the bowlers will need to be on the mark this week since Raeburn Place, as befits Scotland’s leading international ground, does tend to favour the batting side.

A win on Saturday would be a great boost to the team as this fixture starts a run of difficult matches against sides in the top half of the league. With just six matches left before the league splits into groups of four, it is imperative that Greenock finish out of the bottom four places and thereby avoid being involved in what would be a battle to avoid relegation to the second tier of the league.

Once again in this awful summer, it would appear that the weather may have a say in the matter with the forecast presently indicating that heavy showers may be expected. After last weekend’s glorious sunshine, it will be disappointing if rain interferes again but players and spectators alike have become resigned to what, by common consent, is the worst season for weather for many years.

The Glenpark XI have a home fixture on Saturday against Bothwell XI (Uddingston’s 2nd XI) in the SNCL Reserve League. The team are currently sitting 4th in this league, having completed just 5 out of their scheduled 10 fixtures to date, with Bothwell just 2 places below them. With usual skipper, Mark Robertson, on duty with the 1st XI, stand-in skipper, Dave Sharma, has the chance to build on last week’s fine victory over Langloan and consolidate the team’s league position.

On Sunday, the Hillend XI will hopefully return to the field after a long hiatus when they travel to Coatbridge to take on Drumpellier in the West District Sunday League Division 3. They currently sit on top of this league, having won both of their completed matches to date and will be hopeful of keeping this unbeaten run intact.