Greenock search for winning form

Greenock’s 1st XI go into Saturday’s final Scottish Cup qualifying match against Dundee HSFP knowing that they cannot make any further progress in the competition.

The qualifying phase of the tournament has eight groups of 4 teams, who play each other home and away, with the top team qualifying for the knockout stage of the Cup itself and the runners-up going into the quarter-finals of the SCU Trophy.

Before the competition started, Greenock would have reckoned that their best chance of progressing to the knock-out stages was to finish as runners-up to Grange, who were strong favourites to head the group. This meant that the games against Renfrew would be key. Greenock comprehensively won the first encounter by 7 wickets but in the return match at King George V Park, they lost out by just 3 runs. Had one more boundary been scored, then it is reasonable to suggest that it would be Greenock who would finish second in the group, and not Renfrew.

So, on the face of it, Saturday’s match with bottom of the group, Dundee HSFP, is a meaningless affair. However, the game represents an opportunity for Greenock to gain valuable match practice before the league season recommences next weekend. If Greenock are to harbour any chance of winning the league, then they simply have to beat the leaders, East Kilbride, in the first league match. The team are also still involved in two Cup competitions, having reached the semi-final of the CSL40 Cup and being within one win of making the West League Cup semi-finals. There is therefore plenty still to play for.

Saturday’s opponents, Dundee HSFP, have had a difficult season so far. Having been invited to join the Eastern First Division of the CSL when Fauldhouse withdrew from that league, they have struggled to be competitive. However just lately there have been signs that they are starting to find their feet. Having defeated West Lothian for their first league win of the season in the last of the first round of league games, last week they gave Renfrew a good run for their money.

Batting first, they compiled 174 for 6 in their 50 overs and Renfrew lost 7 wickets in overtaking that score. Their batting has definitely improved as the season has progressed with Australian professional, Ben Strachan, proving to be a consistent supplier of runs. Where they have really struggled is in the field as they have found it difficult to bowl sides out. But even here, there are signs that this part of their game has improved.

Greenock therefore must not be complacent on Saturday and believe that the game has already been won. Nevertheless, this game presents them with a glorious opportunity for their batsmen to gain valuable time in the middle. After a week of hot and sunny weather, Glenpark is sure to be in excellent condition with a pitch that should benefit stroke-players and with an outfield that will most definitely give full value for shots. Anything that beats the infield will almost certainly be a boundary.

It is also very important that the bowlers build on the improvement in discipline that they showed last week at Grange. For just about the first time this season, they conceded less extras in the form of wides and no balls than their opponents and it has to be the aim to repeat this for the rest of the season. Otherwise the opposition are simply being handed an advantage that can mean the difference between victory and defeat.

Greenock’s selection has yet to be confirmed. Chris Hempsey, who has been in excellent form of late, is on holiday and will be missing but on the other hand, Richie Berrington should be available, after a successful week of cricket at Aberdeen for Scotland against Kenya. Other than this, the team should be on the usual lines for a match which will start at 12 noon.

The Glenpark XI don’t have far to travel this Saturday. Their opponents are Inverclyde in the last of the Western Cup qualifying matches. The team performed much better last Saturday against Helensburgh, although still finishing on the losing side, and will be keen to maintain this better level of performance when they take on their local rivals. Inverclyde, for their part, will be looking to reverse the result of the earlier fixture between the two teams and the scene is set for what should be a close encounter. The match at Gourock Park will start at 1pm.

The Hillend XI are at home on Sunday in the WDCU Sunday League Division 3 – South when they entertain Kilmarnock. The team have not had much luck this season through weather cancellations and availability issues. They will be hoping for better luck on Sunday when the usual mixture of the young, the old and maybe even the very old will take to the field looking for their first victory of the season. This match will start at 1pm.