1st XI face 'must win' game with Prestwick

After last Saturday's splendid victory over Kilmarnock, Greenock will go into this week's key encounter with Prestwick brimming with confidence, particularly as the win was achieved with a less than full-strength team.

This is very much a 'must-win' game for Greenock if they are to claim one of the two promotion slots to the Premier Division at the end of the season. Their opponents currently sit second in the table, having lost just once this season, to the undefeated leaders Stenhousemuir. Even if Greenock were to win on Saturday, they would not overtake Prestwick in the table as they would still have to rely on Prestwick suffering another defeat in order to climb above them. However defeat in this match would make it all but mathematically impossible for them to claim second spot.

So the stakes are high this Saturday and Prestwick themselves will approach the game with confidence, having already beaten Greenock twice this season. In the first league game of the season, down at Prestwick, they ran out comfortable winners by 6 wickets and they administered a similar defeat in the Rowan Cup match, again at Prestwick, this time by 7 wickets.

In both of these defeats, the Prestwick overseas amateur, Abhishek Prasad, was not dismissed as he struck match-winning knocks and he is undoubtedly the person whose wicket Greenock need to capture as quickly as possible if they are to get on top of the Prestwick batting. Whilst Prestwick do have a number of good bats to back up Prasad, not least their other overseas player, Tim Spence, there is no doubt that Prasad's early dismissal would be a big setback for the Ayrshire team.

Fortunately for Greenock's sake, they possess in their opening attack of Blake Taylor and Darren Walker, two in-form bowlers who will fancy their chances of knocking over Prasad and his colleagues. Their performance last week was a high-class exhibition of pace and swing bowling which proved far too good for Kilmarnock and a repeat performance this week on a pitch which is likely to give assistance to bowlers, is bound to give Prestwick problems.

The returning Jonathan Hempsey, along with Greg McDougall, Sammy Sanghera and Ben Peterson, not to mention a few overs from Trent Keep will be the backup to the openers and it will be their job to keep things as tight as possible during the spells that they bowl. Greenock will not be able to turn to the bowling of Neil Flack and Louis Ware, both of whom are away on Scotland under-age duties, which will restrict skipper Prabhu's options but nonetheless the Greenock attack should be capable of restricting Prestwick.

On the other hand, Greenock's difficulties this season have tended to lie with their batting. The failure to get a decent start each week, coupled with a tendency for the middle order to lose wickets in clusters, has meant that they have had to rely too often on their lower order to help them out. And that is not something that can continue week in, week out.

The arrival of Trent Keep has definitely made a difference and it is reasonable to suggest that had he been available for the whole season, then Greenock's position would be better than it is. He has provided the solidity that is necessary at the vital number three position and he will be the key man again this weekend. But if Greenock are to be successful, then Keep needs support and there will have to be runs from the rest of the top order.

With Neil Flack unavailable, then it has been suggested that Jonathan Hempsey and Aidan Forrest will open the batting. A good start from those two would do wonders for the rest of the innings.

Last week at Kilmarnock, in what were admittedly difficult batting conditions, it was Greg McDougall and Louis Ware who performed the rescue act after the loss of the early wickets which saw them struggling at 60 for 4. As a result, McDougall may find himself up the order again to perform a similar role, especially if wickets fall early.

Prestwick's attack has done well this year, spearheaded by the veteran Gavin Pitt who has taken 4 wickets or more in his last 4 games. Willie Rowan, the ex-Greenock player, if available, is a useful bowler on his day and Prasad has proved to be an economical asset to their attack.

It is unfortunate that both Neil Flack and Louis Ware are unavailable due to international duties. Flack is in Jersey skippering the Under-19 team that is trying to qualify for the Under-19 World Cup whilst Ware is in the Under-15 squad which is playing in England on Sunday and Monday. The club of course wishes them both well and is proud that they have achieved national recognition but they really could have done with them this week!

This should be a really close and entertaining game and it is to be hoped that the weather does not play an important factor in the play, although the forecast at the time of writing is not exactly encouraging. Greenock with home advantage may start as slight favourites but the game could really go either way. It is up to Greenock to seize the initiative from the start and keep Prestwick on the back foot and if they do, then the points should be secured.

The team for the match, which starts at 12 noon, shows three changes from the one which beat Kilmarnock with Prabhu, Jonathan Hempsey and Mountford replacing Gilmore, Godsman and Ware.

This match is sponsored by Neill Clerk and Murray.

The Glenpark XItravel to Prestwick on Saturday to take on St Ninians in the Reserve League. With their last two matches having been cancelled due to the weather, the team will want to see some action this week to maintain their winning run. With the 1st XI being back to almost full strength, this should be reflected in the team that is chosen to play and they will confident of a positive result. This match also starts at 12 noon.

The 1st XI are at home on Sunday when they entertain Victoria in the second round of the WU40 Cup. This is the second attempt at playing this game, with the first match abandoned with Victoria on 18 for 1 after 5.1 overs. Hopefully, the weather will play ball this time around and if so, Greenock will be confident of making progress against their Second Division opponents, with a visit from Uddingston in the next round the reward if they do so.

Greenock Cricket Club is sponsored this season by Cleaning Supplies 4U.