Important league and cup weekend for Greenock


Greenock make the short journey upriver to Renfrew for this Saturday's league match and will be going all out to record another win to keep up the pressure on the three teams sitting just above them in the Division One league table.

St Michael's from Dumfries are unbeaten so far and are the unlikely early league leaders, having just survived relegation last season due to Kilmarnock's contravention of league rules, which led to the Ayrshire side going down instead. In second and third top spots are West of Scotland and Poloc, whose current percentage is very similar to that of Greenock.

West play Poloc on Saturday at Hamilton Crescent, so one of these sides is bound to slip up and Greenock will want to take advantage with a win over Renfrew.

Renfrew were relegated from the Premier Division at the end of the 2015 season, having played at the top level for a number of seasons, and have struggled to find any winning form in the league matches played to date this season.

Of the four rounds of league fixtures completed, Renfrew have failed to record a single win. In the opening two matches their batting line-up performed poorly and they received embarrassingly heavy defeats from Poloc and Glasgow Accies. However, in the two most recent matches, runs have flowed more freely.

Against Stirling County, in a match played at King George V Playing Fields, Renfrew scored 213 all out chasing the visitors' 227 for 7, and last weekend at Hamilton Crescent again came up just short when chasing West's 200 for 9. A decent batting performance scoring 183 for the loss of nine wickets was just not good enough and a fourth straight league defeat was the result.

So while on paper, Renfrew might look like a team that is on the ropes and a straightforward win a very real prospect, Greenock would do well to be wary and ensure that a good all round performance is provided on Saturday.

The Glenpark side have shown fine form in most of their weekend 50 over matches this season winning three out of four league matches and also their opening Scottish Cup match against Premier Division Stenhousemuir. In contrast, their midweek T20 form has been less positive, at least in terms of run scoring, with three losses from four matches played .

What has been consistently good all season for Greenock has been the bowling and fielding performances. The local side has a strong attack with both pace and also spin available to challenge the opposition. Also, there is not a reliance on just two or three bowlers. Greenock captain Jonathan Hempsey has a healthy variety of options to choose from and so opposition batsmen rarely get time to get settled into facing any one bowler.

Declan White's pace has been a major threat for teams Greenock have played so far this season and last Saturday he posted his first five wicket haul. It is unlikely to be his last.

Runs, of course, have to be scored to win matches and in the 50 overs format Greenock have shown good application this season with a number of players scoring well. Australian amateur, Damon Rootes, has got to grips with the Scottish conditions and has posted a number of good scores in the last couple of weeks with 63 not out last Saturday against Irvine his top score to date.

Neil Flack and Phil McIntosh too have shown good form at times with the bat, as have Chris Hempsey and Shailesh Prabhu.

So a good performance from Greenock at Renfrew on Saturday should provide an opportunity for another win for the local side and maintain their challenge at the top of the WDCU Division One league table.

The team for the match, which will start at the usual time of 12 noon, shows just one change from that selected last week with Sehmat Pandher replacing Rod Mountford.

The Glenpark XI, buoyed by two convincing wins in the past week, by 8 wickets at Marress in the league and by 10 wickets on Tuesday evening in the Western Cup against BBC Scotland, take on Deanpark, Renfrew's 2nd XI, at Glenpark on Saturday and will be  confident of making it a hat-trick of wins.

It was good to see the young and old to the front last Saturday with the ageless veteran Dave 'Snake' Sharma and young Abigail Calder both claiming three wickets and the equally young William Goan and the slightly more experienced Aidan Forrest both recording fifties. And another of Glenpark's young talents, Harry Briggs, chipped in with an unbeaten half-century in Tuesday's win. More of such performances will be very welcome. This game starts at 1pm.

On Sunday afternoon, the 1st XI travel through to New Williamfield to play Stirling County in the 2nd round of the Scottish Cup. This tie gives Greenock a great chance of making the quarter-finals, and a home tie against either Falkland or Carlton, but the team will need to ignore that prospect and concentrate on a solid performance against Stirling who have enough good players to ensure that a win for Greenock is no certainty. This match starts at 12 noon.

The Hillend XI have no fixture this weekend.

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