Greenock face Ferguslie with a depleted team


Greenock travel to Paisley this Saturday to play Renfrewshire rivals Ferguslie. Last season's Premier Division champions have had mixed fortunes in their matches this summer and are currently sitting in fourth top position

With just three more matches to be played in the Premier Division this season, including Saturday's fixtures, it is now crunch time for teams at the top and bottom of the league. And for Greenock, being towards the bottom end of the league table, the challenge is to retain their Premier Division status for another season.

The Glenpark team may need to win at least one of these last three matches to make sure of avoiding relegation. Currently in third bottom position, Greenock are just over ten percentage points better off than Drumpellier who occupy second bottom spot.

The Lanarkshire side have two home fixtures against Poloc and Clydesdale and an away trip to play bottom team East Kilbride, while Greenock face two away matches against Ferguslie and Stirling County before ending the season with a home match against Poloc.

Greenock must take care of their own situation and focus on each match as it comes along and work to gain the best outcome from each game. There can be no reliance on the teams below them in the league table to perform poorly, and indeed Drumpellier and East Kilbride will be keen to gain wins themselves in order to try and beat 'the drop'.

On Saturday, both batting and bowling will need to come good if Greenock are to entertain hopes of a win against their Paisley rivals. The Meikleriggs side, while perhaps not quite the force they were last year, are nevertheless a strong side and Greenock will need to be at their best.

Riyaad Henry, who took over the captaincy of the Paisley side at the start of the season, was the man of the match for Ferguslie in their win over bottom side East Kilbride last Saturday. He scored 95 runs and took 2 wickets for just 3 runs in a short bowling spell towards the end of the match. But that innings apart, his only other score of note this season has been 55 against Greenock at Glenpark in June.

Also key in the Ferguslie batting line-up will be Gregor Preston-Jones and David Stafford, both of whom have scored well in previous seasons against Greenock and always have the potential to score significant runs.

In the Paisley attack there will be a number of players whom Greenock must look to guard against. Former captain of the team, Jamie Carruthers, is always a dangerous bowler and Adil Ghaffar, along with Riyaad Henry, Haroon Tahir and Zimbabwean professional Nkosana Mpofu, are others who will be likely to take spells of bowling and provide a challenge for the Greenock batsmen.

Greenock's bowling form has been their strong point this summer, and last Saturday against league leaders Uddingston, Under-17 Scottish international pace bowler Sean Fischer-Keogh turned in a superb performance taking 4 wickets, including a first ever senior hat-trick, to help to dismiss the Lanarkshire side for just 102 runs in under 40 overs.

Another such bowling and fielding performance as was produced against Uddingston would certainly give Greenock a good chance of gaining a win at Meikleriggs.

And last season, Greenock were the only team to beat Ferguslie as the Paisley side steam-rollered its way to the Premier Division title. The win was gained in fine style at Ferguslie's own ground, Meikleriggs, as an excellent overall team performance brought the points back to Glenpark.

Neil Flack top scored as he hit form at the right time with 76 valuable runs, and he was supported by numerous others who chipped in. Pro Saurabh Bandekar was also a hero with the ball grabbing a hat-trick in his 4 wickets for 44 runs, while Jonathan Hempsey 4 for 43 and Flack 2 for 31 also did well in the Greenock bowling attack.

But this weekend neither Flack nor Hempsey will be in the side as both are out for the remainder of the season. Others missing for Saturday include Chris Hempsey and Shailesh Prabhu, both experienced 1st XI players.

At least six players who have played 1st XI cricket this season are unavailable for a variety of reasons, and so into the team will be likely to come a couple of Greenock's up and coming young players, plus making a comeback after several years is former internationalist Tom Black. Black has been working with juniors on a weekly basis at the Club for a number of years and has agreed to help out for the last few matches of the season.

So, on Saturday, the Glenpark side's resilience will be seriously tested with availability of players being such a major issue. Much will depend on the performances of the senior experienced players who will form the nucleus of the team. Professional Saurabh Bandekar, in particular, will be key to the team's performance. If he can produce the form with both bat and ball which he has for much of the season, then Greenock will be likely to give Ferguslie a challenging afternoon.

But just as earlier in the season when the two teams were scheduled to meet, the question is "will the weather on Saturday allow the match to be played?" In June it did, and Ferguslie went on to win at Glenpark. This weekend, the forecast is once again looking extremely poor with heavy rain on both Friday and Saturday a real possibility.

Greenock's team for the match, which will start at 12noon, will as described be a somewhat makeshift one but nonetheless will do its best to obtain a favourable result.

The Glenpark XI are also away from home this Saturday as they make the long trek down to Dumfries to take on Kingholm, who are St Michael's second XI, and who currently sit one place above Glenpark in the Fourth Division table.

With so many availability issues affecting the 1st XI, plus numerous 2nd XI players also unavailable for a variety of reasons, the Club's player resources are being seriously stretched for this match and the selection has still to be finalised.The match is scheduled to start at 1pm.

The Hillend XI play a West of Scotland Development XI on Sunday at Glenpark in a friendly match that will start at 1pm.


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