Greenock face Hillhead with promotion on the line

Greenock's season-ending fixture at Glenpark this Saturday could not be more important. After a full league programme, this final match against Hillhead will decide whether Greenock gain promotion back to the Premier Division after just one season in the First Division.

A win will ensure promotion. But a loss will leave the locals in the hands of third placed Kilmarnock, who are just marginally behind Greenock.

Kilmarnock face fourth top Drumpellier who just three weeks ago inflicted a heavy defeat on Greenock. The match against Drumpellier is at Killie's home ground and the Glenpark men will be hoping that the Coatbridge team can do them a big favour and repeat the form they showed in the match at Langloan.

Drumpellier's win through at Coatbridge put an end to Greenock's short-lived spell at the top of the First Division. And Greenock's unexpected defeat from GHK last week handed the league itle to Stenhousemuir.

So now it is down to the last Saturday of the season. Killie must win against Drumpellier to have a chance of promotion, while Greenock must beat Hillhead to be assured of a return to the Premier Division.

Greenock have a nearly full squad to choose from for the match against Hillhead. Ewan Stewart is unavailable but Harry Briggs, PJ Bryceland, Jonathan Hempsey and Cammy Calder are all available to add to the team which lost to GHK,

Last week against GHK, Greenock's innings got off to a poor start with both openers out early. Thereafter some partnerships showed promise but then failed to build any substantial runs. Had it not been for GHK's generosity in providing over 60 extras, plus an unbeaten last wicket partnership of 50 runs, the Greenock total would have been their lowest of the season when batting first.

On Saturday, it will be important for Greenock to make a good start to their innings. It may be that Lukas Fischer-Keogh is once again paired with Aussie amateur Tom Nicholson at the top of the order. These two have had a number of good partnerships since the middle of the season.

The young wicket-keeper has shown that he has a good temperament and technique to deal with opposition opening attacks and the new ball. While he does not often score quickly he can do the job of seeing off the early bowlers.

Nicholson is Greenock's top run-scorer in the league with 673 runs at an average of 51.77. It will be his last match for the Club before he returns home to Brisbane and he will want to finish with a big innings. And if he can get off to a sound start then he could well go on to build a big score for himself and the team.

Harry Briggs will return to number three after a couple of weeks' absence from the side and be followed at number four by Greenock's second overseas amateur Ryan Walker. Both of these players have had a good season with the bat.

Briggs has scored nearly 300 league runs while Walker has been in great form for most of the summer. The young Australian has scored over 600 runs at an average of 89.57 and achieved two centuries in the process.

If these top four batsmen can show the form of which they are capable and lay a sound foundation to the innings for others to finish off if required, then Greenock can look forward to making a very good score against Hillhead.

Team captain, Greg McDougall, stated "Saturday's match against Hillhead is a massive game for the team. We have home advantage and with our supporters getting behind us at Glenpark we will be giving our all to get the win which will ensure promotion back to the Premier Division".

When the teams met earlier in the season, it was Greenock's bowlers who set the team well on the way to a win. Hillhead were bowled out for just 110 having batted doggedly for more than 40 overs. Greenock then scored 112 for the loss of just one wicket.

Gregor Chambers was the pick of the Greenock bowlers with 3 wickets for 25 runs. He was ably backed up by no fewer than five others in the Greenock bowling line-up that day. A repeat of that bowling performance will be what is looked for on Saturday.

Hillhead have won just three of their league matches during the season. The wins have come against the teams occupying the bottom two places in the league - Poloc (twice) and East Kilbride. But the Glenparkers should beware as GHK had won only three matches prior to playing Greenock last Saturday.

While results have seldom gone well for Hillhead this season, they do have various players who on their day can score runs or take wickets and challenge the opposition.

Ross Jones, regularly batting at number six in their line-up, has been their most consistent run-scorer in recent weeks. In his last four innings he has scored 150 runs with two half centuries. James Lindley-Dawe top scored with 61 against league champions Stenhousemuir last Saturday but on the other hand has had two 'ducks' in his last five innings. Hasan Azhar had his top score for the season, 78 against Poloc three weeks ago, while former West of Scotland CC player Lucas Farndale was 94 not out against Irvine just two weeks ago.

It is perhaps the bowling attack which is the weak link in Hillhead team as their opposition have either been able to score substantial totals when batting first or have been able to chase down the targets set.

No matter, there can be no complacency among the Greenock players. All have to turn up on Saturday with a very singular and focused approach. It is win or bust!

The final selection for Saturday's match will be made from a squad of fourteen and whatever line-up is eventually chosen, the players will be well aware of the task ahead of them.

Saturday's match will start at the usual time of 12 noon.

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