Berwick vs Greenock Wanderers Preview
Greenock Wanderers resume their Tennents National League Third Division campaign tomorrow with a long and hazardous trip across the border to Scremerston Park, located close to the banks of the North Sea, to face fellow promotion and championship hopefuls Berwick.
The hosts are the only English side that competes under the auspices of the Scottish Rugby Union and are a much respected and at times feared side with a fine unbeaten home record this season.
The Northumberland men are famous for their British Bulldog spirit and indeed Wanderers learned all about those qualities in last season’s national shield final at Murrayfield when, with the game all but won, the locals succumbed to a late onslaught that eventually led to the silverware heading south of the border.
It was by any standard an excellent final and a performance that Wanderers should take heart from and use to their advantage as they were the better team that day for all but the last 3 minutes when the roof caved in on their efforts. From a positive perspective the final outcome should not cloud what had been up to that point a fine Greenock display.
So far this season Berwick are looking good and currently sit at the summit of the table with eleven wins and a draw from their 13 games played.
The drawn match was in October when they tied with Hillhead/Jordanhill at Hughenden but significantly their only defeat this term came in September at Fort Matilda when Wanderers proved good value for their 27-19 victory.
Wanderers currently sit in fourth spot in the league but are very much still in the hunt for honours and a victory at Scremerston tomorrow would act as a great boost to those promotion aspirations.
With the top five in the table all realistically in with a chance of securing the two promotion slots and with the sides all still to play each other , those who prevail in the head to head contests seem to be the team’s most likely to go up.
It’s an intriguing and tense situation but Wanderers have the capability of winning their key games against Berwick and their home matches against Ardrossan Academicals and Howe of Fife.
The locals have already completed their fixtures with other fancied side Lasswade and those results went with home advantage.
For tomorrow’s trip Wanderers have listed a strong travelling party and if they can harness the positivity and confidence that should be there after two good performances against Berwick in recent times then they should have no concerns about competing with their English hosts.
Skipper Leigh Tyley will lead his men onto English soil for the first time in the clubs history on league business and he will be eager to ensure that they return with a victory.
Up front youngster Andy Graham looks like engaging the scrum alongside fellow prop forward Boris Boum and their success at scrum time is likely to prove vital if Wanderers are to get onto the front foot.
Callum Robb, Callum Spriddle and Martin Lavelle are all selected and have the quality to ensure the majority share of possession is returned on Greenock’s side.
Talismanic centre pairing Brendan McGroarty and Kieren Smith will lead the attack and they are currently performing at the zenith of their power.
Scrum-half Andy McDougall is also bang in form and with livewire McDougall and Tyley calling the shots at half-back the Greenock men should be in no doubt that they have the street smarts and firepower to win this game as long as a good dollop of self-belief is also packed away in the kit hamper heading south.
Vice President Steven Haldane said,” We are well past the halfway stage in the campaign and are aware now that every result is vital. It’s a great fixture to start the New Year and we are determined to take our best game to Scremerston, do our club proud and make sure our promotion ambitions remain intact”
League position, recent form and home advantage would indicate that Berwick will start as favourites but this is a real opportunity for Wanderers to put down a marker that they are still alive and kicking in this championship race and it would be no surprise if the Greenock men returned home with the points in the bag.
Wanderers are sponsored by MM Search
Match preview by Donald Cunningham