GREENOCK WANDERERS will look to put the disappointment of last weekend’s defeat to Berwick in the Final of the National Shield behind them when they host Annan in their last league match of the season tomorrow [Saturday] afternoon, knowing that any sort of win will see them jump ahead of East Kilbride and Allan Glen’s to the top of West Regional Division One, thus securing promotion to National Three next season.
Greenock defeated Annan 13-33 when the two sides met at the start of April, and coming into this match on a 12-match winning streak in the league – stretching back to early November – the Fort Matilda side will start as favourites, but much will depend on how they respond to the painful set-back they suffered at Murrayfield.
“Last weekend was tough to take, particularly because we were only 20 or 30 seconds away from winning the game and then let it slip with a lack of discipline,” acknowledged veteran centre Brendan McGoarty, who was named the official man-of-the-match that day despite ending up on the losing side. “We’ve put ourselves in that position a few times this season and got away with it because of a missed kick or a dropped ball, so I suppose our luck ran out against Berwick, and fair play to them because they really took their opportunity.
“But we’ve got no time to lie down and feel sorry for ourselves. Winning the Shield would have been great but the focus this season has always been on the league and earning promotion, so the guys have had no problem getting their minds in the right place for this game against Annan. We’ll have a similar sort of team out as we did last Saturday, and the boys have prepared really well because we are determined to finish a great season on a high.
“We were fairly comfortable winners when we played them down there last month, but it wasn’t easy, and we know they are bringing a strong team up to face us so there is no danger of us underestimating them. We’re expecting a big home support and probably a few Allan Glen’s fans in the crowd as well to cheer Annan on, so it should be a cracking atmosphere at Fort Matilda,” added the 31-year-old, who returned to his hometown club this season after a spell playing for Glasgow Hawks.
Meanwhile, over in the East, there is still uncertainty about how the leagues are going to be structured next season, and whether there will be four, three or perhaps even two teams relegated from East One. A final decision on that will be made at a meeting of the East League clubs at Earlston on 13th May.
North Berwick (who were forced to withdraw from the league due to a lack of player numbers) and Livingston are definitely going down. Portobello and Broughton are the next two most vulnerable teams and both sides will be desperate to pick up points from their final league games in order to minimise the risk of facing the drop. Broughton are at home to Hawick Harlequins on Saturday, while Portobello are a point worse off and face the daunting task of taking on Berwick (who are undefeated in the league this year and have already been crowned league champions) next weekend.
In Caledonia Region North Two, RAF Lossiemouth could climb off the foot of the table and avoid relegation at the expense of second bottom Banff, if they can manage a bonus point victory away to high-flying Garioch.