GREENOCK’S return to competitive action on Saturday failed to see a reversal in their fortunes and their 55-run defeat at the hands of Prestwick, coupled with Weirs’ surprisingly easy victory over Poloc, means that Greenock are now firmly placed at the bottom of the WDCU CSL First Division table.

Yet again, the same old problems were at the heart of this defeat. Whilst the bowling and fielding was generally competitive, Prestwick were allowed to recover from a poor start to post a competitive total of 180.

In reply, Greenock got off to the worst possible start, losing a wicket with the second ball of the innings.

Wickets continued to fall at regular intervals and it was only some determined play from the lower order batsmen that allowed a total of over 100 to be achieved.

And yet it all started so well.

Stand-in skipper Jonathan Hempsey won the toss and elected to field. The skipper and Tom Batters then bowled a probing spell with the new ball which had the Prestwick openers repeatedly playing and missing.

Just the one wicket fell in this spell, when overseas player Emblem edged Hempsey to slip where Guy Crichton took a smart catch.

Four overs later, great fielding by Hempsey saw Prestwick’s other opener MacDonald run out for 22 to leave Prestwick at 36 for two in the 14th over.

Ex-Greenock player Willie Rowan and Prestwick’s other overseas player Tom Fleet then slowly took the score to 67 as Greenock’s bowlers continued to hold sway.

The introduction of off-spinner Neil Flack to the attack led to the next breakthrough.

Rowan was caught by Batters for a hard-fought 20, Fleet skied the ball to Dwight Thomas for 13 and when Carlyle was held by skipper Hempsey for a second-ball duck, Prestwick were struggling at 70 for five in the 23rd over. All three wickets had fallen to Flack.

Another wicket at this stage and Greenock would have been in complete control. However, home skipper Craig Morrison and Shaz Rafiq decided to take the attack to Greenock. In the next 16 overs, they put on 60 runs for the sixth wicket with some aggressive batting to wrest back control of the game.

Morrison eventually fell with the score at 130, having hit six boundaries in an important innings of 37, stumped by Chris Hempsey off the bowling of his brother Jonathan.

Rafiq continued to hit out strongly before he was bowled by the returning Batters for a fine 42, which included four boundaries.

The remaining batsmen took the score to 180 before the last wicket fell in the 49th over, Batters taking two more wickets and Hempsey the final one.

Batters and Flack both returned the best analysis of three for 24 and Hempsey was the other successful bowler, taking three for 55 in 14.4 overs.

A total of 180 was a reasonable one but by no means a winning score. However, there is no doubt that Greenock would be disappointed to have let their opponents off the hook and recover from their poor start.

For their part, it was important that Greenock made a solid start and not lose early wickets. Unfortunately that part of the plan quickly became redundant when Flack, who has been Greenock’s most reliable batsman all summer, was bowled second ball by Gavin Pitt without scoring.

Aidan Forrest joined Thomas at the crease but he struggled to get the ball away and he was also bowled by Pitt, having scored just six off 19 balls.

Harry Briggs followed and he similarly found it difficult to score. Thomas was batting nicely at the other end and through his efforts Greenock had reached 38 before Briggs fell, caught by Rodger off the bowling of Andy Tennant for a painstaking two runs, scored off 24 deliveries.

Batters was promoted up the order but his stay at the crease was brief, stumped by Fleet off Tennant’s bowling for no score. The total was now 42 for four and worse was to come just two runs later when Thomas was adjudged LBW to Pitt, following a muted appeal from the fielders.

The St Lucian had looked quite comfortable during his 50-ball stay and had hit six boundaries in his innings of 31 but with his dismissal went any lingering hopes of a Greenock victory.

The brothers Hempsey combined in a stand of 28 for the sixth wicket before Jonathan was caught by Rowan off Tennant’s bowling for 23 and Chris followed nine runs later, bowled by Fraser MacDonald for 10. Greenock were now 81 for seven in the 33rd over.

Rod Mountford and Greg McDougall, pictured, saw the total past the 100 mark before Mountford was another victim for MacDonald, caught by Rodger for 17.

Guy Crichton went quickly for just one and the innings came to a close when Morrison bowled McDougall for 27. Yet again, Greenock had failed to bat out their overs, the final wicket falling in the 44th over.

There can be no disguising the fact that Greenock once again batted poorly.

Too many batsmen gave their wickets away by playing injudicious shots. Thomas was unfortunate with his dismissal and McDougall, not for the first time this season, showed what could be done with some application.

Saturday’s game sees another away trip, this time to Paisley to take on Kelburne in what will be a very difficult game.

Kelburne narrowly failed to beat Ferguslie on Saturday but will be eager for the points to consolidate second place in the league and obtain promotion to the Premier Division.

Greenock, for their part, just want a win, to end this long run of defeats, and to get themselves off the bottom of the table.

But to do so, they will need to improve their performance dramatically from what they showed on Saturday. Dark days, indeed, at Glenpark.