GREENOCK Wanderers players will enjoy a two-week break from the pressures of league rugby as the campaign goes into a temporary hiatus due to the game’s governing body, the Scottish Rugby Union, arranging the second round of the BT National Cup competition and also a stand-by Saturday to accommodate the re-scheduling of any postponed games to date.

Wanderers unfortunately tumbled out of the cup at the first hurdle at Peebles in August but the positives from that are that they now have a full two weeks to re-group, allow any niggling injuries to clear and focus totally on their main objective for the season, which is to avoid relegation.

The squad will use the time profitably and engage in extra training sessions as they look to build on what has been a successful three-week period for the club after they secured two losing bonus points and a victory which has thankfully put a little distance between themselves and basement boys Livingston and Haddington.

The crunch fixtures for the ‘west-enders’ have still to come against their fellow strugglers but, with home advantage in both games and now a five-point cushion separating them from 11th-placed side Livingston, the portents are good that Wanderers will avoid the dreaded trap door come the end of the season as long as they prevail in those two vitally important games.

The high-water mark of the campaign thus far was last weekend’s victory away at Ardrossan Academicals, where the locals ended an eight-game losing streak in the league and also enjoyed the added bonus of defeating their west coast rivals at Memorial Field for the first time in almost 14 years.

The locals complete the first leg of fixtures in a fortnight when they entertain fourth-placed Falkirk at Fort Matilda and that is likely to be one of their toughest tests of the season.

The new coaching team comprising of Graham Knox, Ally Hunter and Alan Knox have not had their troubles to seek as a quite extraordinary set of circumstances involving the non-availability of key personnel combined to virtually strip them of most of their top players for the early part of the season.

Fixture secretary Stuart Clark put together an excellent pre-season programme for Wanderers, with four matches arranged, all at their Octavia Terrace base, but the non-availability of so many players rendered the preparation period effectively an exercise in futility as Wanderers were forced to play reserve and age group players in order to fulfil the fixtures.

With that backdrop it is little wonder that the Greenock men made such a dreadful start to the season and the lack of any discernible continuity in selection, allied to some crushing defeats, did little to build confidence or establish any semblance of a game plan.

Knox and his fellow coaches engaged in a damage limitation exercise and did a sterling job but now, almost half-way through the campaign, there appears to be some light at the end of the tunnel.

Performances have improved dramatically in recent weeks and last weekend’s Brendan McGroarty-inspired victory away at Ardrossan will do much to inject some self-belief that better times are ahead for the ‘hoops’.

Unfortunately dual-registered McGroarty will head back up the M8 to resume his career with his main club Glasgow Hawks but his intervention, even this early in the season may well prove to be decisive.

Wanderers have 12 league games left and with the usual vagaries of the Scottish winter weather no doubt just about to bite, plus the fragmented nature of the fixture calendar around the New Year period and when the Six Nations international championship gets under way, there will be plenty of breaks for the locals to prepare properly for forthcoming crunch matches.

The Greenock-based rugby enthusiast, whether a Wanderers devotee or not, has plenty to look forward to over the festive period and into the New Year.

The locals have still to host six league matches and a visit to Octavia Terrace on a home Saturday is without doubt an entertaining experience, well worth the £5 admission price and is frankly not to be missed.

The quality of rugby on show at Fort Matilda this season has been of a high quality at times, albeit played mostly by the visiting teams, but Wanderers have shown plenty of spirit in adversity and have contributed greatly to many of the games.

They now have two weeks to prepare for a home double-header against title contenders Falkirk on 29 November and a week later against Livingston, which will be a huge match in the context of the relegation battle.

The recent upturn in form has come at the right time and although points may be hard to come by against Falkirk, the wise money goes on the ‘west-enders’ easing their relegation worries by doing the needful and getting the right result against the men from West Lothian.

As always the Greenock Telegraph will be on hand with preview articles and match reports as the campaign unfolds.

Wanderers are sponsored by Texas Instruments.