GREENOCK Wanderers host their most important game in several seasons tomorrow when they face fellow relegation candidates Livingston at Fort Matilda as the BT National League Division Two campaign enters its second half.

Although the match of the day in the division is undoubtedly the top-of-the-table clash between Howe of Fife and Hamilton, all local eyes will be trained on the west end of Greenock as the basement battle heats up in earnest with all four sides involved going head-to-head in a massive weekend of matches in the context of the relegation struggle.

Bottom club Haddington host Ardrossan at Neilson Park and with Livingston heading to Greenock the one certainty is that come dusk tomorrow evening the league table will clearly indicate which clubs are in deep trouble and which sides can perhaps afford a light sigh of relief.

Wanderers are currently third bottom but hold a distinct advantage, as they will host all three fellow strugglers at Fort Matilda during the remainder of the season — and that series of fixtures starts tomorrow with the visit of Livingston.

The locals are favourites to beat the drop as they have already defeated Livingston and Ardrossan on the road this season and if they can win tomorrow the reality is that only a remarkable resurgence and turnaround in fortunes of both Livingston and Haddington could deny them continued second division status next season.

Nothing can be taken for granted though as Livingston have won two of their 11 matches to date, an unenviable statistic that is shared by the Fort Matilda men.

The harsh truth is that Wanderers’ four losing bonus points is the main reason they sit above the visitors from West Lothian.

Last weekend Wanderers were comfortably beaten by Falkirk, who posted 38 unanswered points while Livingston were thrashed at Aberdeenshire 76-6.

It has been an ignominious campaign for both sides and they each suffered the embarrassment of losing over a hundred points at Duffus Park, home of promotion favourites Howe of Fife, and have endured several heavy defeats by other fancied clubs throughout the season.

On opening day back in September, in the earlier game between the sides at Almond Park, Wanderers triumphed 32-17 and for the only time during this campaign secured the try-scoring bonus point.

The ’west enders’ must focus on the positive aspects of their current predicament and a significant fact to cling onto is that they have already beaten Livingston in their own back yard this season and have generally done better against the other clubs, albeit that only means they have lost by a smaller margin.

Head coach Graham Knox will field his strongest available side in an effort to end a consecutive run of 11 home league defeats stretching back over a calendar year.

Skipper Murray MacDonald will as always lead his side with pride and with all the big guns available for this one the locals will enjoy the rare distinction of entering the match as favourites.

Experienced lock-forward Matt Gray is reinstated after injury and he will add his considerable talents to a forward effort that simply cannot afford to fail. Gray, Ally Abernethy, skipper MacDonald and prop forward Dougie Smith will provide the dynamic in a pack that will dictate tomorrow.

Highly rated half-back pairing Andy McDougall and Kenny Diffenthal will be tasked with orchestrating proceedings and directing operations from the pocket behind the scrum.

They have an excellent understanding of the game and if, as expected, Wanderers dominate the forward battle then they should have ample opportunity to demonstrate their tactical acumen by mixing up their game in order to keep the Livingston defence guessing and, more importantly, on the back foot.

Both players have a fine service off either hand and are skilled with the boot, so there will be no shortage of options assuming quality possession is churned back by the pack.

Matches of this magnitude only occur occasionally during a season and with plenty at stake the largest crowd of the campaign will converge on Octavia Terrace to encourage the ‘hoops’ in their moment of need.

President John McDougall said: “It is our biggest game of the season and a win against Livingston will give us some much needed breathing space.

“The coaches and players have worked extremely hard this week in preparation and we are happy with our selection and feel we are ready for the challenge.

“We are confident but not complacent.” The time has finally come for all the talking and excuses to stop and for the players to produce a performance that is worthy of the jersey.

Tomorrow is a must-win game and with the weight of expectation hanging heavy on their shoulders Wanderers will secure the victory and perhaps even oblige with the try-scoring bonus point into the bargain.

l Wanderers are sponsored by Texas Instruments.