IT was ‘mission accomplished’ for Greenock Wanderers on Saturday when they comfortably defeated fellow relegation strugglers Livingston in a vitally important BT National League Division Two match at Fort Matilda.

It was a must-win game for the Greenock men and they produced the goods when it mattered most with a solid performance that did much to boost confidence – and augurs well for the future.

Senior players, skipper Murray MacDonald, Ally Abernethy, Matt Gray, Dougie Smith and man of the match Martin Lavelle provided the forward momentum and impetus in the pack while Andy McDougall and Michael Frizzell did the basics well with another accomplished performance in the back division. McDougall in particular, clearly struggling with a calf strain, put in an excellent hour before being withdrawn, having done his business for the day.

The game was played in blustery and wet conditions and it was the locals who grabbed the early initiative and held it for the entire 80 minutes.

With conditions dictating that the contest would be a hard forward grind, Wanderers’ number eight Lavelle, pictured above, was the main man who ensured the ‘west-enders’ stayed on the front foot with some forceful and penetrating drives off the base of the scrum.

An early penalty opportunity for stand-off Kenny Diffenthal was blown off course by the high winds and it was to prove a difficult afternoon for goal-kicking with the reliable South African potting only three from seven attempts.

The tempo of the match was set early with Wanderers on the offensive, and it seemed only a matter of time before a score would come.

When it did though it came from an unlikely quarter when the Livingston full-back Ewan Naysmith got the scoreboard ticking over with a fine piece of opportunism.

On 14 minutes, with Wanderers mounting an attack close to the visitors’ goal-line, Naysmith gambled and went for the interception as the local backline tried to spread the play. His clever ploy yielded dividends as he collected the ball only five metres from his own goal-line then sprinted the entire length of the pitch to touch down wide on the left.

It was a hammer blow to Wanderers but they remained calm and reasserted themselves with some impressive grinding forward play, with Lavelle and Gray making the hard yards around the contact zone.

On 20 minutes a penalty award for a scrummage infringement gave Diffenthal the chance to knock over a penalty from short range and he duly obliged and reduced the deficit to 5-3.

Thereafter the Greenock men took control of proceedings. They edged ahead on the half-hour mark when they executed a textbook catch and drive move off the lineout and Gray touched down after the pack shunted their opponents back some 15 yards.

Five minutes later more quality scrummage ball was moved wide and Diffenthal created the space for Frizzell to blast through the centre for the touchdown. Diffenthal’s conversion stretched the lead to 15-5.

It was a purple patch for Greenock and it continued with a further try just before the interval.

Lavelle again made a fine break through the Livingston defence from the base of the scrum and with the line beckoning unselfishly slipped a pass to support runner Abernethy to carry the remaining five metres for the score.

The second half was all Greenock as the visitors struggled to combat the unremitting pressure and the elements which were now in Wanderers’ favour.

On 55 minutes, a fine passage of play involving both forwards and backs took play close to the Livingston line. And when McDougall fed prop forward Dave Paton, he barged over from short range. Diffenthal’s’ conversion extended the advantage to 27-5.

It seemed only appropriate that outstanding player afield Lavelle should get on the scoresheet and he did so on the hour mark with another powerful drive off the base with the visiting defence posted missing.

The difficult conditions, failing light and somewhat one-sided nature of the contest resulted in a bit of a lull in proceedings but Wanderers were not finished yet and the final counter came on 72 minutes.

In a carbon copy of Paton’s try, fellow prop forward Dougie Smith crashed over from short range after some fine leading up work from both forwards and backs combined to force Livingston to defend deep inside their own territory.

It was a fine victory for Wanderers and, with Ardrossan defeating bottom club Haddington, it means that there is now some much needed breathing space between the locals and the relegation positions.

Wanderers continue their league campaign next week when they travel to Beveridge Park in Kirkcaldy where they have a real chance of gaining back-to-back victories for the first time this season.

Wanderers are sponsored by Texas Instruments.