GREENOCK Wanderers resume their BT National League Division Two campaign tomorrow after the festive break with a trip to Laigh Bent where they face second-placed Hamilton Bulls.

It is another daunting prospect for the local side, who have suffered several heavy defeats this season to teams at the top end of the table, including a 42-17 reverse to tomorrow’s hosts when the sides last met back in September at Fort Matilda.

The Bulls have won 10 of their 12 league games so far and have lost only twice and that was on the two occasions they met current table toppers Howe of Fife.

For Wanderers the task is an onerous one and might even be described by the impartial observer as ‘mission impossible’, particularly when the locals’ modest statistics of having won three games from 13 matches is analysed in comparison.

The hosts will be desperate to keep up the pressure on Howe of Fife and they will only manage that if they secure the try-scoring bonus point victory and post a healthy return in the ‘points for’ column.

The ‘west-enders’ staged a temporary rally in the autumn when they won two games against Ardrossan and Livingston, but unfortunately two additional heavy home defeats against Falkirk and Howe of Fife put the brakes on what had been a mini revival in fortunes.

Tomorrow’s fixture is undoubtedly one of Wanderers’ most difficult games of the season and they will have to be at their best and committed both mentally and physically to the challenge if they are to do themselves proud.

The hosts have the full gamut of skills at their disposal and have a big strong pack, backed up by a back division that exudes confidence, class and admirable line speed.

They are capable of tearing opposition back lines to shreds and, with Wanderers’ well documented frailties in defence, that could be a worrying factor for the Greenock coaching team ahead of tomorrow’s contest.

With the locals likely to be engaged in a rearguard action, brave defence, good communication and an appetite for the unglamorous chores of tackling will be a must for the local effort to succeed.

Heads-up defence will be crucial and in-form full-back Leigh Tyley will be a vital component in that endeavour. He will require to make the tackles when necessary and monitor his side’s defensive alignment to ensure the cover defence is where it is needed most, as the Greenock men know that missed tackles will be punished mercilessly.

The Wanderers pack though could significantly lighten Tyley’s load by winning the lion’s share of possession and, in doing so, ensure the locals spend time on the offensive in the opposition half. The cliché that the best form of defence is attack is never truer than when applied in a rugby context and captain Murray MacDonald is capable of cajoling his troops into mounting a serious forward effort that may surprise their more fancied opponents.

Skipper MacDonald will be joined in the boiler house by the experienced Matt Gray. He returns to his old stomping ground and will look to remind the hosts of just how good a player he was when he wore the green and blue of Hamilton.

MacDonald and Gray are in their prime and their performance will be crucial if the locals are to get any worthwhile possession, particularly in the aerial battle at the lineout.

Their power in the scrummage will also be tested to the utmost by an extremely strong and well-drilled home eight.

Behind the scrum half-back pairing, Andy McDougall and another former Hamilton star, Kenny Diffenthal, will call the shots.

Diffenthal will put his knowledge of the Laigh Bent track to good use by kicking for position and putting the ball behind the hosts’ backline in an attempt to ensure they have to attack from deep.

The new year brings with it fresh hope and positive aspiration and, although underdogs for this game, Wanderers can gain some confidence from their most recent trip to Hamilton last season, when they defeated the Bulls on home soil and in truth were good value for the victory that day.

With club president John McDougall currently on a break, vice-president Stevie Anderson will lead the travelling party and he is looking forward to ‘first-footing’ one of the top sides in the division.

Anderson said: “It’s a real test for the players but we believe we have improved in recent months and there is a strong and defiant team spirit in the squad.

“We intend having a real go tomorrow and take the game to Hamilton rather than react to what they have to offer.” It is certainly a laudable and positive outlook from the Greenock camp but whether it will be sufficient to stop the Hamilton bandwagon rolling on remains to be seen.

Wanderers are sponsored by Texas instruments.