GREENOCK Wanderers host their first BT National League Division Two match of 2015 when the most improved side in the competition, Aberdeenshire, visit Fort Matilda tomorrow in what is another vitally important game for the local club.

The visitors started off their campaign in disappointing fashion, losing all of their first four games, although in fairness they had the misfortune of being drawn against the top clubs in each of the first four weekends of the season.

Thereafter they kick-started their campaign with a narrow 33-29 success over Wanderers at Woodside in October and then followed that up with another seven consecutive victories which lifted the club into fifth place in the league.

It was a dramatic turnaround in fortunes and the winning run includes some impressive results like the away wins at Cartha Queens Park and Kirkcaldy and the thrashings of Haddington, Ardrossan and Livingston during which they posted 92, 76 and 26-point victories respectively.

That winning run though came to a halt on Saturday when they were narrowly edged out by Musselburgh 13-5 at Stoneyhill.

Wanderers will prepare by focusing on their own form and a feisty performance was recorded last weekend at Laigh Bent when the championship-winning credentials of title chasers Hamilton Bulls were tested to the full.

The 29-9 defeat failed to do the locals justice, particularly when due cognisance is given to the horrendous availability problems head coach Graham Knox had to contend with pre-match.

In circumstances that had the potential to degenerate into a humiliating defeat, the players to a man stepped up to the plate and posted a performance worthy of a team that was proud to represent their club and do their utmost to fight tooth and nail for every scrap of possession.

It was a battling display and one that quite rightly had coach Knox speaking proudly and in glowing terms about the collective spirit and performance of his side in his after-match interview.

For tomorrow’s game another similar display will be required and, having set the benchmark, Knox and captain Murray MacDonald will be determined to maintain those standards throughout the rest of the season.

In terms of selection, prop-forwards Dave Paton and Dougie Smith join vice-captain Kieren Smith on the long-term injury list and that means skipper MacDonald will move into the front row.

Louie Hoodless will come into the boiler house alongside Matt Gray and Ally Abernethy will be joined by Andy Love and Anton Ward in what is fast becoming a highly effective back row unit.

Abernethy had an outstanding 80 minutes at Laigh Bent and he showed all his experience by taking the responsibility and making the hard yards around the scrummage and contact zone when it mattered most. Scrum-half Andy McDougall continues his partnership with Callum Harrison, who remains at first five-eighth, and the not unsurprising news is that Martin Lavelle is selected at centre after posting an exceptional display in his debut in the back line last week. Lavelle showed that he has several strings to his bow and his positional sense, tackling ability and incisive running were all features of a man-of-the-match performance.

He will link up with Michael Frizzell in what is a physically imposing centre pairing.

Leigh Tyley returns to his normal berth at full-back and ‘Aussie rules’ footballer Ty Gilmore, who has moved to the area, gets his promotion to the top team squad and secures a place on the bench. He will get game time and will look to build on what was an impressive debut in the Boxing Day challenge match.

The first competitive game of the year is sure to attract a large crowd to Fort Matilda for the 2pm kick-off.

The usual corporate lunch and sponsors events will take place, all adding to the sense of occasion, and with plenty of confidence currently evident in the Wanderers camp, there is every reason to be optimistic that a positive result may follow.

Vice-president Stevie Anderson said: “It’s another big game at Fort Matilda and as always I would encourage our support to come along and get behind the team.

“Aberdeenshire are doing well and they will be given all due respect but we believe we can get a result tomorrow if we play to our strengths.

“We certainly have the potential to achieve the victory and that is our objective for the afternoon.” On paper at least, Wanderers enter the fray as they have done most weeks this season — as underdogs.

But there is positivity about Octavia Terrace that a corner has been turned and that better days are ahead.

Last week’s display will have bolstered self-belief in the ‘west-enders’ dressing room and if the players can replicate the determined attitude that was so evident at Laigh Bent then there is a real chance that Wanderers may start 2015 with a victory on home soil.

l Wanderers are sponsored by Texas Instruments.