GREENOCK Wanderers make the short trip up the M8 tomorrow to West Lodge at Newton Mearns where they continue their BT National League Second Division campaign with a match against old adversaries Whitecraigs.

The hosts have hit a rich vein of form recently and have won five of their last six league games stretching back to October.

Their last two results have been highly impressive victories over promotion challengers Howe of Fife and Kirkcaldy and their form has been rewarded with a comfortable mid-table position.

Although Whitecraigs have lost six games, they have never been thrashed and most defeats have been by narrow margins.

Local player and former Wanderer Nicky Blamire is a regular pick in the Whitecraigs side and he will be looking forward to locking horns with some of his former colleagues.

In recent times he has generally had the better of these tussles as his team have emerged victorious more often than not.

Wanderers have endured a rollercoaster ride of a season and have played well on occasions during the campaign but have also plumbed the depths, posting some lacklustre performances and recording some heavy defeats.

The enigmatic locals will hope that they can produce one of their better displays tomorrow and if they manage to perform at their best then a competitive game will result.

In the earlier fixture between the sides in October at Fort Matilda Wanderers played well but Whitecraigs deservedly won 24-16, despite the Greenock men giving a good account of themselves and remaining in the match right to the end.

Head coach Graham Knox will insist that his players put last weekend’s drubbing at Musselburgh to the back of their minds and focus totally on tomorrow’s challenge, which has the hallmarks of yet another difficult game. The good news though for Knox and the travelling Wanderers support is that the squad has been buoyed by the return of Marc Coyle, Ally Abernethy, Gregor Fletcher and Leigh Tyley. This quartet were sadly missed last week and their presence will greatly enhance both the confidence levels and chances of victory.

The prop-forward position has been particularly problematic this season, with Dougie Smith, Dave Paton and Ryan McGhee all on the long-term injury list, leaving just Coyle as a natural prop.

Skipper Murray MacDonald has shown his versatility by moving into the front row in recent weeks and for tomorrow’s game he will do so again, with Abernethy hooking up with the experienced Matt Gray in the engine room.

Another player to show his adaptability this season is Martin Lavelle and he is selected at number eight after posting some fine performances as a makeshift centre.

Lavelle’s power going forward and in the tackle is tailor-made for both positions and it will be something of a conundrum for the selectors to finally decide where the talented youngster is of most value to the team.

Behind the scrum Fletcher and Tyley’s recall gives the backline a more familiar look and their undoubted tackling ability will shore up the Wanderers defence after another poor showing last weekend.

Andy McDougall and Ken Diffenthal will form the axis at half-back and Callum Harrison is reunited with Michael Frizzell at centre three-quarter, with Tyley, Fletcher and Chris McCarron forming the back three.

Wanderers’ Achilles’ heel this season has been the poor quality of their tackling and tomorrow the back division’s first priority is to ensure that their line remains intact and that means matching the physicality of their opponents. McDougall, Diffenthal and Tyley’s presence will ensure the locals have the tactical knowledge and street smarts to marshal their defensive line but once in position they must have the desire to make the tackle and stop the Whitecraigs attack before they break the advantage line.

Vice-president Stevie Anderson said: “Whitecraigs have had a good campaign but we travel with confidence after pushing them all the way at Fort Matilda earlier in the season and with the knowledge that four of our top players are all back in the squad and available for selection.

“The coaching team and players have worked hard this week in addressing some of the issues identified in last week’s defeat and we have worked on a game plan that we believe will stand us in good stead tomorrow.” Home advantage, recent form and respective league positions make the hosts the team most likely to take the spoils but as always there is hope that what may be described as a mercurial Wanderers side will enjoy one of those days when their collective spirit, ability and technical craft come together to produce a display of genuine worth.

In truth this result is no foregone conclusion and if the locals can post a big performance then they certainly have a chance of snatching the victory.

For those not travelling to West Lodge, the Greenock reserve side host Dalziel at Fort Matilda with a 2pm kick-off.

Wanderers are sponsored by Texas instruments.