GREENOCK Wanderers regained a level of credibility at Beveridge Park on Saturday when they were narrowly beaten in a tight and entertaining game by Kirkcaldy in the BT National League Second Division.

The locals posted a much improved performance that owed a great deal to the return of dual registered Brendan McGroarty at centre three quarter.

McGroarty’s current club Glasgow Hawks had a free weekend and that allowed the former Greenock captain to play for his old club The inspirational McGroarty produced his normal spirited and talented display and that had a galvanising effect on his team-mates who performed as well as they have done all season.

The pack showed guts, determination and backbone throughout a tough and uncompromising 80 minutes and the back line with McGroarty’s inclusion looked far more secure in defence.

Up front skipper Murray MacDonald put in another captain’s performance and he received fine support from Matt Gray, Martin Lavelle and Donald Stone.

The significant bulk of the new front row players Mark Rodger and Liam Campbell solidified the scrum and Lavelle posted another man-of-the-match performance at number eight.

Half-backs Andy McDougall and Kenny Diffenthal produced an assured display at the fulcrum and McGroarty spearheaded a Wanderers attack that looked potent and dangerous when in possession.

The match was played in bright sunshine with the underfoot conditions perfect for running rugby.

The large, vociferous and loyal Kirkcaldy support was in good voice and their good natured promptings added a sense of occasion to the fixture.

The players did not disappoint and served up a competitive match which could have gone either way right to the end.

Influential Kirkcaldy star Gregg Wallace received a fine reception from the home fans as he played his 200th game for the club.

The celebration fell a little flat though as he tweaked his groin during the opening exchanges and had to retire in the first half.

Wallace’s misfortune did not deter from a confident and positive Kirkcaldy side that opened strongly and enjoyed the early pressure and territorial advantage.

They turned pressure into points with an early penalty slotted beautifully by kicking machine Craig Lethem, then followed that up with a well-worked try from Kurt Littlejohn that stretched the lead to 8-0.

Wanderers stuck to their task and refused to be dominated and a successful penalty effort from Diffenthal reduced the deficit to 8-3 at the interval. The second period started in scrappy fashion and female referee Alex Pratt had to stamp her authority on proceedings owing to a growing penalty count for minor and niggling infringements, particularly around the breakdown and ruck area.

Once sorted though the game settled down into an entertaining and competitive affair — but not before the sides had swapped penalties which took the score to 11-6 for the hosts.

Greenock had their tails up, looked hungry for possession and pushed hard to get back on terms.

Midway through the second half Wanderers’ number eight Lavelle stepped up and showed his class.

A scrummage was awarded to the locals inside the Kirkcaldy half and Duddy’s crisp strike was picked up at the base by Lavelle.

He set off on a powerful run, picking a fine line through the heart of the Fifers defence and with only the home full-back to beat he popped a sublime pass to support runner McGroarty who touched down under the posts.

Diffenthal had the simplest of tasks in adding the conversion points to give Wanderers the advantage at 13-11.

The Fort Matilda men were good value for their lead but the question on everyone’s lips was whether or not they could hold out for the victory.

As it transpired, it was not to be and with the game entering its final 10 minutes Kirkcaldy playmaker and player-coach Quentin Sanft made a trademark telling contribution.

His incisive run broke the advantage line and created the space for winger Chris Mann to breeze in and dot down close to the posts.

Lethem converted to secure the win and complete the scoring at 18-13.

It was a bitter blow for Greenock but they can take a lot from the match ahead of their relegation battle next weekend against Haddington at Fort Matilda.

Head coach Graham Knox said: “We selected more bulk in the pack in the shape of Mark Rodger and Liam Campbell and that certainly helped in terms of having a secure platform at the set piece.

“Kirkcaldy are a good side and I felt we pushed them all the way.

“They had the resilience to come back and claim the victory but we look on today’s defeat as one that got away.” Despite the defeat Wanderers were awarded a losing bonus point which puts them seven points clear of Haddington and they also have the luxury of a game in hand over their relegation rivals.

l Wanderers are sponsored by Texas Instruments.