GREENOCK Wanderers make the short trip up the M8 tomorrow to face old rivals Whitecraigs in their BT National League Second Division clash at West Lodge in Newton Mearns in a game that is due to kick-off at 3pm.

There is a possibility though that the kick-off time may be moved forward, so travelling Wanderers supporters should check with the club website prior to travelling.

The hosts have enjoyed a fine season to date and have won a very credible nine games from 16 starts, including a comfortable 24-16 victory at Fort Matilda in October when the sides met earlier in the campaign.

In truth the match is of little significance in the overall scheme of things as Whitecraigs are outside the top four and not in the title race and Wanderers are positioned towards the foot of the table but are importantly safe from relegation.

Wanderers’ selection has once more been ravaged by call-offs and non-availability, with several key players missing due to attending the international match at Murrayfield between Scotland and Italy.

It is an unusual arrangement for the Scottish Rugby Union to allow league matches on the same date as international Saturdays but for some reason they seem happy to do so this season, with the net result being that weakened club sides throughout the country will compete against others and by doing so devalue the competition they participate in.

From Wanderers’ perspective, the game is an opportunity to regain some credibility after being on the wrong end of another hiding last weekend when Cartha Queens Park put them to the sword by 53-10.

It has been a long hard season for the locals and they could be forgiven for wishing that the league campaign would just end without having to suffer the ignominy of any further sizeable defeats.

With four games to go though they still have to play Ardrossan, Aberdeenshire and Falkirk, as well as tomorrow’s test against Whitecraigs. And if the side is once more ravaged by non-availability the portents are not overly positive that a good outcome will result.

Head coach Graham Knox will as always encourage the troops he has at his disposal to step up to the plate and put on a display worthy of the jersey but the reality is that tomorrow’s game could be another long hard 80 minutes for the Octavia Terrace men, especially if the hosts manage to put out anything like their strongest side.

A late decision will determine Greenock’s starting line-up but Andy Love makes a comeback after injury and he looks likely to form part of the break-away trio alongside Ally Abernethy, pictured, and Anton Ward.

Ward deputised at number eight last week for the injured Martin Lavelle and he continues in that role tomorrow after posting an excellent display.

He was one of the few Wanderers successes last weekend and deservedly holds onto his jersey for tomorrow’s game.

Wanderers’ backline remains unchanged after being tormented last week by a Cartha back division that had one of those days when everything went right, particularly for flying winger Rob May, who notched a fantastic personal haul of five tries.

A lot of hard work has gone in on the training paddock this week aimed at rebuilding the shattered confidence of the local backline and the players have responded positively to all that has been highlighted and identified.

Their core function is to hold a strong defensive line and repel opposition attacks with aggressive tackling and there is fresh confidence that they will do exactly that tomorrow.

The hosts are strong throughout and have a fine balance to their team, with a big strong and aggressive pack backed up by a hard running and elusive backline.

Former Wanderer Nicky Blamire will once more take on his old club and he has enjoyed the upper hand in most of the recent encounters. Blamire is a highly rated loose forward and his battle with the Wanderers back row will be an interesting sub-plot during the match.

Whitecraigs certainly go in as favourites tomorrow, particularly after enjoying another straightforward 40-12 victory at Haddington last week. They will see this match as an opportunity to secure the try-scoring bonus point victory and also to rack up a decent tally in the ‘points for’ column.

The locals’ chances will depend on what side Wanderers put out — but whoever is entrusted to wear the colours tomorrow they must be totally focused and be prepared to put in a committed 80 minutes if there is to be a chance of victory.

For those not travelling to West Lodge, English touring side Weston play a Wanderers select at Fort Matilda with a 12.30pm kick-off.

Wanderers will play a mix of youngsters, old crocks and reserve team players in the friendly, which will act as an appetiser ahead of the main event of the afternoon which is the live screening of Scotland’s Six Nations rugby international against Italy which is scheduled to start at 2.30pm.

All members and guests are invited along to enjoy the occasion in the surroundings of Wanderers’ clubhouse.

l Wanderers are sponsored by Texas Instruments.