GREENOCK Wanderers came up short on a vital game to avoid relegation against Strathmore, writes John Dyer.

The drama played out to the last kick of the game when Wanderers' stand-off missed a penalty kick in the visitors' 22-metre line to win the game.

The early exchanges were evenly split between the sides with neither gaining the upper hand and a fine tackle by Chris McCarron stopped a promising attack by the visitors.

Wanderers were getting the better of the play as the half progressed but let themselves down by either a poor pass or a series of knock-ons.

A good break by scrum-half Murray McKechnie and pass to Leigh Tyley transferred to Smith but was again dropped by the winger.

The first scrum also sounded alarm bells when Strathmore's pack shoved Wanderers off the ball and as a result were pressing inside the home team's 22 after 10 minutes and Tyley was sent to the sin bin for 10 minutes for a deliberate knock-on.

The Forfar outfit ran the penalty and only a poor pass denied the visitors a score.

Louie Hoodless on his welcome return to the side had a typical trademark barging run but the resulting pass was wayward and the home side spurned another good opportunity to get on the scoreboard.

Strathmore were offside at a ruck and AJ Guthrie kicked a penalty to get Wanderers onto the scoreboard.

The Fort Matilda men continued to squander hard-fought territory by consistent poor handling.

The visitors had a long spell of time in Wanderers' half. An injury allowed McIntyre to take over in the home side scrum on 30 minutes.

Again Wanderers were caught offside and Strathmore elected to have a scrum and pushed the Greenock side back close enough to their line to allow their stand-off to pass to their centre to have an easy run in to score a try in the 33rd minute.

The try was converted to make it 7-3.

Wanderers worked their way down the pitch and were awarded a penalty which Guthrie converted to cut Strathmore's lead to 7-6.

Wanderers ended the half well and scored a try by second row Dylan Campbell to put Wanderers 11-7 in front at half-time.

Strathmore now had the wind at their back and dominated early proceedings as Wanderers' handling did not improve and allowed them to camp in the home side's half for large parts of the half.

A good run by Tyley took play into the visitors' half but again a poor pass let Wanderers down.

A good kick from Guthrie took the ball into Strathmore's five-metre line but again a poor throw into line out allowed the visitors to kick the ball back deep into the home side's half after 50 minutes.

Shortly after Strathmore's number seven was yellow carded for persistent fouling.

Yet another handling error by Wanderers inside the visitors' 22 allowed them to hoof the ball well into home territory.

Strathmore took advantage of this visit to the home 22 to handle the ball via the backs to score in the corner, with the try unconverted, to make it 12-11 to Strathmore after 17 minutes of the second half.

Play thereafter ebbed from end to end with neither side able to transfer possession into telling points to pull away and have the upper hand.

Wanderers did have much the better of the remaining 10 minutes but resolute defence by the visitors kept Wanderers from adding to the scoreline.

The final kick of the game was missed and another loss which makes avoiding relegation verging on impossible very much a prospect now for Wanderers.

Bobby Mitchell and his coaches will have to work hard during the week to face another very difficult game against Howe at home next week.

The only plus is Wanderers did not lose any more ground on Ardrossan who are above Wanderers also lost with no points.

Meanwhile, the 2nd XV had a fine 28-22 win against Dumfries at Fort Matilda.

l Greenock Wanderers are sponsored by MM Search.