SCOTTISH LOWLAND LEAGUE
SATURDAY 28 SEPTEMBER 2019
BERWICK RANGERS 2 CUMBERNAULD COLTS 2
It was back to Shielfield for a Lowland League game and our first home game of September follwoing a glut of them in August. Our visitors Cumbernauld Colts were making their first appearance here and arrived on the back of a home thrashing at the hands of East of Scotland Premier side Penicuik Athletic in the Scottish Cup the previous week. However, they were also the only team to have beaten Barry Ferguson's Kelty Hearts in the league.
We started with Mark Walters selected in goal ahead of Sean Brennan, a decision that raised some eyebrows and Jaoa Balde our recent loan signing from the other Rangers in midfield. It became apparent early on that Dan Purves was playing much more through the middle than he had in previous games.
The first half hour saw little for either goalkeeper to have to deal with and Berwick gradually started to get on top of the game with some reasonable moves failing to have any effective end product. Purves was causing problems in his new role and Balde was looking a useful addition to the midfield with his passing and movement and perhaps unexpectedly his tackling. Colts were having the odd bit of success down our left with Richard Kirwan getting away from the defence and knocking a few crosses in. Top scorer Marty Wright was being relatively well marshalled by the defence only getting a couple of half chances. A decent run from Euan Smith came to nothing with a pretty feeble effort easily blocked by the defender when there was a good ball on for Balde to his left.
We got the breakthrough in the 34th minute when a superb deep cross from Kevin Waugh out on the left seemed to have beat everyone only for the diminutive Dan Purves to get in behind his man and stretching every sinew of his neck head the ball back across the goal and in.
Controversy would follow when Purves picked the ball up on the edge of the box and burst into it, going down under the challenge. As the crowd screamed for a penalty referee Addy reached for his card and booked Purves for diving. The referee was already well on he way to ensuring he wouldn't be receiving a standing ovation at the end of the match and this did little to boost his popularity. At the time I didn't think it was a penalty and I didn't think it was a dive either. Referee's need to understand that a player can go down in the box under a challenge without it being either option. I've since watched it a few times on the match highlights and still think that's the case, a defender did throw his leg out and Purves leaned in to him and went down. By now we were very much on top and were looking to extend the lead before half time. Instead a quick break from Colts led to Lewis Barr bringing down the attacker in the box as he was beat for pace. Again at the time I thought the referee had got the decision right, it looked like a penalty was going to be the only outcome the minute the forward burst through, with Barr struggling to keep pace with him and possibly just clipping him. Yet another penalty conceded, and yet again we were exposed too easily down our left. Frustration would turn to relief when Ross Kavanagh blazed the penalty down the middle and over the bar meaning we went in at half time actually in the lead.
The second half started brightly and we were only two minutes into it when Kevin Waugh doubled the lead with what is fast becoming his trademark - a free kick hit low and curling in at the far post having missed hitting anyone in the box, hard to tell if Euan Smith jumped over it or if he had possibly got ahead of it, his presence possibly doing enough to distract the goalkeeper. At two nil up and well on top it seemed to be more a case of getting more goals and some confidence flowing. Enough half chances continued to fall but we failed to convert any of them.
Colts has started to come a bit more into the game and were getting space down the left and right and banging crosses and corners in without posing a serious threat. On 67 minutes Lewis Bonar met a corner in the six yard box, getting in front of three defenders and somehow squeezing the ball in between the bar and the despairing stretch of Walters. It's also worth noting another Colts attacker was on his own in the six yard box but the ball was too high for him. Colts heads were now up and we were defending deeper and deeper. Our right side was being exposed time and time again and the game was crying out for changes t give us some additional defensive strength and to toughen up the midfield. With about ten minutes to go Little decided on a double substitution taking off Lumsden and Balde and replacing them with Windram and Rose. Quiet frankly one of the worst substitutions I have seen, rather than strengthen the defence we appeared to be looking to bolster the attack. I get that we were still having the odd chance but we had been principally on the back foot since the goal. Not only that but we adjusted the formation switching to what might as well have been a 4-4-1 (no that's not a misprint, you can work it out). This had the effect of stretching the midfield further and whatever attacking ability Windram has I don't think it's harsh to say it far exceeds his defensive ability. Consequently Colts were now able to attack more down our left and Richard Kirwan was getting forward with ease and getting crosses in. The inevitable happened in the second minute of injury time when a high cross from Kirwan on the right was again met by a stretching Bonar headed backwards into the net, outjumping two defenders who were in front of him while another defender managed to be standing right in front of Walters. A shocking goal to concede and the result of poor game management. It's not hindsight to say that the obvious substitution when we had conceded was to bring on Chalmers and Wright who would have been able to toughen and tighten us up defensively.
This was very much a case of two points utterly thrown away in a game we pretty much dominated for 60 minutes. Positives from it were Dan Purves through the middle and floating left and right gives us far more options going forward, Ricky Miller as ever was solid and his long range passing is superb, Balde brings a bit more to midfield but is still a bit raw - I thought at times he stuck to close to the man with the ball rather than pulling wider for the pass to create space, and Euan Smith had a much better game and while we were on top Lumsden and Waugh were having good games. After his recent performances I was disappointed with Healy yesterday - he could with watching how Marty Wright played for Colts yesterday, without having a good game he showed how a centre forward should collect the ball with his back to goal and lay it off, there are times where Healy traps a ball further than I can pass it, similarly Rose could do with learning how to hold onto the ball especially when you are defending a one goal lead, Lewis Barr was also anonymous yesterday possibly as a result of his early booking.
A quick word on the referee who was awful - seven bookings in a game that was far from physical or dirty - he probably got the two penalty decisions right but that was about all.
TEAMS: BERWICK RANGERS: Mark Walters, Ciaran Brian, Kevin Waugh, Jack Cook, Ricky Miller, Euan Smith (C), Cammy Lumsden (Gary Windram 79m), Joao Balde (Grant Rose 79m), Daryl Healy, Lewis Barr, Dan Purves Subs not used: Jack Wright, Ali Smith, Yaw Osei, Ciaren Chalmers, Sean Brennan (GK) CUMBERNAULD COLTS: Jonathn Grier, Jeff Fergus, Scott Davidson, Stephen O'Neill, Martin Wright, Craig Holmes (Gregor Johnston 77m), Lewis Bonar, Cameron Dickson, Ross Kavanagh (Wilson Romanis 85m), Craig Murray, Richard Kirwan
Subs not used: Jordan Pirrie, Lewis Warnock, Zander Gilchirst (GK)
GOALS: Dan Purves (34m) (BR)
Kevin Waugh (46m) (BR)
Lewis Bonar (66m, 90+1m) (CC)
BOOKINGS: Cameron Dickson (CC)
Lewis Barr (BR)
Joao Balde (BR)
Dan Purves (BR)
Cammy Lumsden (BR)
Craig Murray (CC)
Richard Kirwan (CC)
Referee: Michael Addy
Assistant Referee: Rhys Struthers
Assistant Referee: Calum Dyke