We finally reach the end of the BetFred group stage and I think I speak for all Berwick fans when I say thank goodness for that.
Berwick ended their campaign, such as it was, visiting SPL side Livingston. For most fans this was done will a deep seated feeling of trepidation and fears of record scores. We went. We lost. We didn't score. In the end a 5-0 defeat didn't seem that bad and there are some positive reports coming out of the Macaroni regarding the second half performance. We now settle into a very busy early season in the Lowland League with the hope that this competition hasn't had an effect on confidence. In fairness we have played teams who would be expected to beat us and we have faced them with a side being created as we went along. For the record Lamie got two for Livvy opening the scoring in the second minute and getting his second in the 81st. He was joined in grabbing a brace by Sibbald scoring in the 16th and 84th, Lithgow getting the other goal in the 24th.
The other game in the group saw Ayr and Stranraer draw 2-2. Ayr twice took the lead in the 2nd and 44th minutes through Moffat and Kelly with Cummins equalising each time for Stranraer in the 42nd and 86th. Stranraer went on to win the penalty shoot-out 6-5, both sides scoring their first five before Harvie missed the crucial sixth for Ayr. This meant Livvy won the group with Ayr finishing second, but failing to qualify for the knock-out phase as one of the best placed seconds.
The action got under way on Friday night with Hibs travelling to the Highlands to face Elgin and coming away with a 2-0 victory, goals from Newell and Kamberi in each half guaranteeing qualification. The other game saw Arbroath's chances of being one of the best seconds dashed on the rocks of Gayfield as they lost 3-2 to Alloa. Both teams scoring in the 18th minute - Bobby Linn for the home side and Buchanan for Alloa. A Trouten double for Alloa sandwiched a Thomson goal for Arbroath, allowing Alloa to snatch second place in the group.
Life got no better for the two SPL Saints.
Tommy Wright's St Johnstone losing 2-1 at Forfar to Tapping and Forbes goals, Kennedy pulling one back for the Perth side. The result ensured that Forfar got send place and qualified for the knock-out phase. With Ross already through Brechin and Montrose played out a 1-1 draw, Montrose winning the shoot out 4-2. Brechin getting their first point of the group leaving us with the honour of being the only team to fail to gain a point.
St Mirren had a better day in that they didn't play but Albion Rovers' 2-1 win over Edinburgh City combined with East Kilbride's 4-0 defeat at Dunfermline meant Rovers leapfrogged the Buddies into second place. East giving Albion an 8th minute lead which Paterson doubled in the 54th, Blair Henderson pulling one back for City. East Kilbride's hopes were dashed by three goals in the first sixteen minutes from Nisbet, Coley and Beading. Nisbet getting a second in the second half to finish the scoring.
Hamilton grabbed second place in their group coming back from 2-0 down at half-time to win 3-2 at Airdrieonians. Smith and Roy scoring for Airdrieonians in the first half. Cunningham getting 2 for Hamilton before Ogboe scored the deciding goal in the 89th minute to see Hamilton through. Meanwhile the bottom two in the group Queen's Park and Clyde fought out a 1-1 draw today with Queen's winning the shoot out 5-4.
East Fife pulled off one of the surprises of the day, getting a 1-1 home draw with Hearts before going on to win the shoot-out 7-6. Hearts missing their first two and East Fife their last two in the initial five. The result was enough for East Fife to grab second place from Dundee United and qualify for the next round. Elsewhere in the group Stenhousemuir got their first points with 2-0 home win over Cowdenbeath.
In the winner takes all game at Dens Park today Dundee came away with a 1-0 victory courtesy of a goal from Danny Johnson on his debut. The biggest shock of the day came at C*v* where the home side stunned Raith Rovers 3-0.
A 4-3 penalty shoot-out victory for Morton over Queen of The South was enough to ensure Morton finished in a qualifying second place. The shoot-out following a 3-3 draw. Motherwell ended their campaign with a fourth win cementing their place at the top. The 4-0 win over Annan given some gloss by two goals in the last three minutes.