Updated: Sep 16, 2019
SCOTTISH LOWLAND LEAGUE
SATURDAY 7 SEPTEMBER 2019
GALA FAIRYDEAN ROVERS 2 BERWICK RANGERS 2
The Dream Team left Netherdale after our first Lowland League Border Derby with a share of the points after what was a highly entertaining game. It was a game we should have won but in the end one we could so easily have lost against a depleted home side who sat one place above us in the league.
Manager Little shuffled the pack again and reverted to a more familiar formation after the unsuccessful experiment against Civil Service the week before. Out went Rose due to injury, Ciaren Chalmers and Ali Smith to be replaced by Ciaran Brian, Ali Forster and Cammy Lumsden in the starting line up. Jack Wright on his way back from injury made the bench. So it was back to two up front, Euan Smith in the centre of midfield and four at the back. Gala's injury problems meant that Danny Galbraith's sole involvement on the day was running laps of the pitch during the warm up - it was exhausting watching home. There also appeared to be a familiar figure taking part in the warm - sure enough it was Stuart Noble who had been talked out of his eighteen month retirement to take a place on the bench while striker Alan McRitchie had arrived as an emergency loan and dropped straight into the starting line up. Also missing was the big centre-half they have on loan from Hibs, Dino Leddie (although this didn't click with me at the time as his replacement Lewis Grant is quite similar to him in build and in how he plays, my excuse anyway and I'm sticking to it).
We started on the front foot and Healy got us of to a dream start heading home in the fourth minute. We continued to in a similar vein with Lumsden shooting wide. At this stage it was looking as though this could be the good win we'd been looking for. This is Berwick though and yet again after taking an early lead the wheel's looked as though they were going to come off in the middle of the half. On virtually their first attack of the game Gala were awarded a penalty and Scott Taylor-MacKenzie converted, a set back but worse was to come when just six minutes later we conceded a second penalty. This time Brennan pulled of a great save but Jack Cowan was first to the ball to bang it home. There was an element of controversy around both awards amongst the crowd, for what it's worth I reckon the first probably was (just) but I'm not at all convinced the second was. This was beginning to look like a very familiar script for us but in a change from the norm we equalised only three minutes later with Healy heading home from a lovely ball from Osei. It looked as though it had deviated completely when Lewis Barr had the ball in the net just before half-time but an offside flag curtailed the celebrations. From where I was it looked a tight decision.
So after a breathless first half we entered the second half with the mood in the crowd fairly positive. It was hard to see how we were not ahead and there was a sense we would do enough to grab the points. The Gala defence seemed shaky and compared to the other occasions I've seen them this season I thought the midfield was a bit less competitive. They did, however, pose a threat on the break - they played the ball out of defence well at times and were quick causing problems for our defence whenever they did break. Brennan made a good save early on in the half and it was then pretty much one way traffic towards the Gala goal. We created plenty of chances and half chances but could not get the ball in the net. Chalmers, on for Smith, showed he is far better in midfield than last weeks performance in defence and he had one cleared of the line before he also had a goal chalked off for a very tight offside. After constant pressure we were caught out twice on the break in the last five minutes and Sean Brennan saved us from defeat, first from Mark Berry and then from the old man Stuart Noble having been put through by fellow substitute Phil Addison. So in the end we almost left with a sense of relief at a point gained when really we should have wrapped up all three.
This was a much better performance than the previous week in many ways, we looked more of a threat going forward and I thought Healy had his best game of the season. He took his goals well, worked the defenders and won some his aerial battles. The jury remains out on Osei, we get flashes of what he is capable of but whether it's enough to start getting us wins I'm not so sure, it may be that he will be better as an impact substitute against tiring defences (assuming we do enough to tire them) until he finds his feet in this league. Dan Purves has done enough in recent substitute appearances to suggest he deserves a start. I thought Chalmers looked much better in his midfield role when he came on, while Euan Smith had a quiet game. We're also at a stage where I would have Ali Forster as one of the first names on the team sheet along with Lewis Barr. I still have huge concerns about the right side defensively though and feel we get caught out there too often and are a bit prone to being exposed by quick breaks. Ricky Miller has been outstanding since he arrived but the last two games have shown the occasional vulnerability and mistakes in his game, we can't expect him to hold the defence for ninety minutes every week.
Clearly we are not where we wanted to be at this stage of the season and it worth remembering we are only four games in, you would also imagine that teams will start dropping points as injuries and suspensions start to kick in. However, things could very well get a lot worse before they get better. Next week we face a very difficult cup tie away at East of Scotland Premier Divison leaders Tranent and then an extremely difficult run of four league games which we will do well to get anything from.
TEAMS:BERWICK RANGERS: Sean Brennan, Ciaran Brian, Jack Cook (Kieran Jack 73m), Kevin Waugh, Ricky Miller, Cammy Lumsden, Lewis Barr, Ali Forster, Daryl Healy, Yaw Osei (Dan Purves 59m), Euan Smith (C) (Ciaren Chalmers 63m)
Subs not used: Gary Windram, Ali Smith, Jack Wright, Ryan Kidd (GK)
GALA FAIRYDEAN ROVERS: Fraser Morton, Levi Kinchant, Alex Chingwalu, Ben Herdman, Lewis Grant, Niall Kelly, Yafa Mendes, Scott Taylor-MacKenzie, Alan McRitchie, (Phil Addison 85m), Mark Berry, Jack Cowan (Stuart Noble 63m)
Subs not used: Kieran Ainslie
GOALS: Daryl Healy (6m) (BRFC)
Scott Taylor-MacKenzie (19m) (GFR)
Jack Cowan (27m) (GFR)
Daryl Healy (31m) (BRFC)
BOOKINGS: Ali Forster
Referee: Simon MacLean
Assistant Referee: Gary Callachan
Assistant Referee: Dale Kerr