Updated: Sep 9, 2019
SCOTTISH LOWLAND LEAGUE
SATURDAY 31 AUGUST 2019
BERWICK RANGERS 1 CIVIL SERVICE STROLLERS 3
The Dream Team entered this game on the back of a first league victory on Tuesday night at Edinburgh University while CSS were getting an outstanding away win at East Kilbride which had lifted them up to fifth in the table.
Manager Little dropped a few surprises with his team selection and several changes from Tuesday's game. Sean Brennan was back in goal, while dropping out were Ciaran Brian, Ali Forster and Cammy Lumsden to make way for Ciaren Chalmers, Ali Smith and Yaw Osei.
The changes clearly meant some change in the formation and I'm not entirely sure any of us are clear as to what the formation actually was - I've seen suggestions it was a back five, three in midfield and two up front, I thought it was a back three with five in midfield and two up front. Either formation begging the question of why we were playing three notional strikers What was clear was that Euan Smith had moved out from the centre of midfield to a wide role and that Grant Rose seemed to be sitting just in front of midfield and behind the normal striking role. Chalmers and Cook were effectively playing wide centre halves. There was also some disappointment in seeing Ali Forster missing out as he has steadily been improving and becoming more influential as the games have progressed.
The main reason I thought that we had switched to three at the back was the way CSS lined up initially which appeared to be with no forwards and with Alieu Faye sitting quite deep. In some ways I can see how that would make sense as their approach would appear to be get the ball wide and midfielders forward in support. Theoretically a wide spread back three and a congested midfield could counter that.
We started brightly enough and on the front foot and opened the scoring on 16 minutes. Ricky Miller launched one of his superb cross field passes from just inside the CSS half picking out Kevin Waugh who cut into the box and drove the ball across the six yard box for Lewis Barr to slide it into the net. Sadly that was to be as good as it got for the rest of the afternoon.
We only held the lead for a few minutes when a catalogue of defensive errors led to Matthew Cunningham slotting the ball into an empty net. A decent passing move saw the ball come out to our left where Kevin Waugh completely mistimed his challenge and was overpowered and beaten. What looked like a fairly aimless long ball into out box was then completely messed up by Miller, Chalmers and Brennan allowing Cunningham who had given the defenders a five yard start to nip in and poke it away from Brennan, rounding him and putting it into the empty net from the side of the six yard box despite Cook and Ali Smith chasing to the line.
The heads seemed to drop immediately and CSS also changed their formation slightly with Faye moving further forward and seeming to constantly find himself in space and able to move the ball around with ease. As on Tuesday night the bet player on the pitch was clearly an opposition player. Faye has a beguiling languid style and keeps it simple, at times he looks like Bambi on ice. He also has the skinniest legs I have ever seen on a footballer.
The visitors took the lead in the 68th minute when a simple passing move cut us apart ease. Hodge picking the ball up with between Ricky Miller and Ciaren Chalmers, turning and beating Miller before leaving Chalmers on his knees as he slipped the ball through to Cammy Muirhead who had timed his run to perfection to pick up it and place it through the on rushing Brennan's legs. Another absolute defensive disaster.
The third CSS goal in the 75th minute came from Berwick free kick on the left halfway inside the CSS half. A weak free kick along the ground into the box was easily picked up by a CSS defender who tried to play it to Faye, an attempted challenge on him left him on the ground but the ball broke to Muirhead just outside the centre circle and he played a lovely lofted ball for Hodge to chase, with Cook isolated he held back from Hodge rather than commit to a challenge and Hodge was able to pick out Muirhead who had outrun three chasing Berwick defenders pick the ball up and stroke it home. If he hadn't then Ballantyne would as he had the the whole of the right of our box to himself.
Strollers could easily have had more goals with Brennan making a couple of decent saves. While we never looked like scoring any more, we carried little threat and our dead balls were appalling. Once again Dan Purves looked our most dangerous attacking option when he came on. Conditions weren't great with a strong wind but that had nothing to do with the outcome.
I didn't expect an easy game as CSS are clearly a decent side - last season's finishing position and this reason's results showed that - but I did expect us to compete and to at least make life difficult for them but we failed on both counts. I really don't think that the team changes or tactical changes helped. There were several occasions where players were pointing and arguing. I've said before that I think we look exposed don the right at times but this definitely wasn't the solution.
It really is a case of back to the drawing board for next Saturday, I've seen Gala twice this season and don't be fooled by their league position, they have some decent players and are quick on the counter attack - it could be argued the one thing they really lack is a goal scorer.
TEAMS:BERWICK RANGERS: Sean Brennan, Ciaren Chalmers (Gary Windram 82m), Kevin Waugh, Jack Cook, Ricky Miller, Euan Smith (C), Lewis Barr, Ali Smith (Cammy Lumsden 65m), Daryl Healy, Grant Rose (Dan Purves 65m), Yaw Osei
Subs not used: Gary Windram, Kieran Jack, Ciaran Brian, Ryan Kidd (GK)
CIVIL SERVICE STROLLERS: Stuart Burnside, Craig Newall, Scott Main, Kyle Fee, Alieu Faye, Matthew Cunningham, Mark McConnell (C), Callum Yeats, Ian Ballantyne, Jack Hodge, Cammy Muirhead
Subs not used: Josh Morris, Jonathan Devers, Scott Clapperton, Ross Guthrie, Andy Mair
GOALS: Lewis Barr (16m) (BRFC)
Matthew Cunningham (18m) (CSS)
Cammy Muirhead (68m, 75m) (CSS)
BOOKINGS: Ricky Miller
Referee: Frazer Bushell
Assistant Referee: Brent Falconer
Assistant Referee: Jack Frame