We've Lost That Losing Feeling*
Updated: Aug 29, 2019
FOOTBALL NATION QUALIFYING CUP FIRST ROUND
SATURDAY 17 AUGUST 2019
BERWICK RANGERS 2 THE SPARTANS FC 0
And so it came to pass that on 17 August 2019 Berwick Rangers would finally win a game after a long, long drought and keep a clean sheet for good measure.
After an enforced week off due to the Summer deluges we returned to Shielfield for yet another cup game. This time it was our debut in the Football Nation Qualifying Cup and there was a sharp intake of breath when the draw gave us The Spartans FC at home with the winners to face a trip to BFKH. A sunny bit blustery day welcomed the small crowd to Shielfield and we were greeted with the welcome, for all sorts of reasons, sight of Euan Smith warming up and being named as a substitute.
We again lined up with three at the back which is looking like the preferred option with Ricky Miller at the heart of the defence. Spartans arrived with a few familiar faces in their line up and on the back of a steady start to the season. The early part of the game was fairly even with neither side really having many chances. Considering it was only his second game it was encouraging to see how well Miller has taken to organising the defence and being a leader on the pitch. His very presence on the pitch has boosted the confidence of those around him in the defence and also in front of him. While his ability to deliver a decent pass has given us far more options going forward, he can turn defence into attack very quickly (whether we have the forwards to always take advantage of that is another story). The early stages did show some decent passing and moving with Healy heading wide from such a move. On 24m the dead lock would be broken Ciaran Brian meeting a cross from the right and heading it across the goal from the back post for Lewis Barr to poke. Possible question of offside about the goal but having watched it since I would say that Barr is definitely on when Brian plays it back across, but it's hard to tell if Brian was on for the initial cross. Not that it matters a hoot as the goal was give.
With Miller helping keep things tight at the back and the midfield actually showing they could get stuck in and be competitive physically we managed to not concede a goal straight away and created a few decent half chances, Lewis Barr again proving a bit of a handful for the opposition. Half-time and we were reasonably content with a 1 - 0 lead over a Spartans side that had huffed and puffed but not really created much or threatened (it would appear that it was a bit too windy for them and the grass a bit too long). There was always the worry they would up their game and the fear of 16 year old wonder-kid Nicky Reid coming on and giving us the run around.
Spartans started the second half with a bit more intent but never really troubled Brennan as the defence held firm. As a sign of things to come Healy got between two defenders and challenged the keeper to a long punt forward causing him to fumble it to the feet of Rose who shot tamely at the recover Carswell. There would be no mistake the next time a long ball went in and Healy took advantage of some confusion between Carswell and his defence and steal in to the head the ball home from the edge of the box. 2 - 0 with 25 minutes to go, was this going to be the moment that run came to end?
Spartans had a couple of scrambled half chances but never really looked scoring and they faced an uphill challenge when for the second week in a row they had a man sent off. This time it was Dean Hoskins who got first dibs in the showers sent off to the bemusement of everyone in the ground for what seemed a completely innocuous challenge on Healy as they both chased a ball over the top. As Berwick fans jokingly shouted for a red for preventing a goal scoring opportunity the referee stunned us all by producing it and the debate turned to whether he had seen us play recently when defining goal scoring opportunity.
Spartans did bring on the wonder-kid but he never really got a chance to get into the game, what with the grass being up to his knees. He did show one glimmer of his ability though when he did well to dig the ball out from right on his toes to get a shot in which Brennan held comfortably. Brenan did well to tip a long range effort over the bar and there was time for Lewis Barr to smack one of the woodwork from a tight angle.
That was it and we were left with the long forgotten feeling of applauding a winning side.
It's a slow process, as is to be expected, but there are clear signs of a team gradually coming together. There is no doubt Miller has made a huge (that is not a comment on his size) difference both in terms of organising and leading the defensive line but also in his ability to set up moves. Brian and Chalmers and both starting to settle in well and with Euan Smith back and getting a run out yesterday we look more solid and competitive. Lewis Barr is getting better every week and was my man of the match yesterday although he did fade a little in the second half, and I thought Ali Forster had a good game. I still have concerns about how vulnerable we are down the left and better teams may be more able to exploit that. Healy had one of his better games yesterday, putting himself about and being a nuisance but I'm remain unconvinced by the partnership with Rose. I'd like to see us get a Miller equivalent up front - an experienced striker who can help lead the line and bring the other two on.
It's a win though and his team need to learn how to win, it can only be good for them to get one under the belt. Spartans will be far from the hardest opposition we face this season, they were to be fair disappointing and a bit disjointed but we should take some credit for that because of the way we harried them and competed.
BERWICK RANGERS: Sean Brennan (C), Ciaran Brian (Ali Smith), Kevin Waugh, Jack Cook, Ricky Miller, Ciaren Chalmers, Lewis Barr, Ali Forster (Euan Smith), Daryl Healy (Dan Purves), Grant Rose, Cammy Lumsden
Subs not used: Gary Windram, Ryan Kidd (GK)
THE SPARTANS FC: Blair Carswell, Adam Corbett (C), Mickie Allan, Blair Tolmie, Dean Hoskins, Aaron Scott, Gregor Woods (Murray Hand), Ian McFarland, Aaron Murrell (Nicky Reid), Max Ashmore (Scott Maxwell), Blair Atkinson
Subs not used: Nicky Reid, David Greenhill, Scott Maxwell, Cameron, Murray Hand, Chris Peden (GK)
GOALS: Lewis Barr (24m)
Daryl Healy (64m)
BOOKINGS: Ali Forster (BER)
Cammy Lumsden (BER)
Euan Smith (BER)
SENT OFF: Dean Hoskins (75m) (TSFC)
Referee: Mike Roncone
Assistant Referee: Kevin Lindsay
Assistant Referee: Raymond Gordon
*At Least for Now