On Saturday, we faced Spartans in the 1st round of the Football Nations Qualifying Cup. I’m still getting used to the Lowland League and the host of cup competitions that we will now be involved in following our relegation. I wasn’t entirely sure on what to expect from the game, especially considering we were up against the current holders.
I didn’t go to the Rangers Colts game in the Challenge Cup but heard that we were unfortunate and made a good account of ourselves. I’d also read good things about our new signing, Ricky Miller, and was looking forward to seeing him in action.
We got to the ground a little later than usual after making a couple of stops at the Brown Bear and the Barrells Ale House prior to finishing up at the Black and Gold for a couple of beers. The town felt quieter than usual and that was echoed in the Ducket. Not many Spartans fans made the trip and it was mainly the die hards from a Berwick perspective.
It was blowing a gale but the sun was out and the rain stayed away. The Spartans starting 11 included ex ‘Gers Aaron Murrell and Dean Hoskins, whilst Scott Maxwell and David Greenhill were on the bench. Kevin Haynes led the team as Yano was away at a wedding.
Yaw Osei served the first game of his two match ban, due to the Gretna game being postponed. The second game will be served in the first round of the Challenge Cup next season. There was also a welcome return to the squad for Euan Smith, who has had a tough couple of weeks away from football. Sending his family my best wishes.
Berwick took the lead after 25 mins through Lewis Barr. Healy picked the ball up around 35 yards from goal and picked out Ciaran Brian on the corner of the six yard box, who in turn headed it across to Barr to tap in from close range. At the time, I thought it was offside. From watching it back, it is much closer than I initially thought. The linesman is right up with play so would have had a much better view than I did.
Barr had his best game for a while and was involved in most of the good things we did; composed on the ball, a threat going forward and showing tenacity in midfield, it was great to see. He never fails to give less than 100 percent and I was happy to see that we had retained him in preseason.
It felt like we controlled the game from then on. Ricky Miller looks a fantastic signing and is quickly establishing himself as a fan favourite. He has won back to back social media man of the match awards for his two starts so far. We look a dramatically better side with him in the team.
The sponsors man of the match, Daryl Healy, grabbed our second of the game with just under 25 minutes to go. Jack Cook knocked a ball forward from just in front of the tunnel area and after a miscommunication between Mickie Allen and Blair Tolmie allowing the ball to bounce, Healy beat ‘keeper Blair Carswell to head into the empty net from the edge of the box.
Dean Hoskins was harshly sent off late on for Spartans and Barr had an effort that came back from his namesake but the ‘Gers saw out the remaining time with minimal fuss. Regardless of the competition, the monkey is off our back and we have recorded our first win since March. Not since November have we been able to celebrate a Saturday night with a win. Here’s hoping we kick on from here and get some points on board in the league after the cup game with Newtongrange Star on Saturday. The team is beginning to gel and we still have some big players to come back into the side. The signs are good and there’s plenty of reason for optimism. Amazing what a win can do!
I’ll be missing the next couple of games (Newtongrange on Saturday and Edinburgh University a week on Tuesday) as I’m off to Tunisia for a week. I’ll be back just in time for the visit of Civil Service Strollers on 31st August.