Make or Break? – Berwick Rangers – PearceyPlays #FM19 Journeyman Part 175 – OS4 C2 S3 – February 2022

Will February 2022 make or break Berwick’s 2021/22 season? With games versus 1st and 2nd and a Scottish Cup tie versus 3rd-in-the-Premiership Hearts all within 7 days its massively important to our season as a whole.

It’s going to be tough – 5 away games in the last 8 in March & April.

We’re almost straight into the crunch Airdrie game, but before then a couple of bits.

Cammy Palmer in the League 1 Team of the Week.

Dynamics are going well. Cohesion is currently Average, looking to get that up to good as we will all need to be on the same page to have a chance at promotion.

1st February 2022 – Airdrie (H) – Ladbrokes League 1

We welcome 2nd-placed Airdrie, unbeaten in 6 games to a Shielfield Park that hasn’t seen a Berwick loss in over 3 months (12 games unbeaten overall).

Tom Sutherland gets his chance on the left as an Inside Forward, Sean plays as an AF, MacPherson in as a BBM, the rest of the side picks itself. Airdrie go with a 4-4-1-1.

FT Berwick 1 (Mitchell 36) Airdrie 0 Att 636 (99 Away)

Quiet early doors, though they have 5 players already under 80% condition. Before a highlight Slaven is off with a groin injury, Mitchell on in his place. Very even, only 2 highlights by the 35th minute. Then the breakthrough, and it all came from George Mitchell. Coming deeper a gets a nice pass from palmer to feet, pivots (near the half-way line at this point) and sprays a lovely ball out wide to MacIver. MacIver takes it about 15 yards before finding Mitchell with a low cross (Who has Usain’ed it) 8 yards out for a tap in, no defender withing 5 yards of him. 1-0 Berwick. Massive. Airdrie feel more in charge from the highlights though. Mitchell and MacIver combine again just before half time, Allan in the Airdrie net tipping round the post. 1-0 Berwick at Half Time, very tight indeed.

Tom Sutherland hasn’t been in the game, so I’ve asked him to roam. And he nearly scores in the first 30 seconds, first saved by Allan, then hitting the post. Really hope that doesn’t come back to haunt us. 56 gone, MacPherson is looking shattered. Davidson on, swapping with Palmer, who is now playing as a Carillero. Still amazingly tight. Last 15, Dow on for Sutherland. The DR for Airdrie is on 55% condition, so getting running Cammy 🙂 Their Keeper is definitiely keeping them in it, saving point-blank (again) , this time from Dow, before Mitchell scores (Unfortunately offside by a yard). 5 left of normal time. Just going into injury time (3 minutes) and we look the stronger – They have 3 guys with condition under 53%. And it’s done – a vital 1-0 win.

Only a couple of games this Tuesday evening as we go top on goal difference, Albion Rovers with a game in hand. We play them in our next league game (12th Feb) in another game where a win could be pivotal for our (and their) season.

Sean Slaven – Groin Strain – 3-4 Weeks – George Mitchell will be getting his chance.

A near-capacity (20,099) crowd expected for the Hearts game 🙂

5th February 2022 – Hearts (A) – Scottish Cup 5th Round

Tynecastle, Home of Heart of Midlothian F.C.

We make the 66 mile, 80 minute journey to Tynecastle to play Hearts in what is essentially a free hit – nothing is expected of us versus a team currently 3rd in the Premiership, so we can go and give it a bloody good go with no pressure.

Back to the central midfield that has been (in my eyes) my best 3 – Palmer, Davidson & Turner. Mitchell up top, most probably for the next month at least and Dow back on the left wing – hoping the wingers can be a nuisance. Hearts, with a smattering of internationals, go with a 4-4-2 – Rarely play against 4-4-2’s so should be interesting.

FT Hearts 2 (Clare 83, Ikpeazu 89) Berwick 1 (MacIver 74) Att 19,480 (345 Away)

Not used to playing in a stadium that has a big screen 🙂 Nearly a Hearts goal in the 4th minute, Bow throwing himself in front of the shot. Not complete doom and gloom, we’ve had a few attacks. And at the half hour we are at 54% possession! It’s absolutely teeming down as we approach half time. And we go in 0-0. Again showing we are very difficult to score against.

Drawn the lines back slightly, Cautious but slightly higher tempo, see if we can get a Counter or 2. Nothing much happening in the first 20 minutes, Sinclair with a couple of good saves. Martin on for Mitchell in the 68th, as a Shadow Striker. Then the unthinkable happened… 74th minute, free kick dead centre, 35 yards out. Gerry Martin dinks a ball just over the Hearts defence, all a bit static, MacIver is there and taps it in on the half volley, Keeper almost expecting the offside. 1-0 Berwick!!!! OK, expect an onslaught. McManus on for Davidson, Twin Carilleros. Then bollocks, 1-1, A Hearts break (Just as I was reorganising), a great slide tackle by Turner and somehow the ball gets to Clare, who fires home from 10 yards. Going positive and extremely wide for the last 5, noticed their fullbacks are shattered. But it was 2-1 in the 89th, Ikpeazu put through by Clare. Fuck off game. Attack!!! And a chance, last minute of injury time, McManus through, saved by the Keeper. It finished 2-1, feel a real opportunity at an FM has gone there.

Airdrie & Dumbarton both beaten 3-1, the usual suspects all winning.

We receive £13k for getting to the 5th round, plus around £200k in gate receipts, putting us back over £500k in the black 🙂 Our best balance this save!!

And a massive day in the league for us with Albion Rovers losing at Montrose – top by 2 goals, 11 games left, and we can start working on opening up a gap over the next couple of months, try to make April more enjoyable and less squeaky-bum 🙂 And a record low points total should win it as well!! To get to 72 points we’d need to win all our last 11 games…

Right – Saturday football only from now to the end of the season. Should be able to put our best team out at all times.

Our U18’s beat Inverness Athletic Res. 3-0, goals from Alex Gourlay and a brace from James Doolan.

Simon Boyd (19yo DC, 1* CA) has gone to Whitehill Welfare (10th in the Lowland League) until the end of the season.

Our Ressies drew 1-1 with Forfar Res – Cameron McGinn with the goal.

Ross’s Sinclair & MacIver, and Bazza Maguire in the League 1 Team of the Week.

12th February 2022 – Albion Rovers (A) – Ladbrokes League 1

A top-of-the-table clash today as we travel to Coatbridge in North Lanarkshire to face 2nd placed Albion Rovers, a shock 2nd where the season preview had them as 100-1 and 9th favourite for the title. We’re currently showing 3rd @ 4-1.

Palmer & Leitch start in the middle of the park as Davidson has been banned for Yellows, everybody else as you were. Albion Rovers start with a 4-5-1.

FT Albion Rovers 1 (Stirling 68) Berwick 2 (MacIver 45, Dow 56) Att 1,131 (78 Away)

It’s a drizzly 6C in Coatbridge this February afternoon. Berwick in their light blue shirt & socks, dark blue shorts combo, Albion Rovers in their garish Yellow and Red. Albion very nearly with the first goal, Maguire again caught in possession, Sinclair making a nice 1-on-1 save from Stirling. All pretty tight. Then just before Half Time a really long highlight – You know the ones that are going to result in a goal. Firstly we go on a good counter, but it’s headed away, starting a Rovers counter. Dunsmore ends up breaking that up before we counter again. The ball ends up with Mitchell, who’s come deep, spraying the ball wide to Dow. His cross is cut out, straight to Turner on the edge, who taps to MacIver in space to his right, and he fires home his 10th of the season from the edge of the area. A massive goal just before the break. 1-0 Berwick at HT.

Almost caught out by a long ball in the first 15 seconds of the half – lovely slide tackle by Maguire denying Sinclair a shot. And another massive goal, 2-0 in the 56th minute. A Mackie outswinging corner headed back inside by MacIver at the back post. Cammy Dow, all 5ft 7in of him, marking the Keeper, gets a yard and flicks in a header. 2-1 in the 68th minute, a free header for Ben Stirling from a corner. Poor marking. McManus on for Palmer for the last 15. MacPherson for Turner for the last 10, McManus to DLP(S) in Centre Mid, MacPherson as a BWM. Gerry Martin on for Mitchell for the last 5. And we see it out. 2-1, a massive win in the context of the season.

A 3-point lead at the top with 10 games left, it’s firmly in our hands now. Airdrie dropping points at home to bottom-placed Stenhousemuir is huge. Dumbarton look like the team to watch, and we have them away in mid-March. Forfar next up at home; it will be a tricky one as they are a bit inconsistent – 4-1 win v Montrose (All be it v 10 men for the majority of the match), 0-0 v Edinburgh City & a 2-1 loss v Alloa their last 3 matches. We’re now unbeaten in 12 League matches.

Our U18’s beat St. Cuthbert’s Res 4-1, goals from Conor McLaughlin, Connor McManus and a brace from Gerry Martin.

Ross MacIver makes the League 1 Team of the Week.

Our Reserves beat Eyemouth Utd Res 4-1, goals from Lewis Barr, Thomas Dempsie & a brace from George Mitchell.

19th February 2022 – Forfar (H) – Ladbrokes League 1

A toughie today versus 7th-Placed Forfar. They have a decent squad and look good going forward. They have just signed a Filipino international (Yrik Galantes) who I had a look at, but he wanted silly money, £500/wk (Signed for £95/wk for Forfar…………..) who looks like a steal.

Davidson back in as the CM(A), Palmer to Carillero duties. McGinn gets a chance up top as a Pressing Forward, hopefully providing for others. Mackie to WB(A), Dow to W(S) to try and make use of Mackie’s new trait (Hugs Line). Forfar go with a 4-4-1-1.

FT Berwick 4 (Palmer 2, 80, Dow 5, MacIver 70) Forfar 3 (Galantes 3, Hilson 77, McGowan 90+3) Att 588 (54 Away)

Guess what – it’s raining!! But it’s a belting start from Berwick, 1-0 in the first 2 minutes. A Mackie corner cleared, some good passing across the front of the Forfar box (10 behind the ball), Turner lays the ball off to palmer, who unleashes a powerful daisy-cutter from 22 yards just inside the right-hand upright. A brilliant strike and his 4th goal of the season. A kick-off highlight, and its 1-1!! A deep cross isn’t cleared, the ball gets to Galantes and he scores well from 12 yards across Sinclair. Poor. OK, it’s going to be one of those, is it. 2-1 Berwick in the 5th minute. A Mackie free kick crossed into the middle, a poor headed clearance and Dow is on the spot to volley home from the penalty spot. 3 goals in 276 seconds. I’ll be amazingly surprised if it finishes that way. That said it goes a bit quiet after the mad first 5. 2-1 Berwick at Half Time.

Very quiet start to the half. McGinn hasn’t done much, Martin on for him in the 57th. But it’s that man MacIver again!! I was thinking of subbing him off 🙂 70th minute, Palmer wins a clearance from the Forfra Keeper, Martin gets it and unleashes Dow on the left wing. His cross is pinpoint and MacIver is there to tap in a side foot half volley at the far post. 3-1 Berwick. A massive goal. But its not over, 3-2 in the 77th. Andy Turner dispossessed well into the Forfar half, McGowan running it a long way before a cross-field ball puts in Hilson, who scores his 15th of the season. Lingering on the ball a bit too long. Turner coming off after that, MacPherson on as a BWM to steady the ship, Davidson as an AP(A) now. No need to worry though, back to a 2 goal lead in the 80th minute, and its a thunderbastard. A Mackie throw-in ends up with Dow, who’s initial cross is fumbled away by Peggie, straight to Gerry Martin. He crosses, is headed clear again by Peggie, straight to Palmer, who absolute cracks on on the volley into the roof of the net from 15 yards. Almost top bins. 4-2 Berwick. Last sub, McManus for Davidson. 6 minutes of normal time left. And its not all over. 88th minute, Palmer gets a straight red for what looks like a lunge on Butterworth…. Maybe a yellow. 90 seconds left of injury time and it’s 4-3, a Forfar break, McGowan finishing it. But we see it out, a 4-3 win, not pretty defensively but another 3 points!

4 points clear, Albion Rovers drop back to 5th on the back of 3 losses in a row, Airdrie taking their spot as nearest chasers. Edinburgh City beating Dumbarton is also massive as Dumbarton fall back to 6th, just 7 points behind us though!!! The play-offs are not a formality yet, let alone winning the league. One round of matches left. Morton at home next up, huge for both our seasons!

I’m appealing Palmer’s red card; my Ass. Man. thinks it was as harsh as it looked. Only ever had one of these rescinded I think – that said its only our second red this season, so I’ve not had many to appeal 🙂

Our U18’s won 5-0 against Nairn County Res – Goals from Jack Leitch(2), George Mitchell & Tom Sutherland(2).

Ross Sinclair and the 2 Cammy’s, Dow & Palmer, in the League 1 Team of the Week.

Our Reserves beat Newton Stewart Res 6-0, goals from Jack Leitch, Thomas Dempsie, George Mitchell(2), Archie Gardiner and an o.g.

New 1 year contract offered – got the % Compensation down to 50%, so if a big(ish) club comes in for me next season (if we are promoted I’m expecting it to be very tough, back to backs tend to be purely as your reputation as a team doesn’t progress fast enough to get the level of player you need) It won’t cost more than £20k to get me even if it’s early on in the season. Contract renewed 🙂 Hoping we get a little morale bounce for the Morton game as well (Not that Morale is bad – Dynamics are good but we have 7 players looking to leave due to game time – my bad, the squad is too big and i’ll be looking to cull this summer.

26th February 2022 – Morton (H) – Ladbrokes League 1

The two form teams in the division slug it out today as we play 3rd place Morton (DWWDW last 5 v DDWWW for us) as we look to make it 14 games unbeaten in league football. Morton have 2 starting centre-mids out, we have Cammy Palmer suspended.

Martin starts up top as an AF – he’s definitely got something about him that demands more game time than I’ve been able to give him. MacPherson starts as a BBM (He prefers that to Carillero for some reason) with Palmer banned for his straight red (he’s only 1 Yellow away from suspension as well, so joy). More of the same please boys. Morton start with a filthy 4-3-3 – not played against one of them yet this season, and they’ve only done it once, a 2-2 v Edinburgh City… Lets go down the wings at them! Could be a weird one.

FT Berwick 3 (Dow 20, Martin 29, 37) Morton 2 (Bowers 49, Oliver 88) Att 871 (198 Away)

OK, I can’t remember a game where it wasn’t raining… Morton looking the brighetr in the first 10, with a couple of shots. They seem more than happy to let us have the ball. And the breakthrough, just before 20:00 came up on the board. Davidson spots a Gerry Martin run and pings a looping ball over the back line. Martin controls beautifully, takes a touch and hits a shot that is saved well by Laidlaw. However Cammy Dow is in the right position at the back post to tap in the parry – 1-0 Berwick. Dow should have made it 2 in the 28th, his shot saved point-blank by Laidlaw. But from the resulting throw-in it was 2-0. We are getting acres out wide. This time Turner picks out Dunsmore after a clearance, and his whipped back-post cross found Gerry Martin, who volleyed home with aplomb. Great play lads. The wide play is dragging their midfielders all over the place. And calamity in the Morton box! MacIver pings a left-footed cros in from deep, which is intercepted by McInnes. His touch is very heavy though, and Gerry Martin nips in between him and the Keeper to poke home his 2nd of the game. 3-0 Berwick, 37 gone. More than I could ever have hoped for. Berwick in complete control, 3-0 at HT (Note – don’t change formations on the fly, because this can happen)

Morton come out a lot brighter at the start of the 2nd half, scoring in the 49th minute, a deep cross by McInnes finding Bowers unmarked at the back post, and he tapped home. Complacent defending. We got a 4th in the 63rd minute, a Bow header tapped in by Davidson from a Mackie free kick, but Davidson was adjudged offside… Looked like an arm offside maybe. 68 gone, Leitch on for MacPherson, Carillero. 76th Minute, McLaughlin on for MacIver. Last 5, McManus for Davidson. Then a bit of a shock, 3-2, 88th minute, a long ball over finds Johnstone, who breaks the offside trap, carries into the area and his cross finds Oliver unmarked at the back post. FFS, we’ve bossed this game and now its squeaky-bum time. But we see it out. Another win, 14 unbeaten in the league. Happy days.

8 games left now, still a 4 point gap back to Airdrie, who beat bottom placed Alloa. Albion Rovers, 6 points off of us, get a win at home to Forfar. Edinburgh & Dumbarton also dropped points. And 871 marks our biggest home league attendance of the season by just under 200.

Just coming up to the end of the month now, a few bits before we wrap up (Think we might not be too long for a youth intake as well!)

Our U18’s lost 3-1 to Tranent U18’s, James Doolan with the goal.

Our Reserves beat Falkirk Res 1-0, Tom Sutherland with the goal.

Well, that was a pretty good month all told.

No losses in the League since October, and only the only blot being the cup game versus Hearts in the last 4 months. March should be pretty easy; games versus 9th, 6th and bottom respectively – I’ll be disappointed if we don’t get at least 7 points; However Dumbarton areawkward and bottom teams being overpowered. 9 points would put us pretty close to the title with 15 points then left to play for. Lastly find the key highlights from the month’s matches below. See you soon.

Key Highlights – February 2022

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