Berwick Rangers travel to Gayfield this Saturday to play Arbroath in the William Hill Scottish Cup. The game has an added extra for Fifer, Myles Allan, as the first-team coach of Berwick Rangers comes up against Red Lichties boss and current work colleague Dick Campbell.
Allan felt the Borderers did well in a tough BetFred Cup group:
“Being honest, the results didn’t necessarily reflect the performances because we only got one point – which came against Edinburgh City although we ultimately lost out on penalties. We had three single-goal defeats against Morton, Queens Park and Motherwell, too. The performances were credible, particularly against the two full-time sides. When we played Motherwell away, we held them until the 83rd minute or thereabouts – nobody likes losing but I felt we played exceptionally well.
The most disappointing result was against Edinburgh City because we felt we were more than capable of picking up the full points against a team from our own league. Similarly to the league matches we have since played against them, they showed then they aren’t an easy team to play against and they have a number of very good players. We were going into the group-stages with realistic expectations as it is really, really, difficult to go into those matches so early on in the season against higher league, full-time, opposition and get through so we were hoping it would set us up nicely for our League Two campaign, more than anything else.”
The club this summer went down the route of bringing in a host of young professionals, alongside the handful of experienced squad members retained by the League Two side. The group had to gel quickly.
“I think the Motherwell game is case in point: we lost Pat Scullion to injury in the Queens Park game [the previous match in the BetFred Cup group stage], so, we had to play Oliver Fleming and Kevin Waugh as our two central defenders – they are both teenagers. They came up against a side who have started the season really, really, well so it is a credit to those guys alongside the others such as Andrew Irving who have continued with their good form and put in some really impressive performances for us so far this term. The lads we have signed are really relishing the challenge of playing first team football.”
Unfortunately for Berwick, John Coughlin was to lose his job before August was out, leading to the appointment of Robbie Horn.
“Our performance against Clyde [on the opening day of the season] wasn’t great. We rode our luck at times but it was obviously great to get a win to start the season. The performance against Stirling the following week was well below what we were expecting: we just didn’t defend well at all on the day. A heavy defeat is never good for confidence but then we had the Kilmarnock Under-20’s match midweek to make amends in the Irn-Bru Cup. It was a decent enough performance against Killie on the night but it was their Under-20’s so you do need to take that into account too.
Two heavy league defeats in a row are difficult for any manager to get through. It is never nice seeing a manager losing their job and it isn’t easy when it is someone you have worked closely with. The players were disappointed with the way they played in those two games and it was difficult for most of them to see John lose his job. Personally, I was disappointed to see John go as he helped me and supported me a lot in his time at Shielfield Park, but, ultimately it is a results-driven business and the Board of Directors are in place and are there to make decisions based on that.
We are now bringing a degree of consistency into our performance which is proven by the number of goals we have conceded over the last four or five matches. We now need to find that balance going forward as we aren’t creating enough chances – or certainly as many as we would like. It is a difficult balance to get, as well, as if you look at it from a defensive point of you, if you don’t concede goals, you won’t lose games, however, from a spectator’s point of view they would rather we scored more goals as well; that is now the difficult part for us to try and get right.”
How does Allan feel the opening quarter has gone?
“I think we’ve done OK, but it could have been better. Each team wants to be up at the top of the league and there isn’t much between the ten sides on any given day. I genuinely feel that any team can beat another. I will look at the results at 5pm on a Saturday and I can honestly say I am never surprised at any of the results, regardless who has won. It is so tight and there is so little between the sides. There are so many little margins which can decide matches and at this stage of the season, a wee mistake can cost you a vital three points as a win can sometimes take you up two or three places so you are never able to relax.”
To reach the William Hill Scottish Cup Third Round, against League One’s Arbroath, the Wee Gers had to defeat fellow League Two side Annan Athletic in the previous round.
“Like every team who enters every competition, you want to get as far as you can so it was great to get through against Annan. From a club perspective, the further we can get, the better it is financially. From a player’s perspective, it is about the excitement a big draw could bring. When you play against teams who you don’t normally play against, it keeps the interest going for the fans and for the club as a whole. Every game is a massive match for us – when we wake up on a Saturday morning we know how tough a challenge we have in front of us but we enjoy that side of the sport.
Arbroath have done phenomenally well under Dick [Campbell, Arbroath’s manager]. They have a fantastic squad at Gayfeld; they have some excellent individual players such as Bobby Linn and Ryan McCord. Their defence is excellent, plus if you add in the likes of [Gavin] Swankie, [Danny] Denholm and Tam O’Brien in to the mix, you see how much quality and experience they have within their ranks. It will be a tough match for us; I work beside him too, so that adds a different dimension to things also!
There is football chat in our office every day and I have already told Dick that he is best concentrating on the league and to forget the cup as that is maybe an unnecessary distraction for him but he wasn’t buying it!! The banter is good as we have Iain Campbell in beside us as well who plays with Montrose so these kinds of things definitely add a bit of spice to proceedings.”
Ahead of Saturday’s game, Berwick have a match tonight against a Rangers XI in Stevie Notman’s testimonial.
“In my 2 or 3 years at the club, Stevie has been a model of consistency and professionalism,” concludes Allan. “He sets a high standard for himself and deserves his recognition this evening.”
For anyone interested in going to the match, you can Pay at the Gate with prices set at £10 for Adults and £5 for Concessions/Children. The match will kick off at 19:45 at Shielfield Park.