A mini bus is leaving Shielfield at 11:30am and i have a seat on it. I bumped into Graham Bell when walking from Spittal into Berwick and he asked if I was going to the game. i'm currently sitting outside Shielfield waiting. it's pouring with rain, snowing earlier and the speedway that was scheduled for tonight has been called off due to the weather. The game is still on at Annan, perhaps the weather is better there! it's over a 2 hour drive from here so it really could be sunshine but it's unlikely.
Well it was a 2 plus hour drive to Annan through the borders. The bus was driven by Dougie Watkin who regaled us with tales of the borders along the way. Sadly the windows were steamed up so i couldn’t actually see anything he was pointing out to us. Still he seemed to be having fun driving, cackling away every so often to himself..... the time seemed to pass quickly, we were chatting away about various things football and non football related. The weather was clearing up too. When we arrived Dougie dropped us off outside the ground and we went into the club bar. When in the ground I bought a steak pie for lunch and took my seat in the stand.
it was a bit of a frustrating game to be honest. A point is a point but we really should have pushed for 3. The team started with 1 striker and we were holding our own. The addition of another striker would have caused Annan real trouble and given us a real chance at 3 valuable points. Conceivably with the games left we could have caught Annan and finish above them in the table. That was not to be however. When the change came a striker for a striker was the change applied. The fans I was with weren’t happy. I think the team was selected and setup for a draw. Now a draw isn’t a bad result but I honestly think we could have won here. It’s a tough choice for a manager though. I’m sure he’s happy with 1 point rather than no points. But 3 would have been a real lift. Game over at 0-0 and back on the bus to dissect the game as all fans do. I’ll not be at the next home game on Tuesday night, I’m not even sure it will be on with the weather forecast. I’ll be down on Saturday for the Peterhead game. I’m cameraman that day and my dad will be my assistant.......
The day started with a 2 hour drive in the pouring rain. Ruth is away in London, Pippa and i would be making this trip. we arrive at lunchtime rain still falling. The rain cleared up around teatime so it was lookin good for the game.
Arrival at Shielfield.
We arrived at Shielfield at around 6:30pm. i was wanting to hand in a framed signed shirt for the newly created bar. the shirt was handed in and was appreciated. Pippa received lots of attention from everybody. We then took up our seat in the stand.
What a difference from the game at the weekend. The ball was on the floor and Berwick looked a different team. We had most of the game and it was a surprise when we went a goal down but we equalised only to lose another against the run of play. we finally managed another to bring it level but we had squandered at least 2 clear cut chances. It was a much improved performance and a credit to the team and to Robbie. After the game i headed down to the interview room. i'll be recording the next home game so i like to show my face. i also enjoy it, not many fans get an opportunity to get as close to the manager and players. all in all a good night, worth the trip and Pippa was as good as gold throughout.
The weekend started on Friday as we headed to Berwick. Myself, Ruth, Pippa and Gordon. We had a pit stop on the way at the first and last for lunch. A place where the burger turns out to be a huge double burger that even I could only just manage. Bellies filled it was down the road to Berwick. Bags etc deposited at the flat in Spittal and a walk into town, usual town stuff and a couple of pints. The evening entertainment would be Ian McMillan in Spittal. Gordon and I had seen him at the literary festival last year in the guild hall. We weren’t disappointed with the entertainment and Ian remembered us from the last time and a couple of tweets. He had a few football books for us!
Saturday is game day, after a few things.
game day and it starts with a meeting of the Supporters Trust. Gordon and i walk into town, Gordon has a wander around the town while I go to the Trust meeting. Ruth and Pippa will walk in a bit later and we will all meet for lunch. The Trust meeting was the usual, a bit of discussion on various topics. The biggest would be the pitchworks at the ground. The pitch needs som work, apparently about 9 inches below the playing surface there is a layer of compacted clay. This is one of the major reasons games are postponed. The surface water can’t drain away and the pitch soon becomes waterlogged. It also doesn’t help when it’s frosty. Meeting finished it was off for lunch and then off to Shielfield for Gordon and I. We arrived and had a pint in the new bar. I handed over some pictures for the fan wall and donated the signed shirt that I had “won” (highest bidder) in the Trust AGM.
I’ve never seen a game with so many long balls.. I have no idea what happened to the team. There was a full squad to pick from and I was hoping for a decent game. Edinburgh were there for the taking but Berwick seemed to have forgotten how to play. It was like watching school football. The ball was always in the air. Keeper kicks it out, striker heads it to midfield, midfield heads it to defender or back to striker.... and with the added excitement of at any point losing possession because each header was a 50/50 chance of winning the ball. The players also crowded the ball like school kids, several men battling in a small area as the rest of the park lies empty, desperate for a player to take up position and break free. We scored first though but again didn’t manage to hold on. We had a penalty waved away but again we can’t sit on decisions that have gone against us. We should have taken Edinburgh to the cleaners in this game. Still it’s a point on the board and with Cowdenbeath drawing it’s another game chalked off the calendar.
Berwick v Edinburgh City this Saturday and we want 3 points. Robbie Horn and his team have been improving, no doubt there. The squad is looking fitter and more committed. But we need 3 points from this upcoming game. We have only won 2 of the last 17 league games and the last home game we won was on 28/10/17. Both the games we have won were against Cowdenbeath. Cowdenbeath have now had a couple of good results and the gap at the bottom is closing. I don’t think they will catch us but the pressure is there. We do have some games in hand and we really need to make them count. We have had some close games and some dubious decisions against us but we have to move forward. I was under no real illusion that this season would be anything special, Robbie needs to get his team together and seems to have assembled a decent squad with the January additions. They are a better team to watch. There are now a few guys on contract for next season and hopefully a squad can be built around them. I’m hoping Sean Brennan will get a shout as keeper, he looked good last season when he stepped up to cover for injuries. He’s young too and hopefully he will do well. He’s been pretty good in the reserves and I think he deserves a chance at a start. McCrorie will be gone by then I’m sure, loan spell over. I could do with a win, it seems like forever since I saw them win away to Cowdenbeath and with all the postponed games it seems like forever since I’ve seen them play at all.
With Berwick away to Elgin this weekend i was off to Belfast to meet up with some friends. Ryan is in Belfast and he is the host for the weekend. I went over on the Friday afternoon from Edinburgh, Chris from Luton and John a bit later in the evening from Newcastle. Dinner and drinks was the order of the day for Friday and watching the mighty Larne FC v Lurgan Celtic the game for the Saturday.
when Saturday comes....
Ryan had his comprehensive plan for the Saturday.......
09:00 Showers. Breakfast (possibly out).
10:15 Escape Room.
11:30 Head to Larne, grabbing lunch on the way.
12:30 Watch Man Utd v Liverpool at my parents house.
15:00 Larne FC vs. Lurgan Celtic.
18:00 Arrive back at house.
18:30 Eat dinner. Play games.
Part of the program was an escape room, we bumbled our way through but failed. Running out of time on the last puzzle. I would recommend having a go at one of these, fun and team building. I would suggest not being knackered from a late night though. I think that impaired us somewhat. The trip to his parents house to watch th football was essentially to please his dad who has just bought an 85” 4K tv. His parents live in Larne and it was nice to see them again. Ryan’s dad was very happy to talk us through his setup, displaying his various 4K shows. It’s a bloody massive tv........
The game was subject to a pitch inspection at 11:30am god knows how it passed but it did. Heavy rain had been falling all day. We arrived and payed our entrance fee, £7. The first half was pretty even, no team really making progress although Larne did have a couple of chances. The rain was still falling though and the condition of the pitch already heavy and waterlogged was getting worse. With the Rain continuing to fall and cups of tea in hand (£1 for tea) the second half started. The mud bath ensued, the ball sticking under foot, passes stopping half way in the mud and everything you would expect from such conditions. Players slipping and sliding all over the place. Larne managed to handle this better than Lurgan and managed to score 2 goals. It could have been 3 but the shot managed to see the ball stuck in the mud just short of the line. Still it was entertaining if only for the conditions. The pitch looked in tatters at the final whistle. Berwick lost 3-0 away to Elgin, not ideal but i still have confidence in Robbie Horn and his squad. There was a few comments on twitter of the negative variety afterthe result, but it will take time for the squad to bed in and settle. Realistically any position other than bottom is a good start and we look to be well clear of that now.
Another Berwick game called off making it 4 so far this season. Surely though nobody can be critical of this game being postponed. The snow has hit hard, I’m currently at home in Fife having tried and failed to get to work in my 4x4 with winter tyres. Cars are currently stranded on the A1 between Berwick and Newcastle and the local community have rallied round to help. The swan centre is open as a respite stop and local cafes have been providing hot foot to the 60 people inside. A sensible call for this game. I’m not sure the rearranged game against Stenhousemuir on Tuesday will even go ahead.
understanding and perspective please!
A couple of the previous games that were called off came in for criticism on social media from some of the fans. A little understanding and perspective is required, it’s a part time club and relies on volunteer support for most things. I was up at the ground on a Friday night to help with the frost covers for one of the games that was finally called off. I happened to be in Berwick so I could offer my support. There was a tremendous effort a few weeks ago from volunteers clearing snow from the pitch. It’s often the same people volunteering too. It’s not surprising though, It’s difficult to get volunteers for anything, especially during the week. With a fan base of about 350 (fag packet calculation based on attendances) and a large percentage of that fan base in the senior category it’s slim pickings. A couple of games were called off by a referee saying it was unplayable, nothing the club can really do about that. Why don’t Berwick have proper frost covers? Well having looked at this myself the cost is more than you might think. £30k for a set of rain covers alone, frost covers coming in at £50k and that’s just for the covers, that doesn’t include the rollers for deployment that are often required to manage such heavy unwieldy covers. With the club posting a loss of nearly £90k the money simply isn’t there. Nobody wants the games to be called off, I can’t attend midweek games and the club will lose money due to lower attendances. It’s also not ideal for the players themself having to leave work to get to Shielfield for the game. Players can’t just simply turn up 10 minutes before kickoff like fans can. Luckily we’ve not had any postponed away games against Elgin or Peterhead, the players would probably have to take a day off work. perhaps something to think about before you vent your displeasure on social media.