From one enemy territory to another. After surviving our visit to Govan on Wednesday we ventured south, way down south for a visit to the only English side in the Scottish league. Berwick Rangers were elected into Scottish football some fifty years ago and their website proudly proclaims this to be on of the two things people know about the club – the other being a monumental cup win over Rangers in 1967. These days the club finds itself hanging rather grimly on to a play-off place in the 3rd division whilst their visitors Annan languish in mid-table.
We left at noon on a gloriously sunny winter’s day for the two hour journey out of Scotland. Initially the journey was rather forgettable until we joined the A1 south from Edinburgh and made our way through rolling hills still covered in snow and jutting coastlines where surfers basked in the afternoon sunshine and big waves. If you thinking surfing in the North Sea in February is brave enough take into consideration they were in waters with a nuclear power plant overlooking it. We soon reached the border where upon sight of the St George’s flags Kieran’s hangover suddenly dissipated and a proud sense of ‘home’ took over. Jamie and I could only look despairingly over our shoulders as the ‘Welcome to Scotland’ sign disappeared into the distance.
Berwick is an odd yet somewhat divertingly charming little town with a fascinating history given its position in the country – apparently it has changed hands between Scotland and England some 13 times in the distant past. Berwick Rangers' Shielfield Park is centred a few moments drive away from the town centre hidden within a housing estate. The football club shares its home with the local speedway group so the ground is similar in design to what we saw at Cowdenbeath – a large track separates the pitch from the crowd and the ground has a ‘bowl’ style. Unlike Cowdenbeath however the stadium doesn’t have the same oddities that I found endearing at the Fife side – instead it is fairly bland with one main stand and a small covered terracing section on the opposite side. The pitch itself has a distinct slope and was already quite cut up on arrival but given there had been several postponements on this day we were glad the game went ahead. Well that was until it actually kicked off.
The game was a scrappy and at times ugly affair, punctuated all too often by the referee’s whistle. Berwick seemed quite keen to push forward which was unsurprising after a recent 4-1 home defeat but it was evident from the outset that their defensive deficiencies had not been rectified. Indeed just 11 minutes in Annan midfielder Chris Jardine swept home after John MacBeth’s cross had not been properly cleared and Berwick were clearly struggling from then on. On 37 minutes Graeme Bell hit a superb thunderous drive into the top corner to double Annan’s advantage – a goal not in keeping with the game but certainly welcome nonetheless (well if you had seen it, Kieran was too busy fidgeting with his camera). Berwick did vainly try and battle their way back into it and struck the post just before the break but at the internal found themselves with an uphill battle. Or perhaps downhill given the slope.
The second half was just awful, the game littered with niggly fouls and wayward passes. Berwick again hit the post from a Callaghan shot but threatened little else and Annan comfortably saw the game out. The three of us spent the majority of the second period trying to work out our remaining fixtures, listening to our respective teams’ results coming in and generally praying for the final whistle to come. We did find ourselves somewhat flagging today but with only nine games to go we are close to the glorious finishing line. After a quick pint of Berwick Rangers beer in a nearby pub we headed for that Welcome to Scotland sign and the safety of home.
Journey - 8
Pie - 5
Bovril - 3
Ground - 3
Game – 3