Monday 11 July 2016, 19.30, Ferguson Park

Tonight it’s Lowland League’s Whitehill Welfare against League Two side Berwick Rangers Under 20 team.

Welfare were founded in 1953, although there has been a football club playing in the village of Rosewell since at least 1905. Welfare went senior in 1979 and joined the East of Scotland Football League and won it the first four seasons. They have actually won the league on 16 occasions, the most successful side in the League’s history, before joining the Lowland League for its inaugural season in 2013.

While they have proved difficult for many sides over the year in the Scottish Cup, their biggest day came in 1996, when I was there to see them play Celtic at Easter Road, where they lost 3-0 with a very respectable performance.

They have been considered one of the giants of the East senior game for some time, but there has been a feeling of slight underachievement in recent seasons, which has been reflected in several managerial changes and most recent incumbent Steven Hislop, with assistant David Bingham are assembling their own squad for the challenges ahead.

Strikers Scott Gormley and Scott Moffat have re-signed from Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale.  Midfielder Michael Osbourne from Ormiston while Connor Brydon and Aaron Moffat have been signed from Preston Athletic’s all-conquering Under 20s side.  Of those who have left, Darren McGlashan will be the biggest loss, being a stalwart in the Welfare midfield.

John Gilbertson has been signed from Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale as goalkeeping coach and he will play tonight due to injury.

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Berwick Rangers Football Club was formed in 1881.  The club from Berwick, which is just across the border in England, affiliated to the Scottish Football Association around 1905.   In 1951 that they were admitted to Scottish League Division C Division (North & East).  The division was scrapped in 1955 and Berwick were placed in an enlarged Division B (renamed Division Two the following season). Berwick Rangers have played in the Scottish Football League ever since.

The club’s most famous success came in 1967, when they beat Rangers 1–0 in the Scottish Cup.  The result sent shockwaves around Scottish football at the time.

Things didn’t look good for Berwick in the 80s and in season 88-89 they were nearly bankrupted and the club were locked out of their Shielfield, having to play their games elsewhere.  They narrowly avoiding going into administration in 1994.   They seem to be on a more even footing now and John Coughlin returned as manager in November 2015, guiding them to a 6th place finish.

There was around 85 at the game by my count.

Berwick had the first real chance after six minutes, with S Scott down the right and cutting the ball back for Conroy, but his shot was well saved by Gilbertson.

Ten minutes later, S Scott was involved again, with a chance falling to him this time, but a good challenge managed to block the ball away for a corner.

A Welfare corner in 20 minutes from O’Hara came to the feet of Williams, who attempted to volley, but he didn’t make a good connection and the ball went wide of the goal.

Gilbertson rushed 40 yards from his goal in 26 minutes and lost the ball in a challenge.  The ball fell to K Scott, but the Berwick midfielder couldn’t hit the target.

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McGregor and Swaney had an unnecessary shove at each other after 28 minutes, but things soon calmed down again.

Gilbertson goes down in a heap after 33 minutes as he rose to claim the ball and it looked like he landed awkwardly, possibly on one of his own team mates.  He is carried behind the goal.  With no sub keeper on the bench, the young Berwick goalkeeper on their bench goes in goal for Whitehill.

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At the end of the first half, O’Hara received the ball on the corner of the box and rifled in a shot which found the net to give the home side a half time lead.

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The paramedics arrive just at the end of half time to take away Gilbertson who was still prone behind the goal.

After 54 minutes, Hall charged into a Berwick player on the touchline with the ball away.  The referee isn’t best pleased and told him “I don’t know what you are playing at, that was just stupid”.  If it wasn’t a friendly, I think a card would have been out.  Oddly a throw-in was given.

Berwick had a nice move in 59 minutes, with Anderson feeding S Scott, who in turn played the ball inside to Conroy, but he didn’t get enough power in his shot to beat the keeper.

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It was good to see Berwick first team manager John Coughlin at the game keeping his eye on the club’s young players.

Goodfellow made an error in the Berwick goal in 79 minutes and Anderson took it round him and squared the ball to Moffat.  Two Berwick defenders were quick to get back on the line and Moffat mishit his shot and it trickled wide.

Amazingly, in almost a replica of the earlier touchline incident, McGregor barges a Berwick player on the touchline.  Again, a throw is given.

Whitehill are putting together a strong side and there will probably be more new faces before the start of the season.  Hall, Murray and Williams all looked very solid in defence.

The young Berwick side were impressive and tried to play football the right way with Swaney and K Scott the stand-outs for me.

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Not good news on John Gilbertson who sustained a fractured ankle and torn ligaments.  Hopefully he will recover fully as quickly as possible.

Full Time: Whitehill Welfare 1 Berwick Rangers Under 20 0

Admission £5

Whitehill Welfare: 1 John Gilbertson (Trialist 38), 2 John Hall, 3 Dale O’Hara (Anderson 51), 4 Nikki Murray, 5 John Williams, 6 Connor McGregor, 7 Steven Manson (Gormley 56), 8 Callum Connolly (Keane 51), 9 Scott Moffat, 10 Michael Osborne (15 64), 11 Andy Martin. Subs: 12 Kevin Keane, 14 Craig Anderson, 15 Kerr? 16 Scott Gormley.

Berwick Rangers U20: 1 Grant Goodfellow, 2 Ewan Herriot (12 63), 3 Porteous (Anderson 51), 4 Cook, 5 Forrest, 6 Swaney, 7 Kyle Scott, 8 Fiddler (16 56), 9 Ryan Conroy (14 66), 10 Stephen Scott, 11 Daniel Watt (16 66). Subs: 12, 13 Ethan Anderson, 14 Jappy? 16 Sean?

Referee: Alan Hogg

Programme: 50p

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