Crease hopes to avoid an Alloa backlash

A LACK of consistency has been the key feature of Berwick’s season so far.

And as they prepare for the final game of the first quarter of their league campaign at Alloa this weekend, manager Jimmy Crease is hopeful that this is a problem they can overcome.

“It’s all been a bit hit and miss so far,” he admits.

“We have had some good results, but also some bad ones as well, and it’s the poor ones we need to eradicate.”

In their eight games played to date, Berwick have won three, drawn one and lost four.

They started with a hefty 4-1 away defeat at Elgin, and as Crease says: “That put us on the back foot straight away.”

They followed this up with a 4-2 home win over East Stirling, a 2-1 defeat at Stranraer and a 1-1 away draw at Queen’s Park.

It wasn’t the start Berwick had hoped for, and when they surrendered a 1-0 lead at home to Montrose in their next game, going down 2-1, Crease read the riot act.

“I think everyone was extremely disappointed after that game,” he said.

“I went on record as saying I had never felt so low, and I know the players were hurting as well.

“I criticised them because they are a good bunch of lads and I knew they could take it. I was also hoping they would respond in the right manner, which of course is what they did.

“It was so important for us to bounce back straight away, so to win our next two games (2-1 at home to Peterhead and 4-1 away to Clyde) was a real boost.

“Unfortunately, we then lost at home to Annan (1-0) in our last home game, but again I thought we played well and on another day might have taken something from the game.”

So overall, how does Crease rate their performances so far?

“Well, I think we have done okay, but there is still a lot of room for improvement,” he said.

“Our cup form early on was good, but unfortunately we couldn’t transfer that into our performances in the league.

“At the start of the season I , like a lot of other people, thought we had put together a decent squad, one which would be challenging for the play-offs at the very least.

“Some of our play has suggested we are capable of that, but we have suffered from a lack of consistency, that’s why we currently find ourselves down in seventh place in the table.

“It’s still early days though. There is a long way to go and I am confident we can turn things around.”

One of the problems Crease has always faced has been the size of his squad and the apparent lack of strength in depth.

And of course that was a situation which was compounded when they lost influential midfielder Paul Currie at the end of the transfer window.

The play-maker, who scored three goals in the early part of the season, had been training with Hamilton for a month and when the Accies offered him a full-time contract Crease said he couldn’t stand in the player’s way.

“It was something Paul always wanted to do,” he said.

“We knew he would be a big miss, because he has a tremendous engine and works box to box for the entire 90 minutes.

“But life goes on and I think in Lee Currie, Kevin McDonald and Fraser McLaren, who has made a tremendous start to the season, we have a strong midfield core.”

McLaren has netted six league goals so far this season, making him the club’s leading scorer, which ironically, is two more than the combined total of Damon Gray (2), Darren Gribben (2) and Stuart Noble (0) who are the team’s regular trio of strikers.

“Fraser has been like a fourth striker for us so far this season,” said Crease, “and long may it continue, because he has been playing with a lot of confidence lately.”

Discipline is one area where Crease knows he has to crack down.

So far three players have seen red (Lee Currie, Chris Townsley and most recently Gribben).

The team has also picked up a total of 24 bookings, with Lee Currie on five the worst offender.

The controversial Gribben will of course miss Saturday’s trip to Recreation Park to face Alloa as he is suspended following his sending off for using foul and abusive language against the referee and linesman during the home defeat against Annan.

“Darren has to learn to accept official’s decisions,” said Crease. “He is a naturally gifted player, but at times he is his own worst enemy.

“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing when he was sent off.

“He can be frustrating to work with, but what we have to do is make sure he doesn’t unsettle everyone else in the side.

“He has been disciplined internally by the club, but now we must move forward from here and put all this behind us.

“After we play Alloa on Saturday we will have played everyone once in the league so we will have a better understanding of where we are.

“But make no mistake about it, Alloa are a very good side. I know they lost 5-0 against Elgin in their last match, but they are still one of the best outfits in the league.

“In fact I would go so far as to say they are the side I thought would perform best of all this season.

“We don’t want to be on the receiving end of a backlash after their Elgin defeat so Saturday will be a very difficult day for us.

“We need to go there and not allow ourselves to be over-run.”