Reserve league a steep learning curve, admits Rae

Stepping up from macthes against the likes of Hawick to facing Championship reserve teams a few days later has been tough.
Stepping up from macthes against the likes of Hawick to facing Championship reserve teams a few days later has been tough.

The gulf in class between weekend and midweek opposition has been too tough for some Berwick Rangers Reserves youngsters to handle.

That’s the view of assistant manager Jim Rae, but he always knew this season was going to be anything but easy.

Five players made the step up to Ian Little’s first-team in the summer, leaving Rae and Reserves manager Mark Lamb with a rebuilding job to do.

“The squad isn’t as strong as last season, but that is not unexpected,” said Rae. “We’re going to get peaks and troughs. If we have a good season, the players are going to move up and then it is difficult to replace them all.

“Five of the boys from last season’s reserves went into the first-team squad, and that’s predominantly our job. Some of them are doing very well.

“But it’s very difficult to replace five top players. So it’s been difficult to maintain the standard from last season.”

Berwick are second bottom of the SPFL Reserves League, which is predominantly played on a Monday or Tuesday night.

The fixtures have been useful for first-team players who need game time, but Rae admits some of the younger players have found it difficult.

“We’ve got a very young side. So it’s been a good test for the guys to go and play against much better players than they normally come against,” he added.

“The only thing is that sometimes they’re not learning much when they’re not getting any of the ball.

“Chasing for 90 minutes is good from a fitness point of view. They’re obviously putting in a huge amount of effort.

“But when we played Dundee at Dens Park recently they had six first-team players, and they’re at the top of the Championship. The team they put out would have been too strong for our first team.

“It was the same when we played East Fife. It’s hard for the guys when they’re playing against Hawick or Kelso to then step up to that level three days later. It’s a big stretch.

“What tends to happen is that if you’re away to Morton, Ayr or Dundee then you get very few first-team players travelling. But our opponents in these matches have played a lot of first-team players, so we end up getting thumped.

“But when they come down to Berwick they only bring young kids, so when we have a few first-team players we end up winning them all.

“For the first-team players who have been suspended or injured, or haven’t had much game time, it’s been really useful for them to get match time.”

Rae’s team are due to host Livingston at Shielfield on Tuesday and still have East Stirlingshire, Annan Athletic, and Raith Rovers to play.

Berwick are third in the East of Scotland First Division, but they’ve lost six of their 11 league games so far.

“We’re nowhere near where we want to be this season, but we’ve had some injuries,” Rae concluded. “This was always going to be a transitional season for us.”