Cove Rangers vs Berwick Rangers: The biggest tie in Berwick's history?

Cove Rangers defeated Raith Rovers 2-0 in the League Cup
Cove Rangers defeated Raith Rovers 2-0 in the League Cup

Berwick Rangers has a long and proud history, dating back to 1884, but surely the next two weekends provide the biggest matches yet?

In 1967, one of the club’s finest hours came as, in front of over 13,335 fans, Sammy Reid blasted Berwick to a 1-0 victory over Rangers at Shielfield.

The club won Division Two in 1979 and, more recently, Division Three in 2007.

But this Saturday, and the following Saturday, the SPFL status of Berwick Rangers is up for grabs – with Highland League champions Cove Rangers looking to replace the only ‘English club’ from the professional leagues in Scotland.

It seems almost unthinkable, but that is the prospect facing new management team John Brownlie and Ian Little in what will only be their second and third matches respectively since returning to Shielfield.

Berwick are on their third management team of the season, having started with Robbie Horn in charge, before his close friend Johnny Harvey came into the hot seat in mid-October.

Horn has since guided Bonnyrigg Rose to the East of Scotland League title, while Harvey was relieved of his duties last Thursday.

Now, it’s the turn of John Brownlie and assistant manager Ian Little, both of whom know Berwick Rangers very well, to attempt to guide them through what looks on paper like a seriously difficult play-off.

Cove Rangers crushed runaway Lowland League winners East Kilbride in the Highland/Lowland play-off, winning 2-1 away at K-Park and following that up with a 3-0 success at Balmoral Stadium.

While Berwick conceded 91 times in League Two this season, Cove Rangers conceded just 12 times in 34 games in the Highland League. And at the other end, Cove scored 100, with Berwick notching just 27. Different levels of football – yes – but worrying statistics.

Many onlookers would suggest Cove are of a similar level to Elgin City and have a strong determination and will to play SPFL football for what would be the first time in their history.

With players like Martin Scott, signed from Cowdenbeath but sent off in the last game versus East Kilbride, Mitch Megginson, formerly of Aberdeen, and Blair Yule, ex-Arbroath, their ambition is easy to see. Add to that a brand new stadium, opened at the start of this season, and the financial difference between the two clubs is clear to see.

So how do Berwick, starting as 4/1 outsiders for this weekend’s trip to Aberdeen, come through these play-offs?
Since the ‘pyramid system’ was introduced, only one team, Edinburgh City, has come up from the non-league – so there is one thing going in Berwick’s favour.

Although a large amount of the Highland League sides are not interested in promotion due to extensive travelling, tradition and history do play a factor – and, that’s another thing Berwick have on their side.

The Borderers can look at Cove’s play-off past for comfort, as the Aberdeen side have dramatically contrived to lose matches in the most ridiculous ways imaginable, including last season when, despite dominating, they went down to eight men and lost to Cowdenbeath.

Hopefully, just for two weeks, everything clicks – Berwick Rangers pull through and the town of Berwick-upon-Tweed retains its much-loved SPFL club.