BERWICK kick off their competitive campaign this Saturday (July 31) with a long trip to Peterhead for a first round tie in the CIS Cup.
It will be a difficult afternoon for Rangers, but manager Jimmy Crease says his side will go into the game with 'a degree of optimism' after watching his side earn a gallant 0-0 draw in their final pre-season friendly against SPL side St Johnstone at Shielfield on Friday.
"This was a marked improvement from our 5-0 home defeat at the hands of a Sunderland XI on Monday," said Crease.
"Both the performance and result willl give us a boost, but Peterhead are a good side, they have some very good players and there is no doubt that it will be a very difficult game for us.
"We can only go up there and dig in deep, but after a series of five pre-season friendlies I know the fitness of my players is not in question.
"Tonight against St Johnstone we lasted the game very well and we were still going strong at the end.
"There were a lot of good performances, but I thought central defender Chris McLeod played very well and he looks as if he is going to be an important signing for us."
The league programme starts the following weekend (August 7) with an away match at Albion Rovers, followed by the first home league game of the season against Elgin at Shielfield on August 14.
And Crease says that despite the injury to Stuart Callaghan which has ruled him out for several weeks, he thinks his squad are in good shape for the rigours which lie ahead.
"As we know, Call is going to miss the start of the season after breaking a bone in his ankle. Like every year it will be a long and difficult season, I am under no illusions about that, but I think we have a squad of players who can cope.
"They have already shown that their fitness levels are good, what we need now is for them to show some character as the season progresses, but of course we won't know how that works out until we start playing.
"Last year Livingston ran away with the league, but this season I don't think there are any stand out sides in the division, and we have just as big a chance as anyone else.
"As a manager I have to say that we are going out to try and win the league, but realistically a place in the play-offs has to be our initial target."
Crease says the friendlies have given him the chance to not only introduce new players to the squad, but also try different combinations, and the one which stands out for him the most is that of Paul Currie and David Greenhill in central midfield.
They have had more match-time than any of the others and according to the manager they have both proved their worth and shown that they have 'good engines.'
Although Crease probably still has to determine his first choice starting XI, in the absence of Callaghan, the players who took to the field for the visit of St Johnstone probably have a very good chance of getting the nod for Peterhead this weekend.
In the early stages, as one might expect, they seemed to struggle with the pace and the passing ability of the SPL side, and in the first 20 minutes or so there only looked to be one side capable of creating a breakthrough and winning the game.
Cleveland Taylor, who was a constant threat down the right, set up Sam Parkin with a header in the box, but the centre forward couldn't get any power in his effort.
Liam Craig, who of course hails from Chirnside, broke clear but couldn't get his shot on target, and Mark Peat, who looked safe throughout, got down well to save from a low David McKay drive.
Right on half-time Taylor saw another goalbound shot blocked at close range.
Berwick, like St Johnstone, made several changes during the course of the second half.
Strike pair Alan Brazil and Darren Gribben were replaced at half-time by Kevin Gordon and Craig O'Reilly and Jamie Ewart, Guy Kerr and two trialists were also thrown into the fray as the game progressed.
Peat made another good save from substitute Collin Samuel, but Berwick got themselves back into the game and might have won it as O'Reilly and trialist Ryan Holms both spurned potential scoring opportunities.
O'Reilly took advantage of a slack back-pass, cut in from the right and beat a defender, but pulled his shot wide, whilst Holms beat the offside trap, ran through but shot across the face of the goal from an acute angle.
Then, right in the final minute, Craig burst through and might have scored a late but undeserved winner for the visitors, when he raced from just inside the Berwick half but pulled his shot wide with just the keeper to beat.
* RANGERS have been drawn away to Partick Thistle in the second round of the Alba Challenge Cup, games to be played August 10 or 11.