Hawick Royal Albert 1, Leith Athletic 6
’Dreadful’ was the word employed on Hawick Royal Albert’s own Facebook page to describe their second-half performance on Saturday.
And few at Albert Park appeared to disagree with it, as the Royals became further entrenched in the traits which have defined their season so far.
Manager Paul McGovern, however, has always known it would be a long, tricky term of rebuilding and he is well aware of the patterns which have emerged.
After Saturday’s league drubbing – which followed a typical second-half disintegration by the Albert, preceded by a promisingly good first half – McGovern is convinced that fitness levels must improve.
Squad numbers have risen but the Albert have rarely been able to field the same XI more than once, with ongoing efforts to recruit players, potential recruits arriving or moving on, players becoming unavailable through illness, work commitments, holidays, or prior engagements.
Goalkeeper Craig Saunders was the only registered player in the close season, while many who have joined the ranks hadn’t trained in a long time or taken part in any pre-season routine.
McGovern believes these are among the reasons why players are visibly tiring around the hour mark of games, and fitter, more experienced and better organised opponents are simply running over the top of them.
However, the aim is to keep the mood in the camp as positive and upbeat as posible, he stressed.
There have been some positive glimpses of what could lie ahead once the team gets more continuity and experience of playing at East of Scotland League level, which is new to many of them.
Despite being without Milosz Pajak and Egidiju ‘Eggy’ Savickas, through illness, the Albert played well in the first half against Leith, scored an excellent 26th-minute goal through Josh Neil and created more chances, before sagging in the second half.
“I see after an hour that the boys seem to be tiring and I want to address that,” said the manager, reiterating that HRA needed a settled side, with fit players, playing regularly.
Ideally, they had to be training week in, week out, and playing week in, week out, but HRA had endured a lot of stop-starts and had been deprived of the continuity they needed, he said.
Tomorrow (Saturday), they are at home to Arniston Rangers – the only side against whom they’ve had a positive result so far this season, drawing 2-2 in the Qualifying Cup.
McGovern said they would take some encouragement from that and, although the performance that day was disappointing too, they’d since shown in stages what they could do and would have to try and sustain it.
If HRA could score, then get a second goal, he added, “the boys will take a big lift from that”.