The hackneyed old saying about a ame of two halves was vividly in evidence last Saturday as Selkirk FC trudged off the Edinburgh University pitch.
The Souters had headed for some half-time refreshments hoping they were about to add another fine result to an already impressive roster under coach Ian Fergus – only to experience the other extreme of footballing fate.
The Borders men were deservedly 2-0 up, and probably merited being even further ahead, against the uber-fit students, who never had a shot at goal in the first half.
“The second period was the complete opposite of that,” reflected Fergus.
“We played OK for about 10 minutes but we sort of switched off and, as soon as they scored, they had the ascendancy. It was just one of those games – it was a bad 30 minutes that really cost us.”
Edinburgh ladled some of the pressure back on to Selkirk at the foot of the table with a 3-2 win.
“Not making excuses, but having the challenge of such a small squad, two of our better players (Unpha Koroma and Phil Addison) missing through suspension and the heavy pitch – although it was the same for both teams – was maybe just a bit too much for us,” said Fergus. “But we were close. It was close. We did really well in the first half – we played to a proper game plan – but, in the second half, they changed their template and their game management was good. They changed their formation, playing three up top, and it changed the whole pattern of the game. They kind of bombarded us.”
Gary Nicholson opened the scoring in six minutes with a neat, side-footed finish in the box. He then provided the assist for Selkirk’s second goal, swinging in a cross from the right which was headed home from six yards by Jordan Hopkinson. But they succumbed to the students’ fightback and also lost Fraser Neave through injury. “We certainly had two or three chances to go 3-0 up and, had we taken them, the game would have been over,” said Fergus.
“It’s never over at 2-0 – it’s a funny scoreline,” said Fergus. “The team that gets the next goal usually wins it. If you get back to 2-1 and you can turn the tide, that third goal is crucial for whoever scores it.
“If we’d got a third goal on Saturday, it would have been over. They got the third goal and it was game on. Very much one of those games of two halves.”
Fergus said Selkirk had been quite dominant in spells but he had two infield substitutes who, positionally, were difficult to introduce to effect a change. “I was really relying on the 11 on the park but Fraser Neave came off injured with about half an hour to go and that was very difficult for us. Edinburgh were so offensive-minded after they scored their first goal that it was difficult to move the players around, while the pitch was cutting up and getting heavy as well. I didn’t want just to hold on for three points – I wanted to play a little bit of football. We should have had at least a point from the game but these things happen in the Lowland League. If you are not 100 per cent for 90 minutes, you can lose a game. Any team can lose there.”
Every game was a learning curve, added Fergus – win lose or draw, you had to take something from it and mould it into something positive. “The positive was that, for 45 minutes, we dominated a team above us in the league and, for 30 minutes, we kind of switched off and got punished.”
Another tough test awaits Selkirk tomorrow (Saturday) as Dalbeattie Star come to Yarrow Park. The Dumfries side have around six players on loan from pro clubs and will pose a formidable task, reckoned Fergus. Pitch conditions could be tricky at this time of year, and Selkirk faced three home and two away games to conclude the season, all on non-artificial surfaces. Nevertheless, Fergus was hoping again for character and hard work from his players.
Neave’s condition was being checked this week, while Addison and Koroma would be available for selection again and Fergus hoped to give the squad even more depth by recruiting a couple of new players.