Pic: Lee Hamilton ( left ) was stretchered off early in the second half ( Photo courtesy of Alan Raeburn )
Saturday, March 18th, 2017 SPFL 2
BERWICK RANGERS 0 ARBROATH 2
A disappointing defeat for Berwick was overshadowed by a serious injury to Lee Hamilton seconds into the second half. He stayed on the ground after a touchline challenge from Steven Doris. Play was stopped for eight minutes whilst medical staff attended to the Rangers’ full back who was eventually carried off on a stretcher. During the pause in play,Doris could be seen indicating to teammates that he had made contact with his shoulder and on Hamilton’s departure was duly booked. Post match, a paramedic confirmed it was a neck injury and that the player had been transported to hospital in Edinburgh.
When Jonny Fairbairn came on for Hamilton, Euan Spark moved right. Spark took a knock in the first half. Ominously, he limped on to the field for the second, the first Ranger out of the tunnel. It was no surprise that it wasn’t long before boss John Coughlin sent on David Verlaque to replace him.
Though Arbroath’s Ryan McCord twisted an early shot wide of Sean Brennan’s goal, Berwick started promisingly enough. Sometimes, the outcome of a match can hinge on a single incident. In fact, in this one, there were two such instances. In the 7th minute, Greg Rutherford put Darren Lavery through the middle. He did have an Arbroath man on his back all the way but as Ricky Gomes came out, home fans were expecting Lavery to shoot. Instead, he tried to go round the keeper. Simply getting one hand on the ball was enough for the Canadian to end Lavery’s attempted dribble. It had echoes of Aaron Murrell’s late chance at
Meadowbank four days earlier. Perhaps Berwick need to develop a policy on sharpshooting. The lack of it in these two instances potentially cost points. Ironically, a duff shot from Lavery in early second half play turned out to be the closest his team came to scoring. Gomes had to be alert to make sure he wasn’t beaten by the bobbing ball on the sticky pitch.
Even after Gomes saved Arbroath’s bacon, Berwick continued sending the ball through the right channels. Steven Thomson to Rutherford was a good example but on taking the ball towards the left corner, the Whitley Bay man put over a poor cross. When, a few minutes later, he headed directly for goal, he was abruptly halted by Colin Hamilton’s no nonsense tackle.
A couple of other moves failed because teammates did not read the passes of Michael McKenna and Thomson respectively. Still Berwick pressed. Rutherford headed Lee Hamilton’s cross towards the nearby Murrell but he could only manage a soft header which didn’t trouble Gomes.
Arbroath began to assert themselves. McCord floated the ball over Pat Scullion but Brennan collected it. More dangerous was a cross-field ball to David Gold which he immediately returned from right to left, Berwick’s Hamilton heading it away for a corner. Lee, who was having a good first half, then made two important tackles in a row.
Bobby Linn, a menace on the left when the teams last met, began to cause problems once more. Popping up in the old inside right spot, he supplied Gold who mishit the ball outside the nearby post. Spark headed the ball away for another corner after McKinlay’s slip in the mud helped Arbroath on their way forward. The second of those decisive incidents came on 37 minutes. The ball reached Linn who found himself one on one with McKinlay inside the penalty area. The referee was well behind play when
Bobby went down but presumably, his Stand Side assistant persuaded him a penalty should be given. McKinlay and Lavery were still protesting after Doris tucked away the spot kick.
When Arbroath got another free kick, Lavery spoke out and was spoken to by Mr. Millar and was eventually shown a yellow card for talking in the second half. Meanwhile, the first ended with Linn’s cross from the left over to the far post which Doris rather acrobatically hit into the side netting.
Once play recommenced after the Doris-Hamilton incident, Linn raced into the box from the left and forced Brennan into a one handed save. He followed this with another cross which evaded Rangers’ keeper leaving an empty goal but Berwick had a let off as neither Doris nor Martin Scott could connect with it.
Scullion’s tackle stopped Scott but on three separate occasions going forward, big Pat hit the ball too hard for anyone to reach. Getting in close was a problem for the home side with Arbroath skilfully utilising a double defensive line. Gomes did punch out a spinning high ball from Rangers’ skipper but by this stage, the visitors were two up. Fairbairn was exposed after the ball was lobbed to Scott. With Brennan still to beat, a goal was not inevitable but the keeper’s hesitation over what to do, made it look like a particularly easy score. Officially recorded as coming in stoppage time, there were still seven minutes left to play, enough time for Linn to almost set up Omar Kader for a third goal.
Results elsewhere means Berwick stay in seventh spot but all eyes will be on Cumbernauld on Tuesday ( March 21st. ) where two of the teams below them, Clyde and Cowdenbeath meet in a rearranged fixture.
Berwick Rangers: Brennan, Hamilton ( Fairbairn ), McKinlay, Notman, Scullion ( capt. ) Spark ( Verlaque ), Thomson, Lavery, Rutherford, McKenna, Murrell ( Phillips )