Own Goal Enough For Morton Victory
Pat Scullion challenges in the box (pic courtesy of Ian Runciman)
Saturday, July 15th, 2017
Betfred Cup Group F
BERWICK RANGERS 0 GREENOCK MORTON 1
Berwick Rangers opened their competitive season with a visit from Championship side Morton and though the Greenock team deserved their victory it was only obtained by an unfortunate own goal in the 33rd minute. Rangers were without Stevie Notman and Michael McKenna both serving suspensions carried over from last season. Darren Lavery was also missing. In part, these absences explained Berwick’s limitations in midfield where, as in the pre-season matches, Steven Thomson did not look like the player who picked up numerous individual awards for his performances during the last campaign. A struggling midfield usually means a struggle up front and Berwick managed few scoring chances of note.
On the positive side, there were good things from two younger players. Jack Cook’s timely second half tackles inside the box on Jai Quitongo and then Gary Oliver and, shrugging off a poor finish to an early home attack, Callum Donaldson grafted hard throughout and was popping up all over the place. Supporters noted an assured performance from the other full back, Chris McDonald, on his official debut. Whilst he wasn’t the only Berwick man guilty of some wayward balls, skipper Pat Scullion held the defence together, astutely reading and breaking up a number of Morton moves.
The match began with the teams sizing up each other. McDonald eventually cleared the danger to save his team’s embarrassment as the defence looked poised to make a horrible cock up. Downfield, Gary Phillips attempted to score with a powerful shot from 30 yards after some quick passing defied Morton’s attempts to take the ball off Rangers.
It was nearly disaster again when Robby McCrorie kicked the ball straight out to Oliver but the keeper made up for it by blocking the number seven’s shot as he instinctively bore down on goal.
Morton began to take over and the corners came thick and fast. Greg Rutherford was back to head away one of them and Donaldson had a hand in ensuring another couple did not lead to a goal either. The Cappielow men changed tack. Quitongo turned and released a grass cutter from the left, McCrorie having just enough time to deflect it off target. Andrew Murdoch‘s power packed strike from near the edge of the area would have been right on target had his aim been inches lower.
The visitors launched another attack when Berwick gave away possession in midfield. Michael Tidser was left to finish but McCrorie again got sufficient touch of the ball that it appeared to be going wide. Oliver Fleming stepped in to make sure only to direct it the other way and across the line into the net. Kieran Stewart tried to restore parity from 30 yards after a cross from McDonald was knocked down but like Phillips earlier, had no success.
Berwick started the second half with Thomson weaving forward up the left ending his run at the bye line with a ball which was neither one thing nor the other. Rutherford, awaiting a decent delivery in front of goal, raised his hands in a gesture of exasperation. He was involved in Rangers’ best chance of the afternoon. Put through by McDonald, his shot evaded keeper Derek Gaston who was lucky that it went on to dribble outside his far post.
McCrorie just managed to hold a shot from Ross Forbes which took a nasty deflection. Better still was his superb one handed save to palm off course Oliver’s header from a corner. Maybe a little stunned by the goalie’s audacity, Oliver fired the second chance too high.
Aaron Murrell was just a little wide with an attempt from near the ‘D’ but Morton exerted more pressure as they searched for a second goal which would have made the margin a truer reflection of the overall game. They might have got it when Robert McHugh got behind the defence but couldn’t hit Mark Russell’s cross.
In the same group, Motherwell were 5-1 winners at Queen’s Park. On Tuesday night, July 18th, Berwick are away to Edinburgh City at Spartans’ Ainslie Park in their second game in the Betfred series. Kick off 7:45 p.m.
Berwick Rangers: McCrorie, Fleming, Thomson ( Orru 80 ), McDonald, Rutherford, Phillips ( Murrell 71 ), Irving, Stewart, Donaldson, Cook ( Chapman 71 ), Scullion ( capt. )