Saturday, December 2nd, 2017 SPFL 2
BERWICK RANGERS 1 STIRLING ALBION 0
In the best game seen at Shielfield so far this season, Berwick claimed the scalp of second in the table Stirling. Including Stevie Notman’s Testimonial match, Robbie Horn’s men had leaked a dozen goals in their previous three outings. Harold Wilson’s famous statement that ‘ a week is a long time in politics’ is not usually extended to football yet at no stage did Rangers look like a team which had taken a 5-1 drubbing at Elgin seven days earlier. Horn made changes from that match with Jonny Fairbairn, Robert Wilson and Andy Irving all starting and Notman taking over as captain from Pat Scullion.
Berwick acceded to Albion’s request that they should wear their navy with yellow away strip necessitating the home side to don their own, white alternative outfit.
The only goal came with less than seven minutes on the clock. From the right, Irving played the ball into Aaron Murrell who tried a shot which, with a line of defenders directly in front of him, quickly came back out. Michael McKenna took the second chance, beating the cover with a volley from the edge of the penalty area.
From then on, resembling a hard fought cup tie, the game ebbed and flowed with neither side able to stamp its authority on it for any length of time. Before Stirling won the first corner in the 14th minute, Robby McCrorie saved from Neil McLaughlin and again from skipper Darren Smith from closer in.
Former Berwick player Ewan McNeil’s shot was too high after attempted tackles failed to to prevent Albion moving the ball about.
McKenna picked out unmarked Marcus Godinho with a kick across field but he swung the ball back too far across goal leaving McNeil, under no real pressure, to boot away the ball.
McCrorie saved Berwick again when Ross Kavanagh was in the clear following a quick counter by the visitors, superb positioning forcing ‘Kav’ to shoot straight at him as he went low.
Rangers were unlucky not to double the lead when Wilson ran in unsighted to head a McKenna free kick against the bar.
Callumn Morrison was on the loose after a wayward ball from Murrell gifted his team possession but Irving got back to challenge him near the flag and Stirling had to be content with an unproductive corner.
In the second half, there were two shouts for penalties. The referee played advantage when, despite illegal interference, Godinho kept control of the ball to send it across presenting Irving with a chance to shoot from a little inside the box. After the game, he demonstrated how the ball had hit an opponent’s outstretched hands but Mr Lambie turned a deaf ear to appeals from the home players nearby. It was the away supporters who yelled for a spot kick as Morrison went down when challenged by Fairbairn, the referee rightly viewing it as a firm but fair tackle on a day when players were fighting tooth and nail for the ball.
Two minutes into the half, Kavanagh was in a good position to score from 12 yards but the ball took a deflection for a corner. With the same amount of time remaining, and almost on his line, McCrorie knocked away Sean Dickson’s cross before the lurking Peter MacDonald could get a touch.
A criticism of Berwick in many matches has been their ponderous build ups when going forward. Not this time. They played with much more zest. Irving fired over the bar on being served by Murrell who cut inside instead of passing, as seemed more probable, to the overlapping McKenna. The latter also had a shot saved by keeper Binnie, his firepower weakened as he was fouled just before he hit it.
Stirling boss Dave Mackay was pretty vocal for much of the game but it was his assistant, Frazer Wright, whom the ref sent away from the technical area, as Stirling’s frustration increased during the dying embers of the contest.
McCrorie was announced as the sponsors’ home man of the match but there must have been plenty of others in contention. Horn considered that his whole team were ‘outstanding’.
Berwick Rangers: McCrorie, Notman, McKinlay, Fairbairn, Murrell ( Lavery 74 ), McKenna ( Thomson 87 ), Phillips, Irving ( McDonald 82 ), Stewart, Wilson, Godinho
Pictures courtesy of Ian Runciman
Robbie’s post-match reaction
Robert Wilson speaks to Eric Tait