Saturday, February 3rd, 2018 SPFL 2
STENHOUSEMUIR 4 BERWICK RANGERS 0
Berwick Rangers will be pleased that they are unlikely to be visiting Ochilview again this season though the Warriors have still to visit Shielfield twice. It was a dreich afternoon and Berwick must have felt just as miserable after being taken to the cleaners for a second time this campaign on Stenny’s plastic pitch.
In September, Stenhousemuir won 3-0. This time, it could have been more than the four eventually scored. Forget that Berwick ended up with nine men. In fact, they didn’t concede a goal in the final nine minutes following a second dismissal and though the hosts did score twice when Berwick were just one short, by then, the momentum of the game was already well and truly going their way.
The visitors’ starting combination was much changed from their previous visit containing five players who weren’t even at the club the last time. One was Paul Willis making his second debut after signing from East Fife. Berwick also promoted Jack Cook from the bench with another defender, Jamie Todd, newly signed from Tranent Juniors, thrown in at the deep end as a 57th minute substitute. The home side had a much more settled look to it with nine who kicked off last time doing the same again. This familiarity was evident with players instinctively flitting into the right spaces and the team looking much more assured and comfortable on the ball than the Borderers.
Berwick mopped up the hosts’ early forays with Jack Cook’s head particularly busy. Rangers actually won the first corner before Martin Scott jumped to head in Ross Dunlop’s 12th minute cross. The pressure was maintained and after Alan Cook waltzed past two Berwick men on his way inside, Keiran Stewart decided the only way to stop him was with a foul, an action which would have ramifications later on.
Five minutes after his first goal, Scott missed a sitter after Rangers’ defence was again opened up on the left. Declan O’Kane cleaned up midway inside his own half after Innes Murray controlled a long punt from keeper Chris Smith who was never seriously challenged all afternoon. Steven Thomson connected with a couple of Willis free kicks from opposite touchlines, lobbing the ball high over the bar the first time and heading it in the wrong direction the next. In open play, Rangers found the home back four of Ross Meechan, Ruaridh Donaldson and the Dunlops in unyielding mood.
Stenhousemuir scored again in the 35th minute when Mark McGuigan headed down into the path of Harry Paton to finish off.
Berwick opened the new half with Thomson rounding off an overlapping run with a cross straight to Smith. The Warriors soon regained control. Alex Petkov was booked for two separate tugs of Paton’s shirt when he threatened to get away. The on loan player from Hearts took the 30 yard free kick himself, Robby McCrorie dropping it before regathering.
Ten minutes into the half, Stewart backed into an airborne Alan Cook and a second yellow meant dismissal. With an extra man, Stenny began to swing the ball across the park at leisure especially from Cook over to sub Eddie Ferns. Seconds after coming on, Ferns forced McCrorie into a save but from the other side of the goal, Cook hit the ball back into the opposite corner of the net. A few minutes later, Ferns was involved again, regaining the ball after it hit Darren Lavery to supply Scott to make it a personal double.
Paton also seemed set for a brace when he was through behind the defence but his shot ran just wide of the post. After beating O’Kane out on the left, Paton nearly created another goal for Scott, McCrorie struggling to catch the striker’s header.
In the absence of the injured Steven Notman, Gary Phillips led the Berwick team until the 81st minute when he too, was given marching orders for something said when Todd was penalised for a foul. Willis now found himself in the unexpected situation of assuming the captaincy in his first game back at the club.
In a rare Rangers’ raid, Jack Hamilton tried his luck with a long shot but hit it far too high. Team mate Oliver Fleming dealt with threats from both Paton and Alan Cook either side of a ground level shot from Jamie Longworth, miffed that he was only just off target.
Stenhousemuir: Smith, Meechan, M.Dunlop, R.Dunlop, Donaldson, Ferry, McGuigan ( McMenamin 77 ), Paton, Scott ( Longworth 77 ), Murray ( Ferns 67 ), A.Cook
Berwick Rangers: McCrorie, Fleming, Thomson ( Lavery 57 ), Willis, Phillips, Petkov ( Todd 57 ), Stewart, O’Kane, J.Cook, Hamilton, See ( Orru 71 )
Pics by: Gordon Dickson & David Letham