Tuesday, September 26th, 2017
SPFL Development League East
RAITH ROVERS 2 BERWICK RANGERS 0
Raith Rovers proved too good for a Berwick eleven containing four first team squad members. The hosts included ten players who were in their party that beat Berwick by the same score at Shielfield last April on their way to winning the Development League East title. That figure also equates to the number of full timers within their current Under 20s playing pool.
Berwick lost Ewan Herriot before the match, forced to cry off because of illness. Callum Heath stepped into his usual left back spot. Eleven minutes into the game, they also lost Grant Rose with an injury to his left ankle.
Rangers made encouraging starts to both halves of the game. Darren Lavery, who started in his old position up front before dropping back into midfield during the second period, was unchallenged as he went up to head Ross Aitchison’s cross. Oliver Fleming’s long ball out left led to Steven Thomson beating two men but his pass was intercepted before it could reach Lavery waiting in front of goal.
Yaw Osei tested Rangers’ keeper Sean Brennan who dived to punch away the shot. It was a short lived reprieve. Near post defenders couldn’t cut out Euan Valentine’s corner ball leaving Jack Smith to just stretch a leg to stab it into the net for an eighteenth minute lead.
Inches from the byeline, Osei’s skill and strength kept the ball in play but Kieran Dall wasted the pass by ballooning the ball over Brennan’s bar. Jonny Court eventually got the better of the attentive Jack Cook following a quick Raith counter attack and crossed to Osei from whom another powerful hit was deflected for another corner.
Too often, Berwick found themselves bottled up in midfield and, when they did get through, were met by a now solid back four. However, the chance of an equaliser arose in the 34th minute. In the words of referee Lorraine Watson, Scott Sutherland was ‘clattered’ by goalkeeper Rory Brian as he headed Heath’s cross. Lavery took the penalty. Brian saved it.
Lavery created his own chance when he steered away from markers to fire from 16 yards but was again frustrated by the Aussie between the posts who punched the ball clear.
Jack Gillan’s dazzling run was the springboard for early second half pressure from the away side. Lavery and Thomson were involved before Sutherland put over a cross for Jamie Chapman. It was a good jump by Berwick’s captain but he headed the ball too high. A Thomson shot from the left was really travelling but Brian read it perfectly and got down to hold it cleanly.
It was a good night for the keepers. Brennan, probably Rangers’ man of the match, made an instinctive one-handed save from Osei as play moved from end to end ahead of Raith doubling the lead after 67 minutes. It’s a grass pitch but Fleming completely misjudged the bounce of the ball which set free Osei to play in Court who finished as a good striker should.
By the final ten minutes, Berwick were just about out of it. Sub Ryan Stevenson had three convincing cracks at goal, the first saved by Brennan, another deflected for a corner and the third missed by inches. As another new man, Fionn McLeod Kay, headed for goal, Brennan’s excellent positioning dictated when he should shoot and as a consequence, the ball rolled outside the post.
Berwick Rangers: Brennan, Aitchison, Heath, Chapman, Cook, Fleming, Gillan ( Barrett 75 ), Simpson ( Dolan 80 ), Lavery, Rose ( Sutherland 12 ), Thomson
Unused subs: K.Jack, Murray, McKenzie, Jarrett ( GK )