First half: Berwick get close to the Edinburgh City goal ( Photo courtesy of Ian Runciman )
Saturday, December 31st, 2016 SPFL 2
BERWICK RANGERS 1 EDINBURGH CITY 3
Berwick’s pre-match warm-up was rendered useless as they were twice caught cold in the first three minutes. This fourth defeat in a row leaves them at the foot of the table after Cowdenbeath climbed off the bottom with a win at Stirling.
There were four changes to the Berwick line up from that which kicked off at Annan the previous weekend. Kevin Walker was back in goal, Jonny Fairbairn returned from injury and Ben Stirling and Sean Mackie, second half replacements at Galabank, wore numbers 4 and 8 respectively.
Brian Martin committed the game’s first offence near the touchline. When Marc Laird’s free kick came over, Walker appeared to be ‘frozen in the headlights’ near his far post and Christopher McKee knocked the ball home with ease. Two minutes later, Dougie Gair took control of a ball through the middle of Rangers’ porous defence and though Walker got a touch when he came out to meet him, he couldn’t prevent the ball reaching the empty net.
Twenty two minutes passed before Berwick managed a strike on goal, Greg Rutherford’s angled shot from a Michael McKenna pass easily held by Andrew Stobie. At least he kicked the ball in the right direction. There were groans from home supporters when an earlier move which got going when Rutherford beat a couple of opponents ended with a pass back to Fairbairn inside his own half.
Despite his height, Rutherford rarely looks convincing in the air and he was up against it with the muscular Joe Mbu and McKee marking him. He passed up another couple of chances during a period when Rangers looked as if they might just be capable of getting back into the game. One came from a long ball from Pat Scullion but with one outfield man to beat, poor ball control saw Rutherford send it sideways. On the half hour, he was poised for a close range hit when Scullion’s free kick landed nearby but a City man nipped in to clear for a corner. Seconds later, Mbu’s back header bounced back off the post into the arms of Stobie.
After Ousman See put the ball through Martin’s legs on his way to hitting a long shot too high, Berwick’s number three was replaced by Stevie Notman who went on to take the ( home ) man of the match award with a vintage performance of big heart and total effort. Few would have argued with the sponsors’ choice but it was something of an indictment of his teammates that he got it for less than an hour’s play.
Just before half time, Darren Lavery raced on to a loose ball inside City’s penalty area but shot across goal. Lavery opened the second stanza with another run but generally, Berwick looked pedestrian in their build ups, struggling to come up with the ploys and plays required to get the better of a side adept at closing them down.
At times, City had everyone back inside their own half but when they got the chance to go forward still carried a threat. Only Stirling’s tackle stopped Gair when he ran parallel to the front of goal in search of the ideal spot from which to shoot after the League new boys found space on the right. It was Stirling, moved into the back three when Martin departed, who cleared the danger when Mark McConnell was gifted the ball by Scullion. Stirling once more, in the 70th minute when See was through but the referee decided his tackle from behind was illegal so a yellow card for him and a Craig Beattie goal from the spot.
Little more than a minute later, Berwick finally scored. Arguably, it was the best goal of the game though it was not the result of particularly sparkling football. With a clutch of home and away players labouring to get a foot to the ball, Jordyn Sheerin stepped in and blasted it into the top corner of the net from just inside the box. He had another shot blocked after fellow sub Sam Perez danced past a couple of Edinburgh boys and got in the pass.
The Meadowbank outfit had two late opportunities to round off matters with a fourth goal. Walker made a fine save from Beattie and Notman’s tackle on Ian McFarland ensured they gained nothing from a three on two situation.
To clutch at straws, Berwick have the same number of points as second bottom Stirling Albion and a one goal inferior scoring difference. At the same time, only three points separate the bottom five clubs. But it was a bad December for Berwick with only one win in five matches. Apart from the big loss at Elgin, the rest came against other teams in the lower half of the table. Next week, it’s Cowdenbeath away. Can Rangers improve sufficiently to win and leapfrog them in the table ?
Berwick Rangers: Walker, Hamilton ( Perez 71 ), Martin ( Notman 33 ), Stirling, Scullion, Fairbairn, Thomson ( Sheerin 65 ), Mackie, Rutherford, McKenna, Lavery