Stevie Notman’s superbly-struck 77th minute volley from Kevin McDonald’s set-up was enough to give Berwick Rangers all three points against a poor Clyde outfit at a sunny Shielfield on Saturday, meaning Rangers have won 3 and drawn 2 of their home league fixtures to date this season.
Manager Ian Little pulled off a couple of selection surprises with his starting line-up, skipper Chris Townsley and midfield dynamo Lee Currie finding themselves consigned to the bench. Damien Gielty and Andy McLean were given rare starts in their place. Clyde arrived on the back of an excellent recovery from 2-0 down against Elgin to draw their midweek fixture, and a comfortable 2-0 friendly win over second division Stenhousemuir the previous weekend, so this was never going to be a walk in the park.
Rangers started brightly and went on to completely dominate the opening 45, rarely giving up possession to their visitors, who looked content to defend deep and hit Rangers on the break through the pacy Kevin Watt. Kevin McDonald clipped the outside of Jamie Barclay’s post with a low skimming shot in the opening minutes, before Fraser McLaren headed Dean Hoskins’ exccellent cross wide when he should have scored. Both Hoskins and Jacobs saw plenty of the ball in the opening period but for all their possession, and despite Neil Janczyk once again dictating play against an invisible Clyde midfield, Rangers found it difficult to create many clear cut chances. Lavery was too often isolated from his midfield, and the ball was lost too easily when it should have been held up. Sods law being what it is, Clyde took the lead with their only shot on taget 4 minutes from the break. Bryan Gilfillan was allowed too much room to shoot from 22 yards out, and big Yossi could only parry his well-struck effort to Watt, who rammed the ball home from close range. Their lead lasted 2 minutes. Lavery was fouled on the edge of the Clyde penalty area and Dean Hoskins fired home an absolute peach of a free kick that had Barclay grasping at thin air, a familiar posture to those who watched him at Shielfield last season.
Clyde came into the game more after the break, and looked more dynamic and threatening during the opening 15 minutes of the second period without ever looking in control. Clyde should have lost a man after a dreadful challenge on Damien Gielty, but justice was served when Gray was red-carded for a second bookable offence in the 63rd minute. Rangers had resumed their control of the match by now and their hard work was rewarded when Notman cracked home a 12 yard volley with 13 minutes remaining. Sub Stuart Noble was inches away from a third after a memerising passage of play down Clyde’s left flank, but Rangers had already done enough to secure the points to move up to 5th place, four points off the top of a very tight league.
The defence looked sound again on Saturday, albeit against a very limited attack, and Rangers look to have found their best full back pairing in years in Hoskins and Jacobs. Queens Park at Hampden next Saturday wil be a much harder test, but if Rangers can come away with the minimum of a point, it will cement their playoff credentials. A final word on the home crowd, which seems to be continuing the after effects of the Rangers’ bounce. Good to see more people turning up to games – let’s hope it continues, and that we can start and get some of the old atmosphere back. Bejaoui 7; Jacobs 8; Brydon 7; McLean 7; Hoskins 8; McLaren 6; Janczyk 8; Notman 8; McDonald 7; Gielty 6; Lavery 6 Crowd 546