To paraphrase Sir Alex Ferguson – “Football; bloody hell!”. Which kind of neatly sums up Tuesday evening’s entertainment at Ice Station Shielfield, when the black & gold traversed the fall gamut of football emotion, from being booed off at half time after delivering 45 minutes of disinterested, club-footed ineptitude, to a barnstorming second period gilded with lashings of skill and enough heart to satisfy a horse butcher. Turns out Robbie Horn’s interpretation of the half-time “hairdryer treatment” may have had something to do with the transformation, but it worked a treat and stopped a mini-revolt in its tracks, for those of us about to demand a refund on our 3-for-2 midweek tickets.
Ian Little sprang two changes from Saturday’s encounter with the poor excuse for a footballing superpower, resting Neil Janczyk and losing the injured magician Dylan Easton, replaced by Stevie Notman and Fraser McLaren respectively. In the absence of the legions of glory hunters who turned up on Saturday, courtesy of sat nav , the 382-strong hardcore were awoken from their evening reverie by a 3rd minute opener from City goal machine Craig Gunn, who latched on to debutant McDonald’s knockdown to slot low past McCallum from a tight angle. Rangers simply weren’t at the races in the early stages, partly the result of facing up the stark reality of bread and butter league competition after the weekend’s glamour show had left town. City looked sharper, pacier ,and had more snap in their passing, and in general looked more like the side that set the pace earlier in the season than the one which had garnered 5 points from their previous 18.
With Lee Currie having to drop deep to try and influence proceedings in the absence of any meaningful contribution from his midfield colleagues, Rangers looked decidedly one-paced. Darren Lavery worked hard to spark some life into his side, and Devon Jacobs grafted away, but the team looked disjointed and off the pace, though the balance of play settled down after the opening 15 minutes or so with no clearcut chances either way before the break. A combination of another crap refereeing performance, overshadowed by a not-on-the-same-planet contribution from the Ducketside lino, who doubtless learned some colourful phraseology during his evening’s work, and their inability to string two passes together, Rangers left the field to a chorus of boos.
A half-time discussion ensued in the Ducket along the following lines:
· we like the management team
· we like their footballing ethos and the playing style they’re trying to develop
· we believe we have some very good footballers at Shielfield
· we’re heartily sick of watching our team fail to win games, and after 5 seasons of below mid-table placings, patience is running thin
Football being the miracle-machine that it is, the boos turned to impassioned backing within 5 minutes of the restart, which is when Darren Lavery banjoed a stunning shot beyond Malin. The ball seemed to curve out then back in again before clipping the post on its way into the net. It was if the footballing gods touched every Berwick player on the shoulder with a magic Brazilian football wand. They ripped Elgin up for arsepaper. Eschewing their traditional tikka-takka for a longer ball game with Dazzler Dalziel now in their ranks, Rangers carved out a succession of goalscoring chances which only bad luck and some astonishing last-ditch defending from City contrived to keep the scores level. City had a defender stretchered off after making the saving tackle of the season on Lavery, while Notman, Gielty and Dalziel were all thwarted by brave blocks and lucky escapes. There was an inevitability about the winner when it came. Lee Currie lofted a dangerous free kick into the box, and Dalziel escaped his markers to coolly chest down the ball and slip a low shot from 8 yards beyond Malin. The keeper clawed a Carse rocket out of the top corner before the end, as Rangers held on without serious challenge for the 3 points, and hauled themselves back up into 6th spot at the same time.
The only explanation I can think of for the transformation is that either Robbie Horn is a lot scarier than he seems, or that Rangers’ confidence is very fragile, but when it’s boosted by a goal like Lavery’s, it really catches fire. To Annan now, having a bit of a mare under new manager Jim Chapman. With Stirling Albion visiting next Tuesday, this is the time to mount a late season rally. I sound like a broken record, but………we have the ability, and Tuesday night reminded us all that we have the will. Now for some consistency.
MOTM – choose any one from Jacobs, Currie or Lavery. They kept going when other floundered and led by example throughout.
McCallum 7; Jacobs 8; Townsley 7; Brydon 7; Hoskins 4; McLaren 5; Currie 8; Notman 6; Gielty 5; Lavery 8; Dalziel 7