Monday, October 16th, 2017
SPFL Development League East
BERWICK RANGERS 3 STIRLING ALBION 1
Berwick’s Under 20s won their first home game in three attempts but the victory was marred by an injury to Jamie Chapman which led to the team captain being stretchered into the changing area before being taken to hospital by ambulance.
Berwick again included the trialist who played at Alloa the previous week and another unnamed player came on during the final quarter. Two home players were booked early in the second half, Jack Cook for a foul and Jack Murray for kicking away the ball when Stirling won a free kick. The visitors’ Luke Martin had his name noted after the half time whistle for persisting in his protests about the officials’ handling of a foul by Jack Gillan for which his team had rightly been awarded a free kick anyway.
On winning the toss, Stirling gambled on playing uphill into the wind in the first half by the end of which, they were 2-0 down. Berwick’s first corner brought immediate results. By the time the ball reached the box, it was almost at ground level and with the away defence poorly organised, Bradley Barrett struck to give his team a five minute lead.
Rangers had another good chance ten minutes later. Gary Windram channelled the ball to Kieran Jack who rounded keeper Ronan Fallens as he went down for the ball. Jack’s subsequent angled shot was heading for goal until a man got back to clear it off the line.
On occasions, Stirling hinted at the problems they might cause in more favourable conditions. A missed tackle allowed Reg McLaren to flash the ball across Sean Brennan’s goal and he had another effort deflected for a corner. On the left flank, Alberto Vezza shrugged off two defenders to get in a shot, firmly held by Brennan at his near post.
By 30 minutes’ play, conditions had changed from windy to wild. Eight minutes later, Berwick scored again. Windram took a good pass from Barrett and outpaced a challenger to test Fallens with a shot the keeper managed to touch but not catch. Jack ran in to cash in by the post. Three minutes from half time, the wind was Chapman’s ally as he rounded off a four man move with a swirling shot, this time, Fallens more successful in stretching to knock it to safety.
Predictably, on the turnaround, Albion attempted to use ‘the 12th man’, i.e. the wind, to good effect now that it was on their side. It took the Berwick boys a full ten minutes to launch their first raid of the half, Brennan having already saved from Martin, Callum MacDonald and Taylor Evans. The latter went on to shoot over the bar whilst Brennan was off his feet to hold on to McLaren’s overhead kick as Stirling continued to pepper the home goal. Yet, it was Berwick who scored once more. Paul Simpson switched play from left to right with a midfield ball to Windram who ended his run with a pass to Jack. He again went round Fallens before shaking the back of the net with a no-nonsense finish.
Two minutes after Berwick took off their goal scorers, their lead was cut. Vezza’s persistence and dribbling skills took him down the touchline and then inside for a pass to Evans, another player capable of impressive footwork. None was needed now, only a hit from close range just inside the post. Both Cook and Chapman were injured during the build up leaving Berwick to restart with nine men. Cook came back on and saw out the game but Chapman was in obvious pain after Vezza made contact with his hip when the players collided as the ball was released to Evans.
Aware that the wind could lead to all possibilities, Stirling kept at it. The defence’s struggle to clear the ball presented Evans with another chance but he sent the ball over the bar. That was also the outcome as Berwick missed a last seconds’ opportunity to make it four goals when Stuart Briggs held up the ball well to give time and space for a return pass to the second trialist to have a go.
Berwick Rangers: Brennan, Chapman ( Aitchison 83 ), Herriot, Murray, Cook, A.Trialist, Windram, Gillan, Jack ( Briggs 76 ), Barrett ( B.Trialist 76 ), Simpson
Unused subs: Allan ( GK ), Rose
Pictures by Ian Beresford