Blair Henderson scored twice against Elgin City ( photo copyright of Alan Bell )
BERWICK RANGERS 2 ELGIN CITY 0
( Saturday, March 26th, 2016 )
Two goals from Blair Henderson, one a penalty, the other in open play, saw Berwick Rangers take points off Elgin for the first time in four attempts this season. The first came after just five minutes. Following Sandy Cunningham’s free kick near the right touchline, the ball was all over the place inside a crowded Elgin penalty area. The best City keeper Mark Hurst could do was knock it up in the air and seconds later, referee Gavin Ross pointed to the spot. Some spectators thought it was for handball but the kick was given for a nudge on Stevie Notman as he went up for the ball. Such confusion only stresses the need for soccer to have a code of signals to be used by referees to indicate to everybody, on and off the field, why they have blown the whistle. If the game’s international bodies can’t get to grips with this issue, perhaps the SPFL could initiate something for its own competitions.
Notman left the field barely five minutes after Henderson’s penalty due to a freak injury. Trying to protect himself from a high ball at the other end of the field, his fist hit his own face resulting in a gashed eyelid. The second half was only minutes old when Rangers also lost Dylan Stevenson to injury.
Soon after Notman left, Michael McKenna was dancing past Elgin men when Steve Ross dished out the rough stuff to stop him and Berwick won a free kick 12 yards to the left of the box. It wasn’t the only heavy treatment witnessed in the opening period. Callum Crane could have no complaints about being booked for pulling Matthew Cooper’s shirt as he began to get away from him yet, for some more physical indiscretions, Mr Ross kept his cards in his pocket.
On 25 minutes, Hurst stretched to tip Henderson’s shot over the bar after a smart build up featuring McKenna and Finn Graham. Later, Hurst gifted Berwick a corner by losing the ball as he dived to try to secure it. Rangers got two bites of the cherry from it. McKenna’s header only went in the direction of Brian Martin who tried to tee up the ball for a volley but it was way off course.
If anything, Elgin’s first half passing was a bit crisper than Berwick’s and the home side survived a few close shaves including twice from free kicks taken by Dylan Easton and Archie McPhee respectively.
The second part of the game began with Craig Gunn, so often a thorn in Berwick’s side, misfiring from left to right after Rangers failed to halt Elgin’s advance down the Ducket side. On another occasion when again in a favourable position inside Kevin Walker’s area, Gunn was stopped by a superb tackle by Crane.
However, post-interval, Berwick were the more adventurous side, regularly tearing out of their own half as if Elgin had a big hole in midfield. Many of these attacks proved wasteful. McKenna tried to put through Ewan McNeil and then Graham with balls that lacked the required precision but it was almost curtains for the Moray men when they gave away the ball to Darren Lavery. He shimmied before letting rip with a drive from 25 yards which ended up mere inches outside the post.
In the 81st minute, Henderson was back to head away Easton’s corner. When McKenna and Jordan McGregor opened up Elgin’s defence to enable Graham to float the ball across the face of their goal, Blair headed wide but still went on to have the final say. If Finn’s was, as one fan commented, ‘a lovely ball’, McNeil’s was ‘a perfect cross’ and this time, with two minutes remaining, big Blair’s bonce hit it straight and true into Hurst’s net for his 15th goal of the season.
Berwick Rangers: K.Walker, McNeil, Crane, Notman ( F.Graham 10 ), McGregor, Fairbairn, Stevenson ( Beveridge 51 ), Cunningham ( Lavery 67 ), McKenna, Henderson, Martin