Berwick Rangers rediscovered their mojo with a classy victory against in-form Clyde at a bright but blustery Broadwood on Saturday, which was sufficient to hoist the black and gold into a mid-table slot and set them up nicely for the visit of runaway leaders Annan on 1st October.
Jimmy Crease opted to start with the same eleven who took the field in the welcome home win over title favourites Peterhead the previous week, and was rewarded with Rangers’ best league performance of the season, featuring starring roles from the outstanding Chris McLeod and Darren Gribben, whose return to goalscoring form will have defenders throughout the Third Division digging out their worry beads.
Clyde have been one of the big surprises so far this season, and cemented their growing reputation as dark horses with a comfortable 3-0 win at Elgin a week earlier, a place where Rangers had bitten the dust to the tune of a 4-1 defeat on the opening day of the season. That meant that Rangers were likely to be up against it, and those fears were reinforced in the 3rd minute when the nippy Cusack got clear of the Gers’ defence only to slide his low shot wide with Barclay stranded. Three minutes later the lively Gribben, who looked in the mood from the outset, fastened on to Lee Currie’s driven crossfield pass and chipped Clyde keeper Filip Mentel only for Gallagher to head off the line. Clyde had an even bigger escape with eleven minutes gone, Fraser McLaren stealing in front of Mentel to head home Ian Little’s superb cross, only for referee Somers to penalise the in-form Rangers midfielder for an unspecified offence. Clyde had got lucky, and they knew it.
Rangers were completely dominant in the early stages and Kevin McDonald should have given them a deserved lead after 14 minutes, but skied his ten yard shot from Gribben’s cut back wastefully high and wide. Gribben continued the one way traffic by weaving his way in from the left and curling a shot into Mentel’s arms. The Bully Wee finally broke the black and gold stranglehold in the 22nd minute, John Neill getting in between McLean and McLeod before forcing Barclay into a smart save with his feet. Normal service quickly resumed however, and Gray and McLaren both had goalbound shots blocked by a desperate home defence in the space of a couple of seconds as Rangers turned up the heat. Rangers were playing some composed, confident football, and they got their reward four minutes from the interval when McDonald pickpocketed the dozing Brown near the defenders’ own touchline before squaring for Gray to lash the ball into the roof of the net from 4 yards out. To no great surprise, the bumbling Brown, who looked like he’d been knocking off some lines about seasons of mist and mellow fruitfulness, was given the hook at half time.
Clyde emerged from the break looking a lot sprightlier than they had in the first half, and they got themselves back into the game with a superbly engineered equaliser out of the blue within three minutes of the restart. Rangers failed to close down John Sweeney’s advance down their left and his pinpoint cross was bulleted home by the head of John Neil, who missed a good chance at the back post two minutes later with Rangers looking rattled for the first time. Superbly marshalled by skipper McLeod, they rode out the storm however, and killed the game off with two stunning goals in the space of sixty seconds. First, Fraser McLaren broke down Clyde’s left flank and drew the defensive cover before crossing perfectly for Gribben to power a header beyond Mentel. The maverick striker went cuckoo in celebration of his first league goal of the season. Little did he know that his second was to arrive a few seconds later. McQueen fouled Little near the angle of the home penalty area, allowing McDonald to tap the ball back for Gribben to send a beast of a shot arcing over the keeper and into the top corner. If Zico or Rivaldo had been in the stands, they’d have been on their feet – it was that good, and if you have access to SFL tv via the internet, try to catch it. The quickfire double killed off any hopes of a Clyde fightback, and Rangers were inches away from increasing their lead on the hour mark with and effort that, had it gone in, would have closed the book on goal of the season. Gribben trapped the ball on the Clyde touchline before curling a 25 yard pass with the outside of his foot into the path of the fast-arriving McLaren, who did’nt break his stride before battering a vicious half-volley off Mentel’s post with the keeper beaten all ends up.
The home side stirred themselves one final time when Archdeacon flashed a driven cross past Barclay’s goal, but it was Rangers who ended the contest on a high when Kevin McDonald’s brutal volley was beaten out by the diving Mentel a minute from time. Lee Currie put the icing on the cake in the final minute, sending sub Darren Smith clean through for a routine finish past Mentel for Rangers’ fourth goal.
This was the kind of performance Rangers supporters have been hoping for all season, and with two good wins under their belts they can test how far they’ve progressed when the leaders come visiting on Saturday. The word is that the manager is still looking to sign a left-sided midfielder and if he’s successful, that gives Rangers a squad that compares favourably with any other in the league. Rangers have the ability, and they proved that on Saturday. The challenge that lies ahead is to find the level of consistency needed to break into the play-off places.
Barclay 6; Notman 7; McLeod 9; McLean 7; Thompson 7; McLaren 8; Currie 6; McDonald 7; Little 6; Gribben 8; Gray 5