Saturday, January 6th, 2018 SPFL 2
STIRLING ALBION 2 BERWICK RANGERS 0
Berwick Rangers failed to score for the fourth successive match, all of them away from home and from which they have taken a solitary point out of a possible twelve. Another sobering statistic is that by virtue of his 23rd and 58th minute brace at Forthbank, Albion’s Darren Smith’s fifteen goals so far this campaign exceed Berwick’s entire tally in eighteen SPFL matches.
Berwick boss Robbie Horn kept faith with the eleven who started in the midweek holiday fixture against Edinburgh City. Another echo of that match was an early near miss by Rangers. Had Andy Irving’s 6th minute free kick found the net instead of hitting the post before being collected by keeper Cameron Binnie, Berwick might have been on their way to a second success over the Binos following their 1-0 home win at the beginning of December.
Although seconds after kick off Stirling won a corner from which Steven Noble headed on to the top of the net, there was little between the teams during the opening twenty minutes. Defensive highlights for Rangers included Keiran Stewart’s brave body block to stop Ross Kavanagh’s hit going anywhere near the goal and Robby McCrorie spectacularly saving the latter of two free kicks awarded within seconds of each other.
Going forward, Berwick frequently utilised Chris McDonald’s long throw ins and men were running into good positions but too often, the pass they were expecting was pushed too far on a grass pitch which was in top condition. When Irving put the ball through to Darren Lavery, one of Rangers’ most promising moves brought nothing when Lavery’s blind pass was picked up by a home player.
Kevin McKinlay’s cross beat Binnie but finished outside the far post. Immediately after the goal kick, Berwick were caught out when the ball was flicked on by Peter MacDonald to Smith who ignored Robert WIlson’s futile challenge to beat a visibly annoyed McCrorie.
Another good Berwick move involving Michael McKenna and Stewart saw Lavery beat one man but not Binnie whose positioning was spot on to block his shot.
Liam Caddis tried to cash in when McCrorie was pulled out of his area but his long kick finished some way off the empty net because, as one home fan suggested, ‘’He didn’t bend it like Beckham’’.
The home side won a string of free kicks in the early phase of the new half but the second goal came in open play. Rangers were punished by Smith for split second hesitancy when the ball was played into the penalty area.
They had already adopted a more adventurous shooting policy before Horn rang the changes bringing on Murrell and Thomson. It continued when Irving had a crack from distance, Binnie softening the impact by patting down the ball before safely gathering it.
During the same stoppage that brought on Berwick’s final sub Gary Phillips, Smith left the field to understandable applause. Replacement Sean Dickson took up a position further back. The hosts were aiming to defend their lead to the extent that at times they had no players inside the Berwick half. Rangers had little choice but to keep trying anything from anywhere. Following a corner, Stirling’s thin red line, just in front of the goal, stopped the ball going into the net and when Aaron Murrell eventually put it there, the flag was raised for offside.
Berwick’s only crumb of comfort was that they maintained their points lead over Clyde and Cowdenbeath who both lost, the latter at home to Edinburgh City who, in the space of five days, cut the gap between themselves and Rangers by six points.
Berwick Rangers: McCrorie, Notman ( capt. ), McKinlay, Fairbairn, Lavery ( Murrell 63 ), McKenna, Irving, Stewart ( Phillips 67 ), Wilson, McDonald ( Thomson 63 ), Godinho