Pic: McKenna celebrates the opening goal
Saturday, August 19th, 2017 SPFL 2
BERWICK RANGERS 1 ANNAN ATHLETIC 5
A game which began promisingly for Berwick Rangers ended in a second successive SPFL defeat by a four goal margin. Sandwiched in between was a competent midweek Irn Bru Cup win against Kilmarnock Under 20s at Rugby Park. Rangers started without their three loan players from Edinburgh clubs who had been unavailable for that tie.
Berwick looked pretty comfortable in the opening twenty minutes and went ahead after just five. Steven Thomson, who early on showed glimpses of the form that saw him take awards last season, played the ball through to Aaron Murrell who delivered to Michael McKenna to finish from close in with a shot high into the net. Passes across field, one way and then the other ended with Stevie Notman, injured before half time, attempting to score but despite having to stretch to make the catch, the shot didn’t really trouble Jim Atkinson. Of more concern to him was a Gary Phillips’ corner which he managed to tip all the way beyond the Ducket side touchline.
Rangers might have had the upper hand but Annan were getting the free kicks and finally, one paid dividends in the 21st minute. It led to Rabin Omar trying a fancy kick. It was blocked but the ball arrived at the feet of Steven Swinglehurst who made it 1-all. Six minutes later, Omar flicked a pass to Ryan Sinnamon who shrugged off a weak tackle on his way to beating keeper Robby McCrorie.
Just ahead of the interval, the ball reached the box from Annan’s left. Kevin McKinlay, who shortly beforehand had been slow to pounce on it when threatened by Brandon Luke, sought to blame Notman’s replacement Andrew Irving for the goal but really, it was McKinlay’s ball to clear. He didn’t and Annan player-manager Peter Murphy took full advantage to double the margin.
Berwick had another relatively good spell at the start of the second half. Murrell, who chased everything,was up against a formidable marker in captain Peter Watson whose methods were not always legal. Only on the linesman’s intervention did Berwick win a free kick when the no. 5 pulled down Rangers’ solo front man. Atkinson almost spilled Thomson’s kick as Chris McDonald raced in. The ball bounced off an Annan head when Thomson took another free, this one from 30 yards but directly in front of goal, the spot where Watson again fouled Murrell. A scramble followed the corner before, further out, Irving attempted to lob the keeper but the ball floated on to the roof of the net.
Some home fans were deceived into thinking that the unmarked McKenna had scored with a forceful header from a great cross by Phillips but the ball actually travelled outside the post.
The momentum swung the other way soon after Rangers made a double substitution shortly after the hour mark. Pat Scullion came on for Keiran Stewart and Greg Rutherford was brought on in a straight swap for Murrell, later becoming one of four home players booked inside the final 17 minutes.
McCrorie made two good saves before receiving a yellow card for bringing down Aidan Smith after Omar sent him scampering towards goal. Smith’s successful 75th minute penalty was the nail in Rangers’ coffin. Three minutes on, former Berwick striker Blair Henderson, on debut for Annan for the second time in his career as a 76th minute sub, poked the ball into the net following several unsuccessful home attempts to get it away following Sinnamon’s free kick towards the far post.
The official attendance was 494 but the fourth goal prompted some spectators on the Ducket to start heading for the exit. More followed when ‘Hendo’ rubbed salt into Berwick wounds.
Berwick Rangers: McCrorie, Fleming, Notman ( Irving 40 ), McKinlay, Thomson. Lavery ( capt. ), McKenna, Phillips, Stewart ( Scullion 62 ), McDonald, Murrell ( Rutherford 62 )