Caption: Referee Lorraine Clark inspects Ally McDonald’s boot during a stoppage in play at Bannockburn High School ( picture by John Bell )
EAST STIRLINGSHIRE 2 BERWICK RANGERS 2 ( Monday, November 16th, 2015 )
As Dad’s Army’s Private Frazer might have started one of his long-winded stories, ‘It was a wild, wet night in Bannockburn’ though paradoxically, the football played got better as the conditions worsened in the second half. Manager John Coughlin watched Berwick in Development League action for the first time.
Rangers twice went into the lead. They started with the full complement of permitted overage players but two of them failed to see out the game. Kieran Ainslie retired at half time after injuring his lower back when taking a fall on the hard, artificial surface of the Bannockburn High School pitch. Mark Walters lasted ten minutes longer but limped off still bearing the stud marks received in a close quarters save from Michael Wallace late in the first half. Daniel Pattenden for Charlie Denton was the other change. Denton played part of the previous week’s 5-2 friendly defeat to Haddington Athletic when Berwick fielded a straight under 20 side. Initially fearing a longer lay off because of a dislocated shoulder, the injury, received in a Junior match, turned out to be less serious.
The first goal came in the 16th minute. Alan Deans was unready for a short goal kick from his keeper Michael Fairbanks. David Morris nipped in and shrugged off the defender’s belated challenge to score.
The lead lasted five minutes. Kris Faulds took ‘Shire’s first corner. From it Andrew Kay’s head got a soft touch of the ball. It proved enough to befuddle the Rangers’ defence and the ball dropped gently into the corner of the net. Five minutes after this, ‘Shire’s best move of the opening half ended with Walters diving to punch away Kay’s shot after it took a deflection off a Berwick player.
Berwick edged the first half in which there were throw-ins aplenty as players struggled to cope with the conditions. Three minutes from Lorraine Clark’s half time whistle, they scored again when midfielder Ally McDonald, whose number eleven shirt was thus meaningless, had the determination to win back the ball which Denton then teed up to beat Fairbanks.
In contrast to the mostly dry first period, the second was accompanied by non-stop rain. East Stirling began to fashion some good moves as they played down the almost imperceptible slope. Sub goalkeeper Craig Cockburn made a great blocking save from Gavin McMillan and Kay blasted the rebounding ball way over the top. The hosts, looking especially dangerous down the right, were putting Berwick under pressure but Rangers were equally threatening when they broke out of their own half. One raid saw Denton as the last of a four man move but he lobbed the ball a foot above the post/crossbar intersection.
Cockburn made another good save from Mark Hansen but E.Stirling levelled again in the 75th minute. Barry Hogg fouled Hansen. The defence decided to ignore the lonely Simon White lurking out on the left. As did Faulds who beat the wall with the 25 yard free kick.
The ‘Black and Gold’ had a chance to regain the lead in similar manner. Pattenden’s through ball sent Morris scurrying goalwards but he was brought down in the middle of the ‘D’ by one of ‘Shire’s experienced men, Jon Tully. Andy Russell’s free lacked menace and was easily held by Fairbanks.
McMillan could have won it for the boys in blue when the ball was once more played across from their right but he missed from six yards in front of goal.
Berwick coach Myles Allan felt some of his players were too generous in giving their opponents time and space by standing off the man with the ball. All the same, he was satisfied that a draw was a fair result on a night when his planned second half switches of personnel and formation were torpedoed by injuries.
Berwick Rangers: Walters ( Cockburn 55 ), Herriot, Anderson, MacKay, Wilson, Ainslie ( McConnell 46 ), Denton ( Pattenden ), Hogg ( capt. ), A.Russell, Morris, McDonald
Unused sub: Watt