Tuesday, March 27th, 2018 SPFL 2
BERWICK RANGERS 2 ELGIN CITY 2
A game which showed two sides of Berwick Rangers ended with general satisfaction amongst their supporters. With Cowdenbeath losing at home to Clyde, the point gained brought some relief, increasing the gap between Rangers and the bottom of the table Fifers to ten points.
More a case of Jekyll and Hyde than the hackneyed ‘game of two halves’, there was plenty to frustrate home fans. In the first half especially, the Black and Gold too often seemed intent on giving away possession. Then there were the missed chances, plenty of them. In spite of these, the fact that Berwick twice fought back from behind, demonstrated a real fighting spirit.
Also, Rangers’ second half play was a marked improvement on the previous Saturday’s performance against Edinburgh City. Whereas in the opening 45 there was a tendency to send balls over the top in the hope that Jack Hamilton would outpace the covering defenders, in the second, the ball was kept firmly on the ground.
Twice in the first half, Hamilton was in good positions to trouble Elgin but his brain was working faster than his feet. He ran in to meet a Paul Willis’ free kick but was unable to securely claim the ball, his unintended poke sending it well wide. On another occasion, having advanced almost to the goal area, he lost control of it as a couple of Elgin men closed in on him. His best effort was from an angle after Gary Phillips put him through, keeper Brett Long going down to make a one-handed save.
It was by no means one way traffic and Scott Smith deserved a more productive ending when he flashed the ball across the box following a dangerous run up his left wing. Nevertheless, Elgin’s 41st minute opener still felt rather like a sucker punch. Jordan Allan’s corner from the right was headed down and Stephen Bronsky swept the ball into the net.
As City pressed at the start of the second half, Shane Sutherland passed up another scoring opportunity, almost certainly taken by surprise when Berwick’s attempted clearance landed at his feet. With that let off, Rangers began to put their game together. Darren Lavery’s silky footwork took him past two men to return a pass to Willis whose shot was insufficiently fine tuned and rolled beyond the far post.
Elgin won two quick corners, the first scrambled away at the second attempt, the second won when a slight deflection sent Smith’s close range strike off course.
Again on the right, more good ball work from Lavery set up Hamilton but he flicked Darren’s pass into the side netting. Next, he finished a run on which he had the advantages of time and space with a poor shot. His luck changed in the 69th minute. Elgin gave away the ball. Steven Notman instantly forwarded it to Hamilton who hooked it beyond Long for the first equaliser.
Willis then wasted another chance after Hamilton outstripped Darryl McHardy and Berwick paid the price on 74 minutes when the same Elgin player’s snapshot took them by surprise, Robby McCrorie’s hand only helping it into the net.
Hamilton fired over the bar after a great ball from Willis. With time running out and two subs already on, boss Robbie Horn went for a final reshuffle pulling off Jordan Orru, who had a good game at left back, and sent on Aaron Murrell to reinforce the troops up front. With three minutes left, he rewarded Ousman See and Willis for their preparatory work with the kind of finish all too rarely seen from Berwick players in this campaign.
Elgin almost grabbed a late clincher but were denied by a goal line clearance which cemented Notman’s place, alongside Lavery, as one of Berwick’s stars on the night.
Berwick Rangers: McCrorie, Orru ( Murrell 84 ), Notman, Lavery, Willis, Phillips ( See 64 ), Stewart, O’Kane ( Thomson 64 ), Wilson, Hamilton, Todd
Pictures courtesy of Alan Bell