Berwick’s hat-trick hero celebrates. (picture courtesy of Ian Runciman)
Saturday, February 4th, 2017 SPFL 2
BERWICK RANGERS 4 ANNAN ATHLETIC 1
A superb volley by Steven Thomson deep in stoppage time would have been the perfect goal with which to win any match. However, Rangers were already assured of all three points having stretched the margin to 3-1 three minutes from the end of normal time.
There were changes in Black and Gold from the team beaten at Montrose the previous Saturday. New on loan signing Devlin Mackay made his debut in goal and Jordyn Sheerin was recalled to partner Greg Rutherford. Though neither scored, doubling the number of front men not only made the team better balanced but sent a signal that Berwick were serious about scoring goals. That they did with their biggest win so far coming in what was undoubtedly their best SPFL 2 performance of the season.
That didn’t look likely at the start as Smart Osadolor immediately presented himself as a serious trouble maker culminating in Mackay’s reflex punch to put Nathan Flanagan’s angled shot over the bar. Mackay also stopped a Rabin Omar header on his line.
Yet, it was Berwick who took the lead in the 13th minute. Rutherford got first touch to Euan Spark’s ball into the box. Keeper Blair Currie was in his way but was helpless when Thomson took the second chance to make it 1-0.
Six minutes later, Thommo struck again, judging precisely how to beat Currie after Rutherford supplied the final pass of an impressive build up.
On 26 minutes, with Osadolor breathing down his neck, Kevin McKinlay passed back towards Mackay. Though the keeper did not attempt to catch the ball, the referee ruled his hand had touched it. Peter Weatherson beat Berwick’s nine man wall after Flanagan tapped the 16 yard free kick his way.
After vying with Osadolor for a high ball, McKinlay limped off. Jordan Orru came on with Spark moving inwards alongside Pat Scullion, the pair proving to be an effective centre back partnership. They were tested as the visitors went on to have the better of the rest of the half with Scullion, on one occasion, clearing off the line.
A couple of minutes into the second period, Osadolor sent Darren Lavery tumbling but despite two earlier instances of quiet words from Mr Lowe, still escaped a yellow card. Callum Home did get one for a foul which prevented Michael McKenna putting over a cross when Berwick broke downfield after Lee Hamilton headed away an Annan corner.
Back in his own half, McKenna showed one way of dealing with Osadolor with a determined old style shoulder charge. Despite the early promise, it was clearly not going to be the Annan number 10’s day. In the clear and further upfield than Scullion but still onside, he pulled his shot wide after collecting a long ball. In the 73rd minute, having fouled Spark five minutes earlier and still avoided a card, he was pulled off by a management team frustrated by their team’s disjointed play with any number of passes ending up in touch.
Rutherford was released down the right and after cutting inside might have been wiser to go on to try to beat Currie himself. Opting to square the ball slowed down the attack, the slippery conditions helping the red shirts’ efforts to clear the danger.
Spark and McKenna worked the ball to sub Aaron Murrell but he fired straight at Currie. McKenna’s long shot was high and wide after he took a pass from Lavery. Despite Thomson’s hat trick, the one time graduate from Berwick’s old Reserves team would have got many votes for man of the match. Displaying real confidence, Darren showed some great ball control, sprayed shrewd passes and put in some tenacious tackles.
Goal number 3 came after a 1:2 between Murrell and Orru. Having already covered half the length of the field, like the Duracell rabbit, Orru just kept on going, virtually running the ball into the bottom corner of the goal. David McKenna was denied the chance to cut the margin again by an excellent save from Mackay.
Celebrations for goal number 3. (pic courtesy of Ian Runciman)
Recorded at 90+3 minutes, and following a short corner, Thomson veered inside from the right before releasing a ripper of a ball from outside the penalty area into the top corner of Currie’s net. A goal to remember and those who saw it probably will.
Berwick Rangers: Mackay, Spark, McKinlay ( Orru 34 ), Hamilton, Scullion ( capt. ), Phillips, Thomson, Lavery, Rutherford ( Kessells 90 ), McKenna, Sheerin ( Murrell 75 )