Berwick Rangers conjured up a superb team performance to capture all three points against in-form Montrose and get the new year off to a perfect start after a four game barren run.
One win does’nt make a season, but if Rangers can build on victory against a team that had only tasted defeat once in their previous ten games and are currently rated the best in the division after the other Gers, then their hopes of salvaging a play-off spot will take on a more realistic hue.
Ian Little lost Andy McLean to illness hours before the match, while Stevie Notman returned from flu but only as far as bench duty. Trialist winger Dillon Easton, ex- Livingston, was also named amongst the subs.
With a strong easterly wind howling down the pitch, it took both teams time to warm up, though it was Montrose who showed first when Richard McIntosh broke through one on one with McCaldon but the big keeper brilliantly deflected the shot wide. Rangers took the lead in the 24th minute when Darren Lavery latched on to Fraser McLaren’s lay-off to leather an angled volley beyond Wood in the home goal. It was the young striker’s 10th goal in 15 outings. Kevin McDonald came close to doubling the lead on the half hour mark, playing a slick one-two with Ross Gray only to see his shot cannon off the keeper’s face for a corner. McCaldon parried Crawford’s vicious left footer wide in the 38th minute, but Watson chipped the ball back into the middle for Young to direct a free header beyond McCaldon. It was a soft goal to lose after having played so well, and it encouraged Montrose to lay siege to Rangers goal during the run-in to half time.
McDonald, playing well in midfield, took off on a mazy run a minute after the break before putting Easton in at the back post, but the trialist chipped narrowly over. McIntosh hammered an angled shot off McCaldon’s post 8 minutes later as Montrose looked to turn the screw, before the keeper made a brilliant low save from Garry Wood’s deflected shot on the hour mark. Play began to flow from end to end as both sides pushed for the winner, and Wood saved well from a Jacobs thunderbolt. Easton, who made an impressive debut with his willingness to take players on and two assists, carved Montrose open down their right before crossing for McLaren to guide a clever backheel down and over keepr Wood. McCaldon saved superbly from Garry Wood’s thumping 15 yarder with five minutes remaining, while his namesake saved well from Noble after the burly striker broke clean through on goal with a couple of minutes remaining. The piece de la resistance arrived in the final minute. Rangers worked the ball down the Montrose right flank in what looked like an attempt to run down the clock, but they kept possession before supplying the ball to Easton, whose deft flick put McDonald through. From a difficult angle,the midfielder curled a classy 15 yard shot around Wood and into the far corner. It’ll take some effort to beat that in the goal of the season stakes.
Rangers should take huge confidence from this match. They beat a very good side, they were disciplined in defence and they stayed true to their passing game – and it worked out beautifully in the end. More of the same please.
Man of the match: Ian “The Eagle” McCaldon, who rolled back the years to give a consumate goalkeeping performance. After one brilliant save, skipper Chris Townsley said to Dougie Brydon “That’s the difference”, and it was easy to guess what he meant.
McCaldon 9; Jacobs 7; Townsley 8; Brydon 7; Gielty 7; Gray 6 (Easton 8); McDonald 7; Currie 7; Janczyk 7; Lavery 6 (Noble 6); McLaren 6
Crowd – 434