Pic: Michael McKenna scoring against Montrose last month. He did it again last Saturday. ( Photo copyright of Alan Bell )
Saturday, January 28th, 2017 SPFL 2
MONTROSE 2 BERWICK RANGERS 1
A bleak day. As the sleet and rain lashed down during the second half, Berwick stumbled to another defeat in part due to a bad error by Brian Martin which gifted Montrose their second goal.
In a first half punctuated by whistle, neither side gave the impression they were fighting for their very SPFL existence though the quality of the football said everything about their low positions in the table. Scoring chances were few and though Montrose hit the bar following a 6th minute corner, they had no one close enough to cash in when the ball came down.
Berwick did not test keeper Jordan Millar with any of the free kicks that came their way. It was much the same in the other direction, despite new signing Liam Callaghan having five opportunities to make something from such set pieces.
In open play, Berwick went for long shots. The closest they got to a goal was when Millar punched out a corner ball from Darren Lavery. Pat Scullion headed it down but two attempts by teammates to knock the ball into the net were blocked by the home defence.
In the final 15 minutes of the half, the Gable Endies tried to step up the pressure. Callum MacDonald’s header off a corner was just wide. Scullion misheaded the ball for another corner but after it was taken, Michael McKenna was back to run the ball to safety. Andrew Steeves cut inside from the left after Steven Thomson lost the ball but an attempted shot went across Sean Brennan’s goal and out.
Six minutes into the second half, Rangers went in front. Tellingly, the goal came when they kept the ball on the ground. Greg Rutherford was again the lone figure up front but first half high balls to a man who struggles to control anything that comes his way at an elevation of more than two and a half feet seemed pointless.
Berwick produced their best two moves of the match in quick succession. The first, involving five players, fizzled out with a cross from the right by new on loan player Euan Spark. The next one led to the goal. Expecting a high cross, Montrose paid insufficient attention to McKenna positioned twelve yards out. Kevin McKinlay spotted him, sent the ball in from the far left and McKenna did the rest.
For the second time in two months, sub Chris Templeman came on and caused Berwick big trouble. Less than a minute after arrival he headed in Terry Masson’s 60th minute corner. He didn’t do much else of note but this immediate impact was enough for him to take the home man of the match award. Worse was to come. Ten minutes later, Martin, who had almost sliced a Steeves’ cross into his own net before the break, now attempted an ill judged pass back to Brennan. The ball fell directly into the path of Ryan Ferguson who would have deserved to have his match fee docked if had he missed such an easy chance.
Seventy fifth minute replacements were involved after McKenna started another move but the other newcomer, Aaron Murrell, could not turn to connect with Lee Hamilton’s cross into the goalkeeper’s area. Millar tipped away a long curling shot from Lavery. On occasions in the first half, Montrose had stood off as McKenna in particular made ground but now, were getting in amongst Rangers’ men quickly with centre half Greg Pascazio making a couple of timely interventions. McKenna did manage to put over a good ball towards the far post but skipper Scullion, coming in for it at speed, only succeeded in sending it high.
Big Pat was booked for felling Ferguson as he threatened to run through the middle and McKinlay got the same sanction for a foul on Cammie Ballantyne just outside the penalty area.
Sam Perez replaced Rutherford with two minutes of normal time to go but he got considerably longer than Montrose’s Dylan Thomas who ran on for the final 15 seconds of stoppage time. All witnessed by the biggest crowd to watch Berwick, home or away, so far this season, numbers boosted by Montrose operating a special family ticket scheme for this one.
Berwick remain in 9th place wedged between Edinburgh City, who have a superior goal difference, and bottom club Cowdenbeath. Both lost by 3-1 margins at Elgin and Forfar respectively. With back to back wins over ‘Beath and now Berwick, Montrose move up to 5th place.
Berwick Rangers: Brennan, Spark, McKinlay, Notman, Scullion, Martin ( Murrell 75 ), Thomson ( Hamilton 75 ), Lavery, Rutherford ( Perez 89 ), McKenna, Phillips