Saturday, January 13th, 2018 SPFL 2
BERWICK RANGERS 0 ANNAN ATHLETIC 2
Berwick Rangers made five changes from the starting line up at Stirling the previous week but the result was exactly the same. Marcus Godinho was recalled to parent club Hearts whilst Tynecastle stablemate Andrew Irving, whose loan spell with Berwick has been extended, played the second half for a Hearts XI against F.C. Nurnberg in Valencia. Despite the Germans winning 5-0, conditions were presumably more enjoyable than before a disappointing sub 400 crowd at a cold, overcast Shielfield.
Jonny Fairbairn, Darren Lavery and Chris McDonald, the latter having trials with Port Vale during the week, were all demoted to the bench. Oliver Fleming, Steven Thomson and Gary Phillips came in as did two new signings. For one of them, Declan O’Kane, it was an inauspicious beginning as he was largely responsible for the loss of both goals.
Annan were also grateful to goalkeeper Alex Mitchell for two excellent saves when the score was still 0-0. In the first half, from outside the area, Phillips’ left foot hooked a vicious shot towards goal, Mitchell leaping to turn it over the bar with one hand. In the second, using the same technique, he prevented See from scoring with a header off a good cross from Phillips.
See, signed from Forfar the day before, kicked off the match. His side made the early running with Michael McKenna heading Fleming’s cross straight at Mitchell and O’Kane off target after some smart play on the ground by McKenna and Phillips. However, Rangers were relying on long, high balls but any resulting pressure was usually defused by Annan’s solid defensive pairing of Peter Watson and Steven Swinglehurst.
The visitors’ first chance came in the 15th minute. Aiden Smith and Rabin Omar worked the ball wide to Dan Orsi. Blair Henderson just failed to meet his cross from the right. Five minutes later, Phillips belted an Orsi shot off the line.
Near the end of the half, a move involving Thomson, McKenna, Keiran Stewart and O’Kane ended with McKenna running in towards the far post intent on finishing it but a corner, and a poor one at that from Thomson, was their only reward.
Stewart skilfully featured in two early second half attacks. He ended the first with a ball that James Creaney was happy to knock away for a corner and his interchange with McKenna paved the way for a threatening strike by the latter which Mitchell just managed to push aside.
The first goal came in the 68th minute. O’Kane chanced a long, high back pass to McCrorie whose clearance did not go as far as intended. The ball was soon with 19 year old Annan sub Ben Armour, a new loan signing from Morton. He whipped it across to Henderson and the former Berwick player hit it into the roof of the net.
Unsettled by the goal, Rangers began to look increasingly vulnerable. Changes were made with Fleming, who had his head bandaged following an early second half penalty area scramble during which his side made three unsuccessful attempts to score, Thomson and new boy See, all departed. Paul Simpson, previously with St. Johnstone, became Berwick’s third debutant after some strong performances for the Development League team and had one particularly good run up the left.
Soon after McCrorie saved from Henderson with his legs, Smith robbed O’Kane and headed towards the Trading Estate goal to make it 2-0 with a couple of minutes of normal time remaining. A third goal beckoned when he did exactly the same to Lavery but Rangers got back in time to cut him off.
Berwick have now gone five SPFL games without a goal but remain fourth from bottom of the table. It was a relief for them to learn that all three teams below them were losers, too.
Berwick Rangers: McCrorie, Fleming ( Murrell 76 ), Notman ( capt. ), McKinlay, Thomson ( Simpson 81 ), McKenna, Phillips,Stewart, O’Kane, Wilson, See ( Lavery 81 )
Footage by BRFC TV