The weather at Ainslie Park was decidedly warmer than in Berwick’s visit there during the Scottish Cup run of 2015.
Tuesday, July 18th, 2017
Betfred Cup Group F
EDINBURGH CITY 2 BERWICK RANGERS 2
( Edinburgh City earn bonus point by winning penalty shoot out 4-2 )
Twice in last season’s Betfred Cup, Berwick Rangers’ matches finished all square after 90 minutes but their opponents won the penalty shoot out. It was the same after this game at sun drenched Ainslie Park, Edinburgh City’s temporary home whilst Meadowbank undergoes extensive redevelopment.
City included David Verlaque who was with Berwick in the second half of last season and Sean Mackie, on loan from Hibs, as he was at Berwick at the start of the last campaign. True to form, Rangers opened with one man up front, Aaron Murrell, with Greg Rutherford on the bench.
The match began with Berwick stroking the ball about confidently but to little effect and it was the hosts who threatened first. Robby McCrorie made a reflex save with his foot to divert Craig Beattie’s shot for a corner and then Chris McDonald’s body got in the way of another strike from the ex-Celtic man.
McDonald impressed with some intelligent distribution and an appetite for going forward but had a tough task marking pacy no. 12 Calum Hall and late on in the second half, Lewis Allan. When Hall eventually left the field in the 76th minute, it was to deserved applause.
Edinburgh took the lead midway through the first half, Ashley Grimes’ right foot shot possibly taking a deflection on its way into the bottom left corner of the net. Berwick levelled on the half hour. Darren Lavery put a great ball through a gap for Murrell who fired to the right of keeper Calum Antell.
Barely a minute later, the visitors’ defence allowed Marc Laird freedom to knock the ball to Grimes who now hit it into the top right corner of McCrorie’s goal.
Minutes from the break, Berwick won an incredible six corners in succession, Steven Thomson taking four from the right, Michael McKenna the other two from the left. The sequence was finally broken when Antell clutched the ball to his chest for a clean catch.
Berwick had the upper hand in the first 25 minutes of the second period with City making only occasional inroads into their half. McKenna was playing further forward but a lot of his passes were poorly targeted. He did come close to scoring with a 25 yard free kick taken after a short, dummy run from Thomson. ‘Thommo’ was fortunate not to be cautioned for simulation as he took a dive inside the penalty area. It was more worthy of a yellow card than the one received by Gary Phillips for throwing down the ball in frustration at an offside flag as Rangers pressed late on.
Rutherford took over as front man when he replaced Lavery just before the hour with Murrell and McKenna a little behind him making an arrowhead formation. Murrell soon had a shot slapped away by Antell. Well inside the opposite box and, under pressure from two white shirts, McDonald could only lob the ball gently wide, a disappointing climax to a move which had featured three other players.
Hall displayed his wizardry down the right beating three men. He passed to Grimes but Pat Scullion blocked his shot. Grimes latched on to a sloppy Stevie Notman back pass but McCrorie managed to get a hand to it even winning a goal kick as the ball hit the City man’s leg on its way out. Manchester-born Grimes was again denied a hat trick when he headed against the bar after Allan got in a cross from the right.
The match built to an exciting climax. City packed their defence as Rangers tried to find a way through. An attack started by Murrell determinedly winning the ball in midfield ended with the unmarked Phillips rushing his shot and firing over from 12 yards. Berwick eventually cracked it following McDonald’s long throw, Scullion hitting the ball into the bottom right corner with six minutes on the clock.
Shaun Harrison was booked for stopping McKenna in full flight. Scullion ran in to head Andrew Irving’s free kick. Falling, Antell just about caught the ball in his lap but Scullion was ruled offside anyway. Rutherford rose to head McKenna’s cross, the keeper making a more conventional save by tipping it over his bar. An excellent ball from McDonald sent Rutherford away but he was dispossessed by an equally impressive tackle by Mackie.
City came back. McCrorie was startled by a 40 yard angled belter out of the blue from Zdravko Karadachki, scrambling to knock it away for a corner taken by Allan and which also almost produced a goal.
Grimes, Allan, Josh Walker and Laird were all successful with their penalties. McKenna and Irving were on target for Berwick but McDonald hit the post and Scullion’s was saved.
Berwick Rangers: McCrorie, Fleming, Notman ( Donaldson 72 ), Thomson ( Phillips 61 ), Lavery ( Rutherford 58 ), McKenna, Irving, Stewart, McDonald, Murrell, Scullion