Kevin McKinlay had a good game in a beaten team at Gayfield ( Photo copyright of Alan Bell )
Saturday, January 14th, 2017 SPFL 2
ARBROATH 4 BERWICK RANGERS 1
The dam burst in the 64th minute when Ryan McCord beat Brian Martin on his way to levelling the scores at 1-all. Three more goals followed, the last one possibly giving keeper Sean Brennan a sleepless night.
Brennan was a late replacement for Kevin Walker. With Jonny Fairbairn on the bench, Pat Scullion took over as captain, partnered in the middle of the back four by the recalled Martin. Michael Dunlop, in his first game back at Berwick and against his most immediate former club, occupied the right back spot. Kevin McKinlay completed the defensive line.
The seemingly out of favour Jordyn Sheerin was listed amongst the replacements with Greg Rutherford on his own up front. If the team formation was an invitation to the hosts to take the game to Berwick, they certainly accepted it particularly in the second half. Yet, if one of two headers during the early stages of that half had gone in, the result could have been very different.
At the time, Berwick were still one up courtesy of a great 13th minute volley from Michael McKenna. Steven Thomson’s skilful footwork changed the direction of play before McKenna collected Scullion’s long ball and beat Ricky Gomes hands down.
The physio was on to attend to McKenna after he was tumbled by McCord in the 20th minute. A stretcher was brought on but with support, McKenna left the field on two feet. He soon returned, apparently none the worse for his fall.
Arbroath began to find some rhythm with left winger Bobby Linn now stretching his sinews. McKinlay headed away one corner. A surprise short one led to a goalmouth scramble before Ricky Little headed over another kick taken from beside the flag.
Martin twice stopped Linn; near the bye line after he tore down his flank and then with outstretched leg after he got through again. There was the prospect of some respite with McKenna’s attempt to beat Gomes in similar fashion to before but this time, the Canadian keeper comfortably held his long lob.
In the 37th minute, Brennan dived and used both fists to punch away a shot by Mark Whatley. With home pressure now intense, even Rutherford dropped back into the Rangers’ half.
Straight after the cups of tea, right in front of goal, Scullion glanced a header wide off McKenna’s touchline free kick. Seven minutes later, Little back headed Darren Lavery’s strike towards goal forcing Gomes into an athletic save.
But most of the play would now be in Berwick territory. Crosses from Linn and Jassem Sukar flashed across Rangers’ goal but weren’t converted. Home fans weren’t happy. If they were not moaning about their team’s play, they were complaining about the referee whom they felt was missing supposed indiscretions by the visitors. They were relieved when McCord finally equalised though two minutes later, Berwick almost regained the lead, Scullion’s header from Thomson’s corner headed off the line by ex-Berwick player David Gold.
McKinlay rescued his skipper after he was beaten by new signing Eddie Ferns. On 73 minutes, McCord got a second goal, nodding in a cross from the right by Josh Skelly at the far post. Six minutes later, Linn’s cross from the opposite side was headed home by Martin Scott barely a minute after his arrival as a sub. Scullion was booked for attempting to disrupt another rampaging run by Linn with a trip raising the question that if he had succeeded, would it have been a red?
Brennan was fortunate to ‘save’ a fierce shot from Steven Doris, the ball hitting the keeper and then the post before he gathered it. Such luck deserted him as the end approached. He scuffed the ball when attempting to kick out a backpass presenting Gavin Malin with the simple task of hitting an empty net.
Daniel Watt got another few minutes at the end. If Berwick are going to persist with their current policy of a one man forward line, perhaps he would provide a more robust presence up front than Rutherford. McKinlay and Lavery, who really grafted, were the pick of the Berwick team on a day when for a good bit of the first half, they did not look like a side with relegation worries. The final scoreline underlined that that is what they are.
Berwick Rangers: Brennan, Dunlop ( Perez 75 ), McKinlay, Notman, Scullion, Martin, Thomson, Lavery, Rutherford ( Watt 86 ), McKenna, Phillips