Pic:Pictured at Alloa earlier in the season, Sam Jones scored with an excellent volley against Raith ( Photo courtesy of David Glencross )
Monday, March 27th, 2017
SPFL DEVELOPMENT LEAGUE EAST BERWICK RANGERS 1 RAITH ROVERS 3
Raith’s squad of full timers left Shielfield with a spring in their step after this victory put them in the driving seat for the League title. Home coach Neil Oliver felt the visitors edged the first half, his side the second until undone by two goals from set pieces.
It was an unusually physical Development League encounter. Respective front men Daniel Watt and Jonny Court made their presence felt. Indeed, Berwick centre half Renne Donkor endured an uncomfortable evening up against Court who scored against Rangers’ first team at Shielfield in December when on loan to Montrose. The one consolation for the Dutchman was that Court didn’t manage to score but he did pick up a booking, one of four Raith players to do so. Watt was also cautioned for getting in the way as Raith prepared to take a first half free kick but overall, Rangers were streets ahead in the free kick count. Most were taken by a trialist but the inability to make anything of them was a contributory factor in this defeat.
The Fifers’ early threat included a punched out corner and a shot just wide after the home defence got in a right pickle. In the 14th minute, some sharp passing ended with Andreas Thorsen hitting the side netting. Rovers keeper Rory Brian’s first serious challenge did not come until the 20th minute when he leapt to hold a cross by Jordan Orru.
Raith’s chances were totting up. Unmarked out left, Yaw Osei was miffed when Kevin McHattie opted to have a go himself only to fire wide. James Berry also missed after taking an Osei cross. Only keeper Stuart Allan’s boot denied Berry when play continued after Donkor was left both aggrieved and bewildered by Court’s robust challenge in the middle of the home half.
McHattie was booked for lip to the linesman as the visitors became increasingly agitated, partly because Berwick were coming back into the game. The second period also began with Rangers on the front foot but the nearest they came to scoring was a 61st minute volley from Stephen Scott which bounced on top of the net. When an away goal looked on as Raith cut inside from the left, Allan saved from McHattie at close quarters.
Another volley from captain Sam Jones, ten minutes after Scott’s, put Rangers in front but the lead was shortlived as Ian Davidson headed in Ryan Stevenson’s 25 yard free kick. At this point, Oliver sent on Callum Helm to play for the first time since limping off at Shielfield in a pre-season friendly v. Hibs in the summer of 2015.
Two minutes from time, another header from a set piece made it to 2-1, David McKay heading in Stevenson’s corner. With Orru having vacated his defensive position in a bid to pep up the attack for a final assault on the Raith goal in search of an equaliser, the young Rovers rubbed in the salt. Regaining possession, they picked out Osei to receive a fine crossfield ball and with no marker in front of him, he finished easily from a few yards.
The teams meet again at Shielfield next Monday ( April 3rd ) in what has now become a ‘must win’ match for Berwick if they are to retain hopes of winning the League.
Berwick Rangers: Allan, Bauld, Orru, Donkor, Cook, Trialist, Kessels ( K.Scott 81 ), Jones, Watt, S.Scott ( Helm 74 ), PorteouUnused subs: Herriot, Chapman, Henderson, Sutherland, Goodfellow ( GK )