Blair Henderson ( right ) who was a marked man in the Development League game against East Stirlingshire at Shielfield ( Photo copyright of Alan Bell)
BERWICK RANGERS 1 EAST STIRLINGSHIRE 2 ( Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015 )
The signs were not good for East Stirlingshire. Due to traffic problems on the Edinburgh bypass, their arrival at Shielfield was delayed and the match kicked off twenty minutes later than advertised. In the first half hour of the game, they were rarely out of their own half as Berwick looked as if they would play them off the park. But ‘Shire went on to make it two wins out of three against Rangers in this, the teams’ final Development League meeting this season.
Ross Gray captained Berwick. Scott Maxwell also started, the former East Stirling man looking hungrier than in recent first team outings whilst Blair Henderson was in action for the first time in a fortnight. ‘Shire’s centre backs Jordan Tapping and Jon Tully, brother of manager Craig Tully, had clearly picked out the big man as a major threat and Rangers’ number nine came in for some rough treatment especially from Tully in the role of hard man.
Rangers’ top performance came from teenage full back Gavin Stevenson, still playing as a trialist. His intelligent running and passing in attack and a penchant for being in the right place at the right time in defence, suggest that Berwick should give serious consideration to signing him.
Berwick kept up a fast and furious pace throughout the first half. A couple of good moves which sliced open the visitors’ defence were foiled by the offside flag. Their best legitimate chance saw Henderson head Gray’s chip on to the roof of the net though in the opening minute, ‘Shire keeper Grant McLeish almost gifted them a goal when he fumbled Stevenson’s cross. Tully prevented the ball crossing the line.
It took East Stirling 34 minutes to seriously challenge Michael Andrews with a low drive from outside the penalty area by substitute David Grant. Berwick’s keeper then had to use his feet to stop a shot from Andrew McNee as the team in red began to gain some traction.
In the 52nd minute, following a rare E.Stirling corner, they opened the scoring. Grant ended a scramble just outside the goal area by rifling the ball into the net. Rangers equalised on 67 minutes. Gregor Watson finished one of his regular jaunts up the left wing with a pass to David Henderson. He attempted to lob McLeish. At first, it looked as if the goalkeeper would be able to tip the ball over the bar but instead, being too far off his line, he could only punch it into his own goal.
Sub Kayde Reynolds made a couple of good runs on the right but Berwick’s finishing let them down. It was a similar story when the referee played advantage as Gray was blatantly pulled back and Henderson continued towards goal only for his strong run to end with McLeish making a relatively easy save.
Another set piece was the catalyst for ‘Shire’s 81st minute winner. Greg Stewart’s inswinging free kick was knocked away by Andrews but Rangers couldn’t get the ball out of the danger zone and Tapping fired it home although from their reactions, the Berwick defence clearly thought the Ducket side linesman should have flagged for offside.
The two dozen plus paying spectators and watching club officials might have drawn comparisons with Berwick’s first team; first half dominance bringing no reward and the other side getting back into the game post interval. But they would also have to commend the passion and commitment of a team which used six young trialists in all.
Berwick Rangers: Andrews, Stevenson*, Maxwell ( Reynolds* 61 ), Forrest*, Watson, Miller, Gray ( Khouiel 68 ), Binnie*, B. Henderson ( Mangala 81 ), Philp*, D. Henderson *