Regan Graham, scorer of Berwick’s first goal v. East Stirlingshire on Tuesday night, Sept. 15th ( Photo courtesy of David Glencross )
BERWICK RANGERS (0) 2 EAST STIRLINGSHIRE 0
Two goals in three minutes from second half substitutes Regan Graham and Daniel Watt saw Berwick win their first home Development League game of 2015-16. Rangers’ team included several fringe first teamers along with Stevie Notman who played his first full match since last March.
Wearing light blue shirts with black shoulder patches, the latter a nod to one of their traditional colours, East Stirling fielded manager Craig Tully at the heart of their defence. Being a non-registered player meant the veteran was officially a trialist.
Neither goalkeeper was seriously troubled in the opening 20 minutes during which the most notable incident was the 8th minute booking of Berwick’s Barry Hogg for an alleged off the ball incident. Hogg felt hard done by but most of referee Duncan Smith’s other calls were correct including an 83rd minute straight red for ‘Shire’s Paul Brennan for an attack on Robert Wilson’s ankle after the ball had been played.
If Berwick were going to score in the first half, it seemed probable it would be with a header. Twice, Wilson went up to connect with corner balls and Scott Russell flashed another one wide from a Dwayne Coultress cross.
‘Shire keeper Michael Fairbanks also made a great save in the 32nd minute flinging himself across his goal to punch away Hogg’s shot.
East Stirling’s chances were limited. Early on, Gavin McMillan worked his way into position for a long, low…and tame shot. Ciaran McBrearty showed what he might do if given enough space, his dangerous run halted by Ewan Herriot’s foul for which he was fortunate not to be yellow carded. Tully took the free kick but it too, posed Walters no threat.
Near the end of the opening half, Berwick inexplicably indulged in a bout of passing the ball about inside their own half. To the frustrated onlooker, changing the first vowel in ‘passing’ would lead to a more apt description. It came to an end with Wilson’s long lob to Daniel Pattenden but Adam Murray’s decisive tackle stopped him making the most of it.
At half time, coach Neil Oliver reshuffled his team. Regan Graham replaced Herriot. Charlie Denton dropped back but whenever Berwick attacked, he and the other outside defender, Ross Graham, moved forward too. This tactic and the new man, before long joined by Watt, ignited Berwick’s attacking play.
Fairbanks was all over the place in a crowded penalty area, three times stretching to punch away the ball before the home side went in front by keeping it on the ground. The move started with a simple pass from the solid Dean McConnell and, a few touches later, was finished in convincing fashion by Regan Graham firing in from the right.
Hogg drove forward and hit the post. Watt retrieved the ball, shrugged of a defender and fine tuned his narrow angled shot so that it crossed the line with a foot to spare.
Walters was called upon to make only a couple of saves in the second half which finished 10-a-side; Brennan dismissed and Wilson limping off with Berwick having used all three subs. They ended with another spell of passing inside their own half but this time, they had a two goal cushion and the clock was running down.
Berwick Rangers: Walters, Herriot ( Regan Graham 46 ), Ross Graham, McConnell, Wilson, Notman, Denton, Hogg, Pattenden ( McKay 71 ), S.Russell ( Watt 58 ), Coultress