Callum Crane starred for Berwick in the victory over Annan ( Photo copyright of Alan Bell )
BERWICK RANGERS 3 ANNAN ATHLETIC 2
( Tuesday, February 16th, 2016 )
No one left early. This was high octane stuff as Berwick lifted themselves off the foot of the table with their first victory of 2016. A pity there were only 238 there to see it. What may be best remembered was the way Blair Henderson audaciously beat two men out on the left before sending a slide rule pass to Allan Walker to score Berwick’s third goal in the 89th minute. That should have settled matters but these days, football matches rarely last just 90 minutes. Annan grabbed a second goal to set home fans’ nerves jangling again as referee David Munro added on an excruciatingly long period of stoppage time.
It might have been very different if, barely five minutes into the second half, Berwick had not been reduced to ten men for the third time in their last four games. This time, keeper Kevin Walker was red-carded for an illegal ‘last man’ challenge on Rabin Omar. It wasn’t a penalty; it happened just outside the box. It didn’t matter. Replacement goalie Mark Walters’ first task was to pick the ball out of the net after Ryan McStay beat the wall with the free kick.
The loss of a player threatened to undo the good work of the first half which Rangers finished with a 2-0 lead. Inevitably, they found themselves under increased pressure as Annan sought to use the extra space now gifted to them. Too often, clearances or attempted passes were picked up by Annan men, such inaccuracies perhaps a reflection of the home players’ own anxieties.
There was relief when Josh Todd scooped the ball over the bar when the Dumfriesshire team broke downfield following a Berwick corner. Several times, Walters resorted to punching away the ball, unsuccessfully in one instance. Robert Wilson came to the rescue of the Eyemouth postie by clearing off the line. Jonny Fairbairn was flattened in a collision with Martin McNiff. Fortunately, the referee waved him back on a few seconds after the obligatory sideline inspection by the physio.
Yet, Annan still looked vulnerable. Allan Walker hit the bar with a cracking 25 yard free kick after Stevie Notman was fouled. Darren Lavery and Callum Crane produced a move which ended with the latter flicking the ball on to the roof of Blair Currie’s net. Berwick appealed for a penalty when Henderson went down. Instead, the Earlston-based player was booked for simulation.
Henderson had opened the scoring from close range in the 31st minute, taking Lavery’s pass after he jinked past two men close to the bye line. Darren then notched his tenth goal of the season from the spot a couple of minutes from half time. Michael McKenna surged along the Ducket side touchline but tumbled as he cut into the penalty area and Mr Munro pointed to the small, white circle.
Berwick were worth their interval lead having settled after a couple of early Annan raids. Smart Osadolor often looked dangerous and on a couple of occasions, with more support, might have created some real damage. Higher balls were dealt with competently particularly by Brian Martin. He formed Berwick’s back three along with Wilson and Fairbairn. An air of disbelief hung over them and the rest of their team when Stuart McColm poked the ball home after a corner in the first of six minutes of added time but the hosts held on for a vital victory.
Berwick Rangers: K.Walker, McNeil ( Walters 52 ), Crane, Notman, Wilson, Fairbairn, Lavery ( Stevenson 80 ), A.Walker, McKenna, Henderson ( Cunningham 90 ), Martin