Tuesday, November 7th, 2017
SPFL Development League East
BERWICK RANGERS 0 RAITH ROVERS 2
Reigning champions Raith Rovers strengthened their position at the top of the table with a second 2-0 victory over Berwick this season. There was much conjecture about a penalty they were awarded in the 86th minute. Some felt that Yaw Osei had merely slipped, others, including the referee, that a Berwick player’s foot had contributed to his fall. What is certain is that when Raith captain JAMES BERRY slotted the spot kick into the bottom corner of the net, he effectively put paid to the home side’s hopes of getting at least a point from a game in which the pace never slackened.
Berwick welcomed back their captain Jamie Chapman following his hip injury incurred during the game with Stirling Albion at Shielfield three weeks earlier. Jack Murray continued where he left off in the previous outing at Forfar, at centre back. He was joined by Robert Wilson, playing for the first time in a Berwick shirt since his loan stint with Haddington Athletic ended. Sean Brennan started in goal but was down twice in the first half needing treatment. Six minutes into the second period, he conceded defeat to an ankle injury and was replaced by Stuart Allan.
Neither Brennan nor Rory Brian had many saves to make during an opening 45 minutes in which each side often read the other’s next move and thus largely cancelled out each other. For the visitors, Osei looked to send over first time crosses from the left, Jonny Court failing to connect with one and Kyle Bell about a foot off target when receiving another. Osei attempted to round off a spell of Rovers’ possession by coming inside for a shot but it was sent astray by Ross Aitchison’s well timed intervention. Rangers got away with a couple of risky balls back to Brennan whilst Kieran Dall might have done better when the ball conveniently came his way as home defenders struggled to deal with a long free kick not long from half time.
Gary Windram posed problems for the Fifers and Berwick won their first corner after he robbed Ryan Stevenson and ended his run with a pass to Grant Rose whose attempted hit was blocked by David McKay. After forcing his way out of trouble, Rose returned the favour but Gary’s effort from beyond the box was easily held by Brian.
Early in the second half, Berwick’s Gillan proved to be a real Jack in the box, tenaciously defying challenges to get in a shot from a few yards out but it was another one to be blocked. Around the hour mark, Gillan appeared to have sent Rose away but he was soon stopped by McKay in classic centre half style. Rose was also twice denied on the end of further balls from Windram.
Berry tested Brennan before he departed and a minute after Rangers brought on two trialists in a double switch, Raith scored through two of their replacements. Number 14 found the unguarded LEWIS CROSBIE with a high ball across field and he slipped it past Allan by the near post. Crosbie missed an excellent opportunity to bag a brace by banging the ball wide after he was cleverly played in by Osei. He was also guilty of a foul on Paul Simpson which led to Chapman’s free kick from near the ‘D’, Brian making a flying save for a Berwick corner.
Play continued end to end and before the penalty incident, Allan also made a good save from Jack Smith after Osei was again involved.
It was a measure of the match that Raith’s coaches thought Berwick were the better team and that, with one eye on a forthcoming Scottish Youth Cup tie against Celtic, their team will need to improve. Even so, few would now bet against them retaining their title.
Berwick Rangers: Brennan ( Allan 51 ), Aitchison ( Trialist 63 ), Herriot, Chapman, Wilson, Murray, Windram, Gillan, Rose, Jack ( Trialist 63 ), Simpson Unused subs: Briggs, Heath
Pictures courtesy of Caledonia Photo.