Berwick 1, Rangers 3
BERWICK’S ever-diminishing hopes of a play-off finish were dashed again when they went down to a 3-1 home defeat at the hands of high-flying Rangers.
Manager Ian Little admitted afterwards that once again his players had performed well, but he was disappointed they had not taken anything from the game and stressed that with a run of six games coming up in the next three weeks they must kick on and try and pick up as many points as possible to give themselves a chance of a top four finish.
The run-away third division leaders came from a goal behind to beat Little’s side, who gave a good account of themselves, taking the lead with a Darren Lavery header, which was later credited as an goal, after only five minutes.
Rangers equalised just three minutes later from the penalty spot, and snatched the lead a minute into injury time.
Their third goal came midway through the second half as they started to turn the screw.
The game, which was shown live on TV was marred by sectarian singing by a small section of the Rangers fans in the capacity crowd and this prompted the Glasgow giants to issue an official statement in which they said they were ‘disappointed at the inappropriate singing’ by some of their supporters.
They promised that further inquiries would be made and action taken. Later police confirmed they had made two arrests.
Berwick got off to a great start with Lavery appearing to force the ball home from a corner after only five minutes. The leading striker celebrated as if he had netted his 14th league goal of the season, but TV replays later showed his scuffed header had deflected off Rangers’ Greek defender Argyriou.
It was a dream start, but their lead was short-lived as Rangers hit back and equalised from the penalty spot just three minutes later.
Dean Shiels was tripped by central defender Dougie Brydon as he tried to go past him in the box and referee Calum Murray had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
It was a soft award, as there appeared to be only minimal contact, but Shiels picked himself up and rammed the penalty straight down the middle past a helpless Marc McCallum.
For the remainder of the first half Berwick gave as good as they got. They played some nice passing football and had a penalty claim of their own when Easton appeared to be fouled. Lavery was quick to react when Scott Dalziel won a header just outside the box and his snap shot was saved by keeper Neil Alexander. Damien Gielty tried to follow up but slipped at the vital moment.
Lee Currie pulled a shot wide just as he lost his footing and he also curled in a free kick which Alexander saved confidently.
Easton met a quick throw-in from Dalziel and pulled his shot across the face of the goal with the keeper beaten.
At the other end Barrie McKay had a shot turned aside for a corner by McCallum shortly after Shiels’ equaliser, but just when it looked as if the sides might be going in level at 1-1, top striker Andrew Little struck to give the visitors the lead in the first minute of first half injury time.
Lee Wallace provided the cross and Little turned and volleyed home for his 18th league goal of the season. It was a quality strike but Berwick must have felt hard done by after putting in such a good opening 45.
In the second half Berwick, with Easton replaced by Fraser McLaren, struggled to gain the same foothold in the game and Rangers started to enjoy more possession.
Ian Black pulled a shot wide but when substitute Sebastian Faure added a third goal after 67 minutes there really wasn’t any way back for the Borderers.
He fired the ball home for his first ever goal for the club after it was half cleared to him on the edge of the box and after that it was an uphill struggle for Little’s side.
Berwick’s main strike threat was diminished when both Lavery and Dalziel, who was making his full debut, were replaced by Dean Carse and Kenny O’Brien. Both youngsters had chances, one having a shot blocked by Faure, the other firing wide, but in the end Rangers ran out comfortable winners, heading relentlessly towards what seems like a predictable league title.
Overall this was another decent performance by Berwick who got the ball down and played with purpose. They asked questions of the Rangers’ back four but it was the physicality and strength of the visitors which carried them through, once again leaving Little’s side empty-handed.
Berwick, after this game, are just two points off the bottom.
But in what is a very tight league they are only eight points off the play-off places.
The next three weeks will make or break their season - but as everyone can see, it is wins the black and gold now need to stabilise their position. Points make prizes, not the accolades they are getting for the quality of their football.
Berwick: McCallum 7, Jacobs 8, Brydon 7, Townsley 6, Hoskins 7, Easton 8 (McLaren 48), Janczyk 6, Currie7, Gielty 6, Dalziel 5 (O’Brien 77’), Lavery 7, (Carse 67).
Rangers: Alexander, Argyriou, Perry (Faure 52), Hegarty, Wallace, Hutton, Little, Black, Shiels, McKay (Naismith 46), Templeton (Aird 87’).
Referee: Calum Murray.