Berwick Rangers 4, Stirling Albion 1: Goals from Lee Currie, Darren Lavery and a second-half double from substitute John Ferguson extended Berwick’s unbeaten home run and delighted manager Ian Little.
He said: “It was good to see the boys keep going and get the four goals. A couple of times this season, like against Annan, we’ve conceded after being two up, so it was good to see that we could close the game out.
“Plus,” he continued, “it was great to see what we’re capable of on a decent pitch in good conditions. We’ve put good training sessions in, and now with Neil Janczyk coming in and being able to get Lee Currie up in a more attacking role, we’re capable of playing some great stuff.”
In the early stages Stirling attackers Graham Weir and Jordan White buffeted Rangers’ central pairing of Doug Brydon and Chris Townsley, who coped well with the physical pressure. Less comfortable was home keeper Youssef Bejaoui, who was tested with corners and crosses throughout the opening exchanges.
But it was nothing compared to the torment that Currie and Fraser McLaren inflicted on the Stirling defence. If the defence narrowed, Currie curled passes around them. If they stretched out, he had wiling runners to pierce the gaps. Currie earned himself the man of the match award for his creative play, built on the solid control of midfield achieved by Janczyk and Steven Notman, dropping deep.
It was Currie who opened the scoring after quarter of an hour. He had originally put McLaren clear, but the chance appeared to have been wasted with needless touches in the six-yard box. Thankfully, McLaren eventually managed to play in his team-mate, who side-footed home.
That signalled a fragmenting of the game, due to Stirling’s flaring tempers and some whistle-happy refereeing. Some of the pressure was released on the very stroke of halftime, though, when Lavery managed to double Berwick’s advantage. Stirling’s combative nature was their undoing. From a completely unnecessary free-kick, Lavery looped a header from the front post into the far corner.
Little replaced young striker Lavery with John Ferguson on 53 minutes, as Stirling worked themselves a foothold in the game. This was based on high balls into the box – a tactic that has troubled the home team this season. However, this time they rose to the challenge, with Bejaoui coming for several crosses and collecting well, his decision-making impeccable.
When Berwick could get sustained possession, they continued to use the ball well, and with Currie starting to unpick the Stirling defence at will, the onus was on the players ahead of him to turn attractive play into goals.
Ferguson’s fresh legs helped him to do just that, tapping home a McLaren pull-back after Rangers had been put in behind the away defence by Currie once more.
A buoyant Berwick should have gone even further ahead through substitute Ferguson, but his slightly mistimed jump meant his connection with McLaren’s floated cross bounced wide.
Little embarked on a raft of substitutions for the last quarter of the game, with Phil Addison and Damian Gielty replacing the attacking duo of Lavery and McLaren. The move was presumably meant to guarantee steady possession and see the game out, but the move initially looked to have backfired.
Stirling won a soft free kick out wide on the right, and after a few deflections White slammed the ball home, some scant reward for an afternoon of hard work.
But the wisdom of the changes was made clear to everyone in the closing stages – painfully so to the flagging Stirling defence, who struggled to cope with the aggressive running of Addison and the movement of Ferguson, who again peeled off the back of retreating defenders to make it four from a deft headed flick-on.
Berwick Rangers: Bejaoui 6; Jacobs 6, Hoskins 7, Townsley 6, Brydon 6; Currie 8 (Ferguson 59), Notman 6, Janczyk 6, Lavery (Addison 73) 7; McLaren (Gielty 73) 7, McDonald6. Subs not used: Mclean, Sandison.
Stirling Albion: Filler, McCunnie, McCulloch, McSorley, Allison, Thom, Flood (Ashe 63), Ferry, White, G Weir (S Weir 69), Day. Subs (not used): McGeachie, Macpherson, Peat.
Referee: Gavin Ross.