Berwick Rangers 3-2 Annan Athletic
Berwick manager John Coughlin is hoping that a nerve-tingling 3-2 win over Annan at Shielfield on Tuesday will be the spark that ignites up his side's bid to climb away from the foot of the table.
Rangers had dropped to the bottom of Scottish League 2 after a 2-1 away defeat at Stirling Albion on Saturday, but just over 72 hours later they leapfrogged East Stirling in the basement stakes with a gutsy display over their Galabank rivals.
In both matches Berwick had to play a large part of the game with only ten men, with Jordan McGregor and goalkeeper Kevin Walker both seeing red.
But on each occasion they showed a level of commitment and character which some might say had been missing from previous performances.
“We only spent a short time at the bottom, but it would be nice to think this is the turning point,” said Coughlin.
“I didn’t come here to be bottom of the league and I am sure the players don’t want to be there either. I have told them the league table doesn’t lie, but now we have got ourselves off the bottom we want to try and climb our way up the table, but we realise there is still a lot of hard work to be done.
“We have a run of games coming up when we are playing twice a week - we need to try and pick up as many points as possible.”
Two goals from strikers Blair Henderson and Darren Lavery - from the penalty spot - saw Rangers race into a deserving 2-0 half-time lead against Annan.
But a clumsy challenge from goalkeeper Walker saw him sent off just five minutes after the re-start.
Mark Walters took over between the posts, with fullback Ewan McNeil being forced to make way in a tactical switch.
Down to ten men Rangers immediately paid the price when McStay rammed home a free kick from the edge of the box, but after enduring a second half bombardment Allan Walker netted a debut goal in 88 minutes to seemingly make the game safe at 3-1.
However, there was still time for more drama,with substitute Stuart McColm turning in a cross to pull another goal back in extra-time.
Kick-off had been delayed for 15 minutes after some of the Annan players were caught up in traffic following an accident on the A1.
Play in the initial half hour was uninspired, with only one shot registered on target, by Lavery, which was saved by keeper Blair Currie.
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But on 31 minutes Lavery burst into the box, skipped past two challenges, and laid the ball off for Henderson to open the scoring from close range.
On 43 minutes the lead was doubled when Lavery netted from the penalty spot after Michael McKenna made a storming run from halfway and was upended in the box by Martin McNiff.
Coughlin said: “There was too much back-slapping for my liking at half-time, because we hadn’t finished the job, snd the second half showed that we cannot afford to get too complacent.”
The second half was just five minutes old when Berwick keeper Walker was sent off, shown a straight red card for a clumsy challenge on Josh Todd just outside the box.
Replacement keeper Walters’ first job was to pick the ball out of the net as McStay netted direct from the set piece.
Allan Walker went close with a free kick for Berwick which struck the top of the bar, but in general it was Annan, with their numerical advantage, who pressed the most, with Rangers forced to defend deep.
But Rangers stood firm and with just two minutes left on the clock Walker slipped the ball in from close range - his debut goal for the club - after a break and cross from the left.
However, in a frantic finish, Annan pulled another goal back in injury time when Stuart McColm found the net through a crowded goalmouth.
“It was desperate stuff at the end,” said Coughlin, “but thankfully we managed to take all three points, which was the aim.”.
* Berwick vice captain Stevie Notman reached a milestone on Tuesday when he played his 200th league fixture for the club.
The 29 year-old midfielder, who can also play at full-back, currently ranks 17th in the list of all-time appearances for Berwick , having played in a total of 235 games.
Notman originally joined the Shielfield Park outfit in a loan spell from Hibernian before completing a permanent move at the start of the 2009-10 campaign.
* Berwick travel to take on Clyde on Saturday before facing Queen’s Park in another re-arranged fixture at Shielfield next Tuesday (February 23). The game against Arbroath has been set for Tuesday, March 8.