Another red as Rangers end on a winning note

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Berwick Rangers 1, Stranraer 0: Berwick brought the curtain down on their season on a winning note when they beat play-off qualifiers Stranraer at Shielfield on Saturday.

Danny Handling scored the only goal of the game, his 70th minute strike making it a remarkable seven in seven games following his loan move from Hibernian.

But the season also ended on a sour note with substitute Ben Miller being sent off for a second bookable offence six minutes from time, putting Rangers in the unenviable position of having five players sent off in the final six weeks of the campaign.

Stranraer arrived at Shielfield having lost their previous four games, and it was obvious they were looking for a morale-boosting victory to take them into the play-offs against Queen’s Park.

From the way in which they set about the game, dominating the early exchanges, it seemed only a matter of time before they breached the home defence and took the lead.

But a mixture of indecision in front of goal and some good defending kept the visitors at bay and in some respects they were lucky to get to the interval on level terms as goalkeeper David Mitchell had to make a fine penalty save to deny Kevin McDonald from the spot.

The kick was awarded shortly before the break when Stuart Noble was brought down by fullback Scott Taggart in the box and referee Barry Cook had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.

The game was only three minutes old when Martin Graham turned and blasted over from the edge of the box, signalling Stranraer’s intention to attack.

But their front men were often guilty of taking a touch too many and as the game wore on Rangers started to feature more in the play.

Noble was presented with a good opportunity but seemed reluctant to pull the trigger and Handling smashed a half volley straight at Mitchell from a cross on the right by Jordon Forster, who saw plenty of the ball.

Just a minute into the second half David Greenhill saw a close range shot saved by Mitchell and just a few minutes after that the Rangers’ midfielder was unlucky when he sent 20 yard strike crashing off the top of an upright.

At the other end Berwick keeper Youssef Bajaoui had to make a good save from Sean Winter and later in the half he also had to go full stretch to deny Grant Gallagher.

As the game became stretched openings started to develop at both ends of the pitch but it looked as if both sets of forwards were going to draw a blank.

That was until Noble went on a breathtaking run down the left from halfway. He shrugged off a couple of challenges and then unselfishly squared the ball across the box for Handling whose first time shot gave Mitchell no chance.

Craig Malcolm stole in behind the Berwick defence and headed narrowly over from a free kick as the visitors tried to get back on level terms.

But there was no way through and Berwick managed to hang on for the win, despite being reduced to ten men in the 84th minute when substitute Miller was sent off for a rash tackle on the halfway line.

He was the fifth player in recent weeks to see red, following in the footsteps of Jordon Forster, Chris Townsley, Andy McLean and Steven Notman, who is currently serving a four match ban.

On the evidence of this indiscipline is something manager Ian Little and his assistant Robbie Horn are going to have to crack down on before the start of next season.

Berwick Rangers: Bejoui 7, Walker 6, Forster 7, McLean 7, Townsley 7, McDonald 7, Gray 5 (McGlinchey 46), Greenhill 7, Noble 7, Handling 7 (Ferguson 74), McLaren 6 (Miller 67)..

Stranraer: Mitchell, Taggart, Noble, Belkouchie (Agnew 85), MacGregor, Aitken, Winter, Gallagher, Moore (McColm 68), Malcolm, Graham.

Referee: Barry Cook.

Attendance: 402.