Berwick Rangers 3, Annan Athletic 1
Berwick bounced back from their cup humiliation at the hands of Stenhousemuir four days earlier with a competent performance against Annan at Shielfield on Saturday.
The teams took to the pitch with almost identical league records - both are unbeaten at home, both have failed to win away - so bearing that in mind a Rangers victory always looked a distinct possibility.
Following their virtual no-shows against Stenny, it was inevitable that manager Ian Little would ring the changes for this match and goalkeeper Youssef Bejaoui, midfielder Neil Janczyk and striker Stuart Noble were all dropped in favour of Ian McCaldon, Kevin McDonald and John Ferguson.
They were changes which had the desired effect, for the whole team looked a lot more energetic. They dictated play almost throughout, and it was only in the final ten minutes, when energy levels began to wane, that Annan managed to piece some moves together, during which time they scored their consolation goal.
For McCaldon, playing his first competitive game for 19 months, that was a particular disappointment, as he admitted later he would loved to have kept a clean sheet. But he offered some stability at the back, and for a side which had shipped eight goals in their last two games that was vitally important.
Play in the opening 20 minutes was scrappy and uninspired, with neither side creating anything by way of a decent opening.
In fact, Annan were shot-shy for most of the game and it took them an hour before they registered a strike at goal, and that coming direct from a free kick.
Berwick, who had enjoyed the majority of the early possession, opened the scoring after 23 minutes when the on loan Ross Gray, who had another good game, slipped the ball through to Darren Lavery on the right side of the box.
The striker ran through and coolly slotted the ball past keeper Alex Mitchell for his sixth goal of the season, and his second in successive home games.
Annan tried to respond but Dougie Brydon made a good covering block in the box, and cheered on by a vociferous contingent of fans from Chester in the main stand, Rangers started to stamp their authority on the match.
Dean Hoskins was enjoying another good game at left back, and he got forward on several occasions to tease the visiting defence.
A Lee Currie free kick after 42 minutes cleared everyone in the box at the back post, but an Annan defender must have got a touch as referee Euan Anderson awarded a corner, and from McDonald’s cross Gray hammered home from close range following what can only be described as a goalmouth scramble.
Rangers were well worth their 2-0 lead going into the break, but the players must have been thinking back to earlier in the season when they led by a similar score at Galabank, only to go down 3-2.
There was to be no repeat here though, and when Mitchell fumbled a Currie corner after 53 minutes Hoskins was on hand to net and make it 3-0. A minute later Gray might have done better when the ball was cut back to him in the box, but as he turned he pulled his shot wide and was left holding his head in his hands.
Annan’s first shot on target came from a Graeme Ramage free kick after 60 minutes which McCaldon dealt with comfortably, and later in the game, as Annan started to impose themselves more, the keeper had to get down well to save another shot, and also tipped another effort round for a corner. Stevie Notman, who put in another good shift in midfield, found Lavery with a great ball, but the striker, sliding in at speed, knocked it over the top from close range.
Currie also fizzed in a low left foot strike from 25 yards out which Mitchell did well to collect, but with just over a minute left on the clock Annan managed to score a consolation goal themselves when substitute Greig Thorburn looked as if he was shaping to shoot, but instead fed Ramage who shot under McCaldon.
Berwick: McCaldon 7, Jacobs 6, Hoskins 8, Brydon 7, Townsley 7 (McLean 83), Currie 7, Notman 7, Gray 8 (Gielty 81), Lavery 7, Ferguson 6 (McLaren 73), McDonald 6.
Annan: Mitchell, Blake, McGowN, Steele, Watson, Chaplain (Thorburn 75), Ramage, Jardine, McGachie, McKechnie (Daly 46), Love (Sloan 46).
Referee: Euan Anderson