Berwick Rangers 2, Stenhousemuir 5
Berwick’s hopes of an extended run in the Scottish Cup were dashed when they were humbled by Stenhousemuir in their third round replay at Shielfield on Tuesday.
The teams had drawn 1-1 at Ochilview a week past Saturday and with Falkirk awaiting the winners in the fourth round there was everything to play for.
Kick-off was delayed by quarter of an hour after Stenny arrived late - they were caught up in traffic and a diversion following an accident on the A1 in Berwickshire.
And from the way in which they started, allowing Rangers to dictate the early exchanges, it looked as if their detour was causing them some sort of hangover.
For Berwick looked the better side early on and they took the lead after 11 minutes when Lee Currie slotted home from the penalty spot after Stevie Notman was fouled in the box.
Less than a minute earlier central defender Dougie Brydon headed inches wide from a Currie corner and when the midfield kingpin forced goalkeeper Robbie Thomson into a good save from a free kick 25 yards out the home side looked as if they were in the ascendency.
Another Currie effort, this time from a snap shot outside the area, brought another good save from Thomson, whilst Ross Gray cut in from the left and shot narrowly wide, and Notman pulled a shot wide from the right.
Stenhousemuir looked dangerous breaking up the left, but apart from two cross balls Berwick keeper Youssef Bejaoui had relatively little to do.
But just five minutes before half-time the visitors got a foothold back in the game. They were awarded a free kick just inside the Berwick half. It was taken short and from a long ball into the box Darren Smith somehow managed to sneak in front of Bejaoui and head the ball into the empty net.
A minute later Bejaoui redeemed himself with a good save from a Stewart Kean effort.
A decent start to the second half was called for if Berwick were to force the issue again, but it was Stenny who came out with all guns blazing and three goals in a seven minute spell killed the tie stone dead.
The half was just three minutes old when centre forward John Gemmell gave them the lead. A shot from Sean Dickson was saved at full stretch by Bejaoui, but Gemmell was quickest to react to the loose ball and he headed home the rebound.
Three minutes after that and Stenny went 3-1 up. Again it was a Dickson shot which caused all the problems, Bejaoui pushing it onto the top of the crossbar. A melee then ensued and it was Kean who got the final touch, poking the ball home from close range in a crowded six yard box.
By this stage the Berwick back four were all at sea, and in the 55th minute the visitors got their fourth when a corner wasn’t cleared properly and the ever-threatening Kean smashed home from outside the back post.
Darren Lavery, who worked hard all night, pulled a goal back for Berwick after 65 minutes when he ran through onto a long ball and coolly finished past Thomson.
It was a lifeline, and Rangers brought on Kevin McDonald and John Ferguson as they went top-heavy up front in a bid to salvage something from the match. But they couldn’t find a way past the Stenny defence and it was Bejaoui who had to be alert to save from Dickson, who was always prepared to shoot on sight.
The final nail in the coffin was hammered home in the 85th minute when a quickly taken free kick caught out the static home defence and Smith ran through for his second of the game.
Overall, Rangers passed the ball nicely at times but it was clear they lacked a cutting edge from open play, and too many mis-placed passes often saw promising moves break down at the vital stage.
Just to rub salt into the wound Berwick also suffered the indignity of finishing the game with only ten men after Currie was sent off in the 86th minute for his second bookable offence.
After the game Berwick manager Ian Little was naturally disappointed with the result and the performance, especially after the team had played so well in the first game at Ochilview ten days earlier.
“This wasn’t part of the script,” he admitted. “Stenhousemuir were the better side on the night and deserved their victory.
“We started well, but the goal just before half-time was the turning point because if we had gone in 1-0 up it would have been a different game in the second half.
“Three goals at the start of the second half didn’t help and it was a long way back from there.
“We now have to pick ourselves up because we have a big game at home to Annan in the league on Saturday and that’s a match we want to bounce back in.”
Berwick Rangers: Bejaoui 5, Jacobs 5, Hoskins 7, Brydon 6, Townsley 5, Currie 7, Notman 6, Janczyk 5 (McDonald 56), Lavery 7, Noble 5 (Ferguson 56), Gray 6.
Stenhousemuir: Thomson, Ferguson, Ross, Thomson, McMillan, Hodge (Brash 90), Smith (O’Grady 87), Anderson, Gemmell (Rodgers 61), Kean, Dickson.
Referee: Paul Robertson