Berwick Rangers0 Elgin City0: BERWICK failed to get their league programme off to the start they had hoped for when they were held to a 0-0 draw by ten-man Elgin at Shielfield on Saturday.
BERWICK failed to get their league programme off to the start they had hoped for when they were held to a 0-0 draw by ten-man Elgin at Shielfield on Saturday.
After two decent performances against Queen’s Park and Raith Rovers in cup competitions the previous two weekends, there was an air of optimism and a feeling that the team could get their campaign off to a winning start.
Following on from the previous weekend, when they lost four goals from set pieces, centre back Chris Townsley was introduced for his first full start at the expense of Andy McLean.
But at the end of a 90 minutes in which they failed to break down the visiting defence, players, management and fans were all left deflated and frustrated.
For the most part Rangers knocked the ball around confidently, but on this occasion they lacked a cutting edge.
Fraser McLaren was asked to take on the lone striking role. He went close on a couple of occasions, but in general he didn’t really pose a threat, and despite going down to ten men after only 22 minutes, City seldom looked as if they were a man short.
They often got at least nine men behind the ball, and that made it very difficult for Rangers to find a way through.
The dismissal, which seemed a little harsh, came when Townsley collected the ball about ten yards outside his own penalty area. He knocked it past the onrushing Daniel Moore, who caught the Berwick central defender as they both went in for the challenge.
Referee Gary Hilland produced a straight red and Elgin had it all to do.
Later, manager Ross Jack said the sending off had forced him to change his game plan, and under the circumstances he was happy to leave with a point.
But for Rangers, who played the best part of 70 minutes against ten men, it was a frustrating afternoon, and a series of first half misses all cost them dearly in the end.
First of all Phil Addison shot over from distance. A quickly taken free kick by Lee Currie found Damien Gielty who played the ball into the six yard box, but McLaren was unable to direct his close range effort in with a cheeky flick and the ball drifted inches wide.
After Moore’s dismissal, Kevin McDonald blasted over when the ball was cut back to him on the edge of the box. From his reaction, and that of the supporters, it was obvious he should have at least hit the target and made the goalkeeper work.
Marc Lancaster, on his home debut, then cut in from the left only to see his shot deflected wide for a corner, and just before the break Addison again shot over.
None of then were clear cut chances, but if one of them had found the net it might have been a completely different game in the second half.
Elgin would have been forced to come out of their shell, but instead they dug in, pulling men back behind the ball, relying on the counter attack.
Berwick saw McLaren go close with an early effort, getting his studs on an Addison cross which goalkeeper John Gibson did well to smother at his near post, and later in the half he rushed off his line to deny McLaren again with a block from close range.
But other than that Berwick never really threatened, as the Elgin defence, well marshalled by Brian Cameron and Sean Crighton, kept them at arm’s length.
City themselves looked more dangerous when they broke as they were more direct.
Craig Gunn and Cameron both went close with efforts from outside the box, whilst a free kick from Ross O’Donoghue fizzed inches over Youssef Bejaoui’s bar.
Cameron also tried to take advantage of a sloppy cross-field pass when he broke from midfield, pulling his shot across the face of the goal.
At the end of the day a point is a point, but Elgin probably left feeling more satisfied with their result than Berwick did theirs.
On this showing, as in their previous games, the defence look as if they are capable of holding out well, but midfielders need to be prepared to take a few more shots when the opportunities arise, whilst up front the lack of a recognised front man appears to be their only downfall.
It’s early days and there is still a long way to go, but the addition of a recognised striker could help turn this into a team capable of fulfilling a lot of their potential.
Berwick Rangers: Bejaoui 6, Jacobs 7, Lancaster 7, Townsley 7, Brydon 7, Currie 6, McLaren 6, Janczyk 6, Addison 6 (Lavery 71), Gielty 6 (Ferguson 72), McDonald 5.
Elgin: Gibson, Niven, McMullen, Cameron, Crighton, Wness, Gunn, O’Donoghue, Leslie, Nicolson, Moore.
Referee: Gary Hilland