Berwick Rangers 1, Peterhead 1
Berwick’s December blues continued with a draw which means the Shielfield men still haven’t won a game during the final month of the year for the past four seasons.
December 2008 was the last time Rangers won at Shielfield in the build-up to the festive period, and manager Ian Little admitted afterwards it was a challenge he had presented his players with before kick-off.
“For some reason the turn of the year has always proved difficult for Berwick over the past few seasons,” said Little.
“We have had a difficult few weeks and I wanted the players to go out and try and get a win to break the sequence, but sadly it wasn’t to be.
“We will just have to try and break it when we play Queen’s Park at Christmas.”
Following on from the previous week’s 4-1 home defeat at the hands of Montrose, Little rang the changes with Stevie Notman recalled after suspension and Ross Gray back from illness.
Unfortunately, Damien Gielty withdraw from the squad shortly before kick-off due to illness whilst play-maker Lee Currie failed a late fitness test.
Goalkeeper Ian McCaldon was unavailable because his wife was expecting a baby, which meant an unexpected recall for Youssef Bejaoui.
‘Yossi’ missed the last two games after being dropped and his inclusion seemed unlikely following reports of a poisonous toe, but he was declared fit and a timely save with his legs in the second half was one of the turning points in the game.
Rangers were slow out of the blocks and for the first 20 minutes they struggled to get a foothold in the game.
Scott McLaughlin was a constant threat down the right and two in swinging crosses, one from a corner, caused the Berwick defence a few problems.
Bejaoui also had a save a shot from David Cox from the edge of the box and Ryan Strachan fired over from another McLaughlin corner.
During this time Berwick’s only outlet appeared to be from crosses by fullbacks Dean Hoskins and Devon Jacobs, and it was from one such ball by Jacobs that the hard-working Notman glanced a header wide.
Peterhead, who had drawn level with Berwick on points in midweek, took the lead after 25 minutes when the ever-threatening Rory McAllister drew two defenders and played the ball into the path of McLaughlin, who side-footed home from just inside the box.
Two minutes later a Darren Lavery header from a Jacobs cross brought out a good save from Graeme Smith but in an otherwise uninspired first half performance this was as close as Rangers got.
A McAllister free kick early in the second half was only inches over the top and when Martin Bavidge took out two defenders with a neat through ball before crossing across the face of the Berwick goal it looked like Rangers were in for a tough afternoon.
But playing down the slope Little’s side gradually started to turn the screw.
Brydon and Chris Townsley looked solid at the back, Hoskins was breaking down the left, and coupled with a fine display from Notman in midfield and another competent performance from Lavery up front, the visitors soon found themselves fighting a rearguard action.
The equaliser, after 58 minutes, was against the run of play at the time, and there was an element of luck in it when goalkeeper Smith fumbled Hoskins’ cross and Lavery slammed home the loose ball for his eighth goal of the season.
Notman was only inches away with a half volley from a central position, whilst Smith was forced to redeem himself when a cracking 30 yard drive, which swerved at the last moment, forced the keeper to tip the goal bound shot onto the roof of the net.
Rangers grew in confidence as the half progressed, but They couldn’t afford to treat Peterhead lightly, and the ‘Blue Toon’ almost snatched a goal on the break when McAllister’s low shot was well saved by Bejaoui with his legs, which will have done his confidence no end of good.
Late on Kevin McDonald blasted over from just outside the box.
This wasn’t a classic by any means, and it certainly wasn’t helped by an inconsistent refereeing performance from whistler Don Robertson who booked six players in all.
But after the way in which they started, Berwick will just be pleased they managed to lift their game sufficiently towards the end to force the draw and take a point from a match, which earlier, seemed to be slipping from them.
Berwick Rangers: Bejaoui, Jacobs, Townsley, Brydon, Hoskins, Gray (O’Brien 90), Notman, Janczyk, McDonald, Lavery (Morris 90), Ferguson (McLaren 76). Subs not used: Sandison, McLean.
Peterhead: G Smith, Rs Smith, Strachan, Scott Ross, Redman, Cowie, Cox, McLaughlin, Noble, McAllister (Winters 90), Bavidge (McCann 76). Subs not used: Jarvie, Deasley, Maguire.
Referee: D Robertson