Lavery nets 19th of season as Rangers earn play-off lifeline

BERWICK RANGERS 1, EAST FIFE 1; It is still all to play for in this play-off semi final after Berwick and East Fife drew 1-1 in their first leg tie at Shielfield.

Substitute Darren Lavery emerged as the hero for the home side, the club’s top scorer coming off the bench to nab a second half equaliser after the visitors took the lead just a minute before half time.

Berwick Rangers v East Fife'play-off first leg'McClean, Johnstone

Berwick Rangers v East Fife'play-off first leg'McClean, Johnstone

David Muir had given the Fifers the interval lead with a close range header from a corner.

But Lavery, who has now netted 19 for the season, popped up to grab the equaliser in the 71st minute when he turned a Scott Dalziel cross in from the right.

In the first half there wasn’t a lot between the two sides. Berwick threatened on several occasions, mainly through Fraser McLaren down the right, but they were unable to get any shots in on goal and Fifers’ keeper Callum Antell didn’t have a direct save to make.

Berwick’s best chance came when McLaren got in behind the defence, latching onto a through ball from Stevie Notman, but there was no one there to meet it in the middle.

At the other end Scott McBride got in a shot which slipped wide.

Paul Wills had a free kick safely collected by Marc McCallum and Paul McManus also had a header collected under the bar.

It looked as if the teams were going to go in level at the break, but in the 44th minute David Muir guided a close range header into the net after McCallum palmed away a David White header from point blank range at a corner.

In the second half Willis pulled a shot wide for East Fife and then struck a shot from 25 yards which McCallum turned over the top.

The game swung on Berwick’s substitutions with Lavery and Dylan Easton injecting fresh impetus into Rangers and Lavery’s equaliser was no more than they deserved.

In injury time Easton almost grabbed a late winner but Antell parried over the bar with a good save.

Berwick manager Ian Little was full of praise for his players for showing fighting spirit to come back and earn a draw.

“We will go into the second leg with some confidence and hopefully we can get the right result because it would mean a lot for everyone at the club if we could get up into the second division.”

Goalscorer Darren Lavery said: “I was disappointed I was on the bench, but I was lighted to come on an score the equaliser. If we can be more positive in our play on Saturday I think we have a chance.”

East Fife boss Billy Brown said: “I thought we could have killed the game in the first half but we always knew Berwick would come back at us.

“It’s 1-1 and it’s still all to play for so we have a chance.”

Berwick: McCallum Jacobs Gielty Townsley McLean Janczyk Currie (Lavery 61) Notman McLaren Dalziel (Morris 84) McDonald (Easton 70)

Subs: Brydon McCaldon

East Fife:Antel Durie Johnstone Muir White Campbell Wills Samuel (Wardlaw 80) McManus Barr McBride

Subs: Smith Wardlaw Gormley Sloan Brown

Referee: George Salmond

Attendance: 732