Berwick Rangers 4, Montrose 0
Fraser McLaren was the hat-trick hero for Berwick as Rangers overcame play-off rivals Montrose in convincing style at Shielfield on Saturday.
McLaren, who has now netted ten for the season, struck to give Ian Little’s side the lead in he 12th minute and completed his treble with a second half double before substitute Dean Cars added a fourth right on the final whistle.
It was only McLaren’s second treble in senior football and he said later he hoped it would help inspire his team-mates and go on to make a concerted efforts for a top four finish at the end of the season.
“That has been our goal ever since the start of the season,” he said. “We have really turned ourselves around over the last few games, considering a fortnight ago we knew that if we lost we could well drop to the bottom of the table.”
Assistant manager Robbie Horn added: “There is a certain togetherness about the squad which wasn’t necessarily there earlier in the season. We are hitting form at the right time, that’s ten points out of the last 12 and we’re back up to fourth place in the table so with quarter of the season still remaining we have now given ourselves every chance of a play-off place.”
Montrose arrived on the back of three straight wins, but Rangers were unbeaten in their last three and had already won twice at home in the past 11 days.
The visitors, however, were hampered by the late withdrawal of Martin Boyle, who had only recently been named the ‘Young Player of the Month’ for February and his omission from the squad meant the Gable Endies had to make an enforced change to heir line-up, only being able to name four substitutes on the bench.
In the first half McLaren gave Berwick the lead when he latched on a neatly threaded through ball from Darren Lavery and his first time shot gave goalkeeper John Gibson no chance from 10 yards out.
Just four minutes earlier Lavery had blasted inches wide after strike partner Scott Dalziel headed down to him on the edge of the area.
Montrose also looked lively early on with Leighton McIntosh, Ricky McIntosh and full back Paul Watson all getting in shots.
But in general the Berwick back four were almost complete control throughout and on the rare occasions Montrose breached them goalkeeper Marc McCallum was their equal.
Dalziel had a good chance when Rangers broke three on two but he chse to shoot and his effort was blocked and the front man also failed to connect properly with a ball headed down to him by Dougie Brydon in the box.
Montrose substitute Scott Morton headed against the post from a corner in the second half, but Berwick cruised to victory with further goals from McLaren after 52 and 68 minutes, although he failed to convert another when he broke through with just the goalkeeper to beat but saw Gibson save well after rushing off his line to narrow the angle.
McLaren’s second came when a mix-up in the Montrose defence let Dalziel in for a shot which was blocked and he rammed home the loose ball off the inside of a post.
He completed his hat-trick when Dalziel was floored by Jonathan Crawford, who was sent off for the challenge having been deemed as a straight red by referee Colin Steven for preventing a goalsoring opportunity. Gibson saved McLaren’s initial spot kick but the Berwick an tucked away the rebound to make certain of the match ball.
The scoring was completed by substitute Dean Carse who turned the ball into the net from close range after 90 minutes following a good run by substitute Dean Hoskins and Dylan Easton.
Berwick: McCallum Jacobs Gielty Townsley Brydon Janczyk McLaren (Addison 72) Notman Lavery (Carse 75) Dalziel (Hoskins 82) Easton
Montrose: Gibson, McNally, Watson, Crawford, Lunan, Winter (Morton 66), Young, McCord, L. McIntosh (Johnston 79) Wood, R. McIntosh (McLeish 79)
Referee - Colin Steven.
Att - 452.