Berwick Rangers 1, Montrose 4
BERWICK suffered their first home league defeat of the season when they were beaten by Montrose at Shielfield on Saturday.
After picking up their first away win at East Stirling the week previous, Rangers had been hoping to kick on and cement their position amongst the third division play-off hopefuls.
But sadly, it just didn’t happen for them on this occasion.
They went into the game without two key midfielders - Stevie Notman (suspended) and Ross Gray (flu). Front man Fraser McLaren was also not fully recovered from the bout of flu which has sidelined him for the past fortnight and in truth this hit them badly.
But it was a combination of individual errors which ultimately led to their downfall.
After Darren Lavery established himself as the team’s leading scorer with his seventh of the season after nine minutes, Montrose, who are on a decent run of six games unbeaten, hit back almost immediately.
But it was the dispossession of Lee Currie which led to the visitors taking a 2-1 half-time lead, and then in the second half it was two mistakes from recalled goalkeeper Ian McCaldon which saw the Gable Endies go on and establish a comfortable winning margin.
Both teams went into the game having won their previous two matches, and a win for either side was good enough to lift them up to third place in the table behind leaders Rangers and Elgin.
From the way in which they set about their business Berwick looked more positive. Their passing, despite the wet surface, was crisp and precise, and they had some well- worked moves, albeit without really threatening the Montrose goal.
The Borderers took the lead in the ninth minute when Damien Gielty neatly shoulder-charged an opponent just inside the opposition half on the left. He then played a telling ball down the channel into the left side of the box which Lavery ran onto before producing another cool finish low into the far corner.
It was the start Rangers had been hoping for, but they hardly had time to settle before Montrose hit back. They were level within two minutes when a corner from Terry Masson on the left wasn’t cleared properly and Leighton McIntosh rammed the ball home from just a few yards out when it fell nicely for him.
Just four minutes after that Berwick had the ball in the net again but unfortunately it didn’t count.
Currie’s initial shot from 20 yards out had Sandy Wood beaten all hands up in the Montrose goal and the midfielder was desperately unlucky when he saw his effort crash back off the crossbar. John Ferguson was on hand to head the ball back into the goal, but the linesman flagged and it was ruled out for offside.
Currie then saw a snap shot from 25 yards hit straight at Wood, but by this stage Montrose were starting to get a foothold in the game with Jamie Winter and Lloyd Young influential in the middle of the park and McIntosh and Garry Wood proving to be a handful up front.
When they broke they always looked to have an extra man in attack and the Berwick defence had to remain alert.
It was Young and Winter who combined to give Montrose the lead after 21 minutes when Currie was dispossessed inside his own half. The ball was played out to Young on the right and he cut the ball back for Winter to shoot low into McCaldon’s bottom right hand corner with the keeper probably unsighted.
Berwick continued to play some nice football at times, but luck deserted them again just before half-time when a Dougie Brydon shot was blocked on the line. Ferguson followed up but was denied by the scrambling Wood on the line, and from the resulting corner central defender Chris Townsley headed over.
As Berwick pressed for an equaliser before the break Currie then saw a free kick from 20 yards out turned around by Wood who made a good save at the foot of his post.
By comparison the second half was a duller affair.
Berwick tried to force the issue with Neil Janczyk pulling a shot wide from inside the box, whilst Dean Hoskins saw a cross shot hit straight and the keeper and Lavery wriggled through, only to see his cross shot slide wide of the far post.
At the other end McCaldon made a good save to deny Paul Watson from a free kick and he also had to claw away a corner at the back post.
But the ‘Eagle,’ who has only just returned to first team action after a 19 month lay-off, was then at fault when he fumbled a Watson free kick from 25 yards out and substitute Scott Johnston gratefully accepted the opportunity to rifle home the loose ball.
And Berwick’s misery was complete after 83 minutes when a Young shot was parried by McCaldon and the same player followed up to net the rebound.
When the final whistle went Berwick were booed off the pitch by a section of the crowd - this may have been a little harsh as Rangers had won their last four home games after drawing their first two of the season.
But there can be no denying this was not a good day at the office for Ian Little’s side.
They definitely missed their key players in midfield, and the lack of a target man up front remains a constant cause for concern.
But on this occasion it was individual errors which proved costly and that’s something they must try and eradicate from their game if they are to establish themselves amongst the play-off hopefuls.
Berwick: McCaldon 5, Jacobs 6, Hoskins 7 (O’Brien 86), Brydon 6, Townsley 6, Currie 6, Gielty 7, Janczyk 6 (Morris 75), Lavery 7, Ferguson 5 (Addison 75), McDonald 6.
Montrose: Wood, McNally, Watson, Crawford, Campbell, Winter, Young, Masson, L McIntosh (Johnston 69), R McIntosh.
Referee: Greg Aitken.