Elgin City 3, Berwick Rangers 1: BERWICK’S travel sickness continued unabated with another defeat on the road against high-flying Elgin City at Borough Briggs on Saturday.
Rangers would be justified ascribing their misfortunes to a dismal performance by ref Barry Cook - no relation by the way - and whilst he got several key decisions badly wrong, it’s also the case that City are the best side Ian Little’s side have faced this season by some distance.
If it wasn’t for the outsized cuckoo in the nest, down Govan way, City would be hot favourites to win the league. They have pace and power throughout, and in winger Daniel Moore they have a class act whose man of the match performance bordered on the unplayable at times. It isn’t often you see the unflappable Devon Jacobs getting tied up in knots, but Moore was the man with the magic in his boots on Saturday.
With City hosting the other Gers a couple of weeks later, Borough Briggs hosted a healthy crowd of 790, boosted by the usual contingent of local glory hunters making their once-in-a-blue-moon pilgramage to watch their home town team make a bid for 15 minutes in the spotlight.
City came into the game on the back of some decent form, including a 5-1 demolition of second division East Fife in the cup a week earlier. Last season, Rangers shipped eight goals in their two visits to the Briggs, so the omens weren’t exactly auspicious.
That said, despite the loss of skipper Chris Townsley and Fraser McLaren to injury, Rangers opened in confident style, pressing City back into their own half, and they scored what should have been the opening goal with eight minutes on the clock. Lee Currie’s through ball bisected the City defence, allowing Darren Lavery to square to Kevin McDonald, whosse fierce shot was beaten out by keeper Gibson, only for Lavery to thrash home the rebound.
I was level with play and there was no danger of offside, but ref Cook decided against awarding the goal on the erroneous advice of his linesman.
Despite Rangers controlling the game up to this point, they fell behind to a complete fluke 17 minutes in. Mark Nicholson wandered in from the right, and for want of a better option looped a hopeful cross to the back post, where it sailed over Bejaoui and under the bar to give City an undeserved lead.
Rangers responded in fine style with a 20th minute equaliser. Lavery, who put in another excellent shift, broke down the right and his low cross was stabbed home from six yards by Ross Gray, who also impressed with another tenacious performance.
Having steadied the ship, Rangers looked to re-assert their dominance of the midfield but Moore took matters into his own hands to help his side regain the lead in the 26th minute. Stevie Notman looked a dead cert to win a loose ball down Rangers’ right flank, but somehow Moore stole the ball from him and escaped Jacobs, out of position but expecting Notman to clear. By now in acres of space, Moore crossed to the back stick for Stuart Leslie to guide the ball past Bejaoui from point blank range.
The goal sparked a lengthy period of City pressure and Bejaoui made a sharp low save from Gunn’s snapshot five minutes from the break, He was forced into more emergency action a minute later after Moore skinned Jacobs, but Rangers made it to the interval without falling further behind.
City started the second half as if the break hadn’t happened, Moore curled in a devilish cross that the lunging Gunn stabbed inches past the post.
The close shave focused Rangers and they settled back into the game, Lavery keeping the home defence on their toes with a powerful run and shot in the 49th minute. Stuart Noble, quiet up to this point, muscled in on the act with a bulldozing run and thumping shot two minutes later, which Gibson was relieved to turn round the post for another corner.
Rangers managed to shackle Moore for the first time in the game, and, with that threat nullified, they began to force their way back into the contest. Lavery clipped a close range shot off Gibson with ten minutes of the second period gone, but it was City who came closest to scoring when Bejaoui brilliantly blocked Cameron’s shot after the midfielder had burst through on to O’Donoghue’s through ball.
The lucky breaks have been few and far between for Rangers this season, and that trend continued on the hour mark when Notman belted an 18 yard shot off the underside of the bar. Predictably, the ball bounced out without crossing the line. Noble missed a sharp chance at the back post from McDonald’s cross, before Crighton sent a 25 yard free kick skidding inches wide of Bejaoui’s post.
Gunn came closer still in the 72nd minute when his shot looped off Hoskins and over Bejaoui only to hit the post and bounce clear. Lee Currie was inches away from another piece of free kick mastery with six minutes remaining, but his 20 yarder clipped the outside of Gibson’s post and was cleared by Crighton.
Ref Barry cooked Rangers’ goose with four minutes left, denying sub John Ferguson a stonewall penalty when he was clipped after dispossessing Duff before homing in on the exposed Gibson. To his credit, Ferguson stayed on his feet only to shoot too close to the only man on the line, the impressive Cameron. In a classic rubbing salt in the wounds finale, Moore set up Wyness for a 90th minute clincher to claim the points for City.
Rangers played decently at Elgin and lost to a good side, but they need to start racking up some points away from home if they’re to break out of their interminable midtable position. Despite Ian Little’s protestations to the contrary, Rangers need someone up front to take the burden off the fast-improving Darren Lavery. The current alternatives do not look like providing the answer to that dilemma, as the travelling support will attest.
Man of the match Gray, Brydon, Bejaoui and Lavery all put in good performances for Rangers, but Elgin’s Moore was head and shoulders above anyone else on the park.
Elgin: Gibson, Beveridge (Harkins 78), Crighton, Duff, McMullan, Cameron, O’Donoghue, Nicolson, Moore, Gunn (Wyness 73), Leslie.
Berwick: Bejaoui 7, Jacobs 6, Brydon 7, McLean 5, Hoskins 5, Gray 7, Currie 6, Notman 6, McDonald 4 (Janczyk 4), Noble 4 (Ferguson 5), Lavery 7.
Referee: Barry Cook