Berwick Rangers 2, East Stirling 0
Berwick made it two wins out of two in 2013 when they beat East Striling at Shielfield on Saturday.
And with a big game coming up against Rangers at Ibrox on Saturday, manager Ian Little admitted afterwards that the result was important as it meant his players going into the match against the league leaders in a positive frame of mind.
“We had a disastrous December, picking up only one point of out a possible 12,” said Little, “so we knew we had to make a good start to the new year.
“The players have responded well and I couldn’t be happier with the way things have gone over the past week.
“The game against Rangers will be a big one for everyone at the club. Anything we get from that game will be a bonus and I’m really concerning myself more about what happens in the weeks afterwards.”
Following on from their fine away win over Montrose in midweek, Little opted to field a similar looking side for the Shire game, which meant a home debut for attacking midfielder Dylan Easton.
And following his impressive second half display at Links Park he immediately endeared himself to the Shielfield faithful with another competent performance.
He looked quick on the ball, fast on the turn, and his distribution and finishing also showed just why Little had tied him up a a full contract just before kick-off.
The visitors actually made the better start and in the first seven minutes might have found themselves 2-0 to the good themselves if their finishing had been better.
First of all Andrew Stirling lifted the ball over the crossbar with just Ian McCaldon to beat, and as manager John Coughlin’s admitted later: “Why he decided to lob a 6ft 6in goalkeeper I will never know.”
Then, just two minutes later, another shot was pulled across the face of the Berwick goal from the left as the home side struggled to find their feet.
But gradually they played their way into the game and leading scorer Darren Lavery netted his 11th of the season, giving Rangers the lead in the ninth minute when he ran onto a long ball down the middle, finishing at the second attempt after his first mis-hit shot was blocked by keeper Grant Hay.
Just over a minute later Easton threaded through another ball which Lavery ran onto, but this time he pulled his shot just wide of Hay’s left hand post.
For a spell Berwick started to dictate play and a second goal after 16 minutes put them in the driving seat.
Neil Janczyk was the player who created the opening, crossing from the left, and Easton, who was lurking in the box about eight yards out, met the ball on the volley and finished well in the corner of the net.
Shire continued to probe, but the Berwick defence stood firm and a combination of poor pass selection by the visitors and solid defending meant the visitors seldom threatened inside the penalty area.
They were restricted to long range efforts and it was from one of these, a dipping 25 yard strike by Paul Quinn, that McCaldon pulled off the save of the day, going full stretch to fingertip the effort over the top for a corner.
As Berwick continued to press forward Kevin McDonald might have done better when his attempted chip was collected by Hay. Fraser McLaren ran through from the half-way line, but defender Jordan Holt made a fine recovery and tackle on the edge of the box, whilst a Lee Currie curler from a free kick was taken well by Hay.
By comparison the second half was less entertaining. Shire, realising that Easton and Lavery were the main threat, closed the pair down.
A number of early needless fouls meant the game lost some of its flow, but Easton did his best to lift the mood with a jinking run on the left edge of the box and his low show brought out a good save from the keeper.
A series of substitutions also took the edge off the game and goalmouth chances, as a result, were few and far between.
East Stirling tried to claw their way back into contention and a half volley from Michael Hunter was hit straight at McCaldon, whilst the keeper also did well to turn a close range header from former Berwick stalwart David Greenhill, on as a substitute, around for a corner.
Overall this was a decent performance from Berwick, but after their poor run if results in December manager Little admitted later that he was just happy to get only their second set of back to back wins of the season.
“The players have done well this past week and I can’t fault them for the effort they have put in,” he said. “We have a big game coming up against Rangers, but there is still a long way to go this season.”
Berwick: McCaldon 7, Jacobs 7, Gielty 7, Townsley 7, Brydon 7, Currie 7, McLaren 6 (Carse 73), Janczyk 7, Lavery 8 (Noble 73), Easton 8 (Addison 83), McDonald 7.
East Stirling: Hay, Jackson, Maxwell, Holt, Buchanan, Hunter, Herd (Greenhill 66), McKernon, Quinn (Zufle 73), Stirling (Kelly 80), Begg.
Referee: Paul Robertson.