Berwick Rangers 2, Queens Park 2 (after extra-time). Queens Park won 3-2 on penalties. A battling performance from Berwick just wasn’t enough when they were beaten 3-2 on penalties by Queen’s Park in the first round of the Ramsden’s Cup at Shielfield on Saturday.
Rangers twice came from behind, once in normal time and one in extra-time, taking the game to the lottery of the penalty shoot-out.
It was a great match to start the season with, but there was heartache at the end of it, the Spiders sneaking through with, ironically, their goalkeeper Neil Parry netting the winning goal from the spot, having saved three of the Berwick kicks.
Throughout the match Berwick created the lion’s share of the chances, particularly in the first half.
But they failed to take them and it was only when they pushed Fraser McLaren forward in extra-time that they looked a real threat.
With the rest of the team looking solid, it would appear, even at this early stage, that a lack of quality in the strike department could be a major short-coming.
With manager Ian Little unavailable because of family commitments, assistant Robbie Horn took control - he will also be in charge of this weekend’s League Cup clash at Raith - and he selected a starting XI which included several new faces in Devon Jacobs, Damien Gielty and Dougie Brydon all at the back and Neil Janczyk in midfield, whilst up front the returning John Ferguson and Darren Lavery were given their chance to make an early impression.
Supplemented by ‘old-hands’ Andy McLean, Fraser McLaren, Lee Currie and Kevin McDonald, and backed up by keeper Youssef Bejaoui, they started out in a positive manner and in the first half created a number of half chances, the closest of which came about from a McLaren chip which was cleared off the line by defender Ricky Little, and an effort from Brydon which Parry did well to claw away less than a minute later.
Lavery and Currie then had a good inter-changing move which again saw Parry came to Queens’ rescue, whilst at the other end Bejaoui had to snatch the ball on the line following a deflected shot from Alan Urquhart.
McLaren, who had a good game, made a telling run down the right and crossed for Ferguson, but the front man hesitated with his finish and the chance was lost.
With Gielty looking impressive at the back, and the defence in general looking confident, the visitors found chances at a premium, and the closest they got was when an Andrew Robertson shot was deflected off Jacobs.
Right on half-time Currie blasted over from a corner.
At the start of the second half the Hampden side signalled their intentions when Little headed inches wide.
They then took the lead after 54 minutes when Owen Ronald created the opening down the right and crossed for Tony Quinn to finish with a first-time shot.
Berwick then made chances, bringing on Phil Addison and Ben Miller, and it was Addison in particular whose presence helped Rangers claw their way back into contention.
He made one break but was denied by Parry who rushed off his line and made the block.
The equaliser came from Janczyk after 75 minutes when he headed in from a Currie corner.
Currie himself went close with a dipping shot after a good run by McLaren, but at the final whistle it was 1-1 and the game went into extra-time.
Queens’ took the lead for the second time after 101 minutes when Brydon fouled Ronald in the box and referee Don Robertson awarded a penalty.
Bejaoui blocked Ronald’s spot kick, but Quinn was quickest to react to the loose ball and netted the rebound from close range.
McLaren was pushed forward for the second period and he almost got Rangers back on level terms when he ran onto a great through ball from Currie, only to unluckily see his first time shot come back off a post.
Within a minute a close range effort from Addison was saved on the line before McLaren burst through again.
The equaliser came in the 114th minute when McDonald took the ball past a defender on the left and fired in from a tight angle.
From that moment on the game was destined for penalties, which only added to the occasion.
Berwick, with McDonald and substitute Craig Stevenson netting, had a chance to win it as Queens had one penalty saved by Bejaoui and woefully missed two others over the top.
But after Currie hit the post, McLaren and Addison’s efforts were both saved and at 2-2 it went to sudden death.
Miller’s kick was also saved, leaving Parry, after three stops, to net the winner off the underside of the bar.
It was a cruel way to go out, but Rangers must take the positives from the game, in what was a thoroughly entertaining match.
More of the same served up for the rest of the season shouldn’t have too many fans complaining.
Berwick: Bejaoui 7, Jacobs 7, Gielty 7, McLean 6, Brydon 7, Currie 7, McLaren 8, Janczyk 7 (Stevenson 105), Ferguson 6 (Addison 65), Lavery 6 (Miller 70), McDonald 6.
Queens Park: Parry, Monaghan, Bradley, Little, Keenan, Capuano, Ronald (Shankland 119), Urquhart (Gallacher 91), Quinn, Longworth, Robertson.
Referee: Don Robertson