STENHOUSEMUIR 3 BERWICK RANGERS 0
Stenhousemuir put down an early marker by scoring in under five minutes. It meant that for the third successive match, Berwick conceded a goal soon after kick-off and, unlike in their previous outing against Elgin, there would be no coming back from two down to claim a famous victory.
Going into the game, the sides were fourth and fifth in the table with the hosts only occupying the higher slot on goal difference.
Yet it turned out to resemble a clash between teams a division or two apart. The Warriors had too much pace and muscle and were too well organised for Rangers, who, by virtue of a late third goal, missed out even on the consolation of keeping Stenny scoreless during the second period.
Pat Scullion’s well-timed tackle stopped Harry Paton after he waltzed 25 yards through midfield. But the Berwick skipper and co-centre-back Jonny Fairbairn were helpless when Mark McGuigan accepted a long punt and sent an audacious lob over their heads and that of keeper Robby McCrorie. It prompted the Ochilview announcer to suggest that it might even be a candidate for “goal of the season”.
Close to the quarter of an hour stage, Stenhousemuir’s first corner led to the second goal. The visiting defence was ill-prepared for Martin Scott’s kick. Ross Dunlop would have been allowed a free header but didn’t need to bother as the ball went into the net off Scullion’s.
When McGuigan made 20 yards up the left, the chasing Stevie Notman was booked for a foul which stopped him getting into the penalty area. McCrorie pushed away Nicki Paterson’s free-kick.
Scott was booked before half-time for what appeared to be a revenge challenge on Notman and Paton joined him late in the game for sending Michael McKenna crashing, both offences occurring close to the halfway line.
Colin McMenamin did go for the free header offered by another Scott corner but could only send the ball downwards and outside the post. A cross from the right by Ross Meechan went over Berwick heads to McGuigan, denied by Scullion’s header which this time directed the ball away from goal.
In amongst all this home pressure, Berwick created some chances but, tellingly, failed to win a single first-half corner.
Aaron Murrell laid the ball across for Andrew Irving to take a swipe from 25 yards. He hit it hard enough as was testified by Chris Smith’s initial dropping of the ball.
Smith also saved when Irving attempted to flick home a ball on the bounce at the near post which he ran in to meet after Kevin McKinlay and Murrell combined.
McKinlay also sent a delivery behind the defence for Murrell but his contact with it was ineffectual. Keiran Stewart created another chance for him but the striker posted the ball behind Smith’s goal.
The second half opened with McKinlay, playing further forward, pumping a couple of good crosses into the box hinting at a possible Berwick renaissance.
Not for long. Scott’s chip to Paton left him with only McCrorie to beat but he was off target after hitting the ball on the run. McCrorie made a good save from McGuigan, almost in his face at the time.
When Rangers attempted to get deep inside home territory, Stenhousemuir were quick to close down their options. Not so at the other end. Scott outjumped Callum Donaldson to head a powerful Paterson cross into McCrorie’s arms. Ruaridh Donaldson nipped through the narrow gap between markers Fairbairn and his Berwick namesake – both of whom endured a particularly uncomfortable afternoon – to send the ball along the goal-line, Scullion turning it away for a corner.
Berwick frequently resorted to pulling and holding as they struggled to contain opponents. Irving had already been booked for a mighty tug of the Warriors’ Donaldson’s shirt and Fairbairn was fortunate that his practice of tightly gripping the top of the troublesome McGuigan did not lead to the same sanction.
Worse for Jonny was when Eddie Ferns beat him hands down inside the box and passed to McGuigan to notch his seventh goal in as many games. It made the final score a more accurate reflection of the afternoon’s events.
Stenhousemuir: Smith, Meechan, M.Dunlop, R.Dunlop, Paterson, Ferry, McGuigan, Paton (Murray 88), McMenamin ( Longworth 75 ), Scott ( Ferns 83 ), R.Donaldson
Berwick Rangers: McCrorie, Notman, McKinlay, Fairbairn, McKenna, Phillips, Irving, Stewart ( Lavery 67 ), C.Donaldson ( Thomson 75 ), Murrell ( Rutherford 75 ), Scullion
Referee: Craig Napier