BERWICK RANGERS ........................................................ 0
ARBROATH ........................................................................ 4
AFTER all their exploits against Celtic in the Scottish Cup the previous weekend, Berwick Rangers were brought unceremoniously back down to earth with a bump by in-form Arbroath at Shielfield on Saturday.
The Smokies arrived in the Borders as the only side to have beaten Rangers in the league so far this season, a recent 5-0 thumping of Montrose showing their obvious potential.
After a run of six draws in their last eight games, Jimmy Crease’s side were desperate to avenge that defeat and get their title chase back on course.
But after a decent first half display they simply collapsed in the second 45, and now, with only one win in their last nine league outings, they are in danger of dropping out of the picture altogether.
Conditions for this match were far from ideal.
The pitch was still bumpy in patches from the Celtic game, and the lack of a drying wind throughout the week meant it was soft underfoot.
Squally rain and a blustery wind blowing up the pitch only added to the difficulty factor, and under the circumstances both sides are to be congratulated for their efforts to play open, attacking football.
The first half in particular was end to end and there were a handful of chances for both sets of strikers, with both goalkeepers being forced into the action.
After seven minutes Darren Gribben found his way to goal blocked after good work by Ian Little in the build-up.
Stephen Thomson then had to block a Steven Doris effort, one of three occasions he managed to put his body and head on the line to save shots on goal.
The other two came from central defender Keith Gibson, one of which was a thunderous shot from distance
But the best chance of the half probably fell to Little, who after running onto a good through ball down the middle, only had goalkeeper Darren Hill to beat, but was denied by his outstretched hand as he tried to chip it over him from close range.
Berwick keeper Mark Peat, meanwhile, twice came to the rescue against his former club when he denied Doris by smothering at the striker’s feet in the box and then making a good save from a long range shot by Gavin Swankie.
Paul Currie found himself crowded out by the Arbroath defence as he tried to get in a shot, Gribben then shot inches wide whilst Stevie Notman volleyed straight at Hill after meeting a deep cross at the back post and then shot wide in a similar position from a free kick.
At the start of the second half Gribben fired in a 30 yard free kick which Hill grasped under his crossbar, but this was to be Berwick’s only speculative strike on goal in the second 45.
For Arbroath, with Stuart Malcolm dominant at the back, Josh Falkingham and Ross Chisholm controlling midfield, and Doris and Swankie always a danger up front, simply stepped up a gear and Berwick had no response.
As the pressure mounted Peat made good saves from Gibson and Doris, but he was finally beaten after 67 minutes when Berwick lost possession inside their own half and Swankie dribbled his way past two defenders before finding the net.
Two minutes later Swankie was at it again, this time capitalising on a mistake by David Greenhill, and as he ran through unchallenged he simply slipped the ball past keeper Peat and at 2-0 it was effectively game over.
Chisholm scored a similar looking third after 78 minutes when he also ran through unchallenged after Rangers lost possession and when Gibson added a fourth with a near post header from a corner Berwick were heading for one of their heaviest home defeats in some considerable time and were just glad to hear the final whistle.
Arbroath manager Paul Sheerin later said he considered Berwick one of the better teams in the league, and as such he described it as ‘a massive win’ for his team.
Berwick Rangers - Peat 6, Smith 6, Thomson 6 (Ewart 77), Mclean 7, McLeod 6, Notman 7, Currie 6, Greenhill 6, Gribben 5, Brazil 5 (O’Reilly 85), Little 6 (Gordon 62).