Berwick Rangers 0
Annan Athletic 1
by Keith Hamblin
at Shielfield Park
BERWICK turned in a creditable performance against league leaders Annan at Shielfield on Saturday, but unfortunately, any good work they did was overshadowed by another show of petulance and indiscipline from wayward striker Darren Gribben.
He was shown a straight red card for making foul and abusive comments towards the referee and a linesman, and as manager Jimmy Crease pointed out afterwards, he was lucky to escape with just a single violation.
“It might have been two or even three red cards,” said Crease, who tempered the fuore by going in to see referee Greg Aitken in his room following the final whistle to clarify the situation.
Crease was naturally perplexed at Gribben’s actions which arose out of a series of offside decisions which were flagged against him.
But he admitted he was also concerned at what effect the ‘headline-maker’s’ discipline, or lack of it, will have on the rest of the squad.
Gribben was dismissed in the 81st minute for what can only be described as a disgusting and unnecessary verbal attack on the officials.
Referee Aitken, when he was later asked by club officials to clarify how many red cards had actually been shown, said they wouldn’t want to know what had actually been said.
The bust-up came ten minutes after Annan scored what turned out to be the only goal of the game, centre back Scott Gibson producing an overhead kick inside the penalty box for his seventh of the season.
It was a cruel blow, for up to that stage Rangers effectively gave as good as they got and at no stage were they overawed by the league leaders.
In fact, for large parts of the game, especially in the first half, they looked by far the better side, and had it not been for a combination of the woodwork and poor finishing they might have found themselves two or three goals to the good before the break.
Damon Gray, who had to retire from the game after picking up a groin injury just before half-time, looked very lively in the opening stages and he had three chances inside the first five minutes.
He had a shot on the turn which drifted over, he then saw an effort strike the outside of a post after good work down the left by fullback Stephen Thomson and he then pulled another shot wide of the upright.
Gribben had the ball in the net but was flagged for offside, one of many throughout the afternoon, and he also shot wide from a cut-back by Fraser McLaren.
But it was not all one-way traffic and at the other end Sean O’Connor saw a header come back off Jamie Barclay’s crossbar when a corner was headedon to him in the box.
Ian Little’s first touch deserted him when he was clean through on goal, but worse was to follow for the assistant manager when shortly before half-time he stole in front of his marker to meet a Thomson cross. It had ‘goal’ written all over it, but somehow, from only four yards out, the ball scraped off the back post before the danger was cleared.
It was a blatant miss and later Crease said: Ian Little has been a professional footballer for over 17 years now, I don’t think he has missed an easier opportunity.”
As the half-time whistle approached Bryan Gilfillan headed over from a long cross and Ian Harty shot inches wide, showing that Annan, despite making five changes from their 3-0 win over East Stirling the previous week, were still a threat.
The second half saw Annan come more into the game, but with the Chris McLeod - Andy McLean partnership standing up well at the back, the visitors found the home defence a difficult nut to crack, although Harty went close with a shot which came back off the outside of the post.
Berwick seemed to be unable to find any penetration up front and as a result moves often broke down on the edge of the box.
Barclay had to get down well to save from O’Connor, but as the ball bounced around in his penalty area he was found wanting for the goal.
Late in the game, when they were down to ten men, Stevie Notman turned and forced Alex Mitchell into make a good tip-over from a tight angle.
But inevitably it was Gribben who grabbed the headlines for all the wrong reasons with his sending off.
He will be disciplined internally, and will of course automatically be suspended, but as Crease said afterwards ‘How can you defend the indefensible?”
Berwick Rangers: Barclay 6, Notman 6, Thomson 8, McLean 7, McLeod 7, Currie 7, McLaren 5 (D Smith 75), Little 6 E Smith 69), Gray 7 (Noble 46) 5, Gribben 3, McDonald 7.
Annan Ath: Mitchell, MacBeth, McGowan, Gibson, Watson (Wild 85), Gilfillan, Steele, Harty, Bell (Sloan 65), O’Connor, Cox
Referee: Greg Aitken.