Inconsistent Rangers let two-goal lead slip

Elgin City3

Crooks 37 pen, MacDonald 56, Kaczan 79

Berwick Rangers2

P Currie 13, 19

by David Cook

At Borough Briggs

Berwick Rangers brought the curtain down on this season’s away campaign with an embarrassing defeat to an Elgin City side they had led by two goals and were playing off the park at one stage of an entertaining but ultimately disappointing match at a sun-drenched Borough Briggs on Saturday.

City deserve enormous credit for turning the match on its head, and taught Rangers a harsh lesson about the value of fighting spirit, a characteristic conspicuous by its absence in too many players representing the black and gold.

Sadly for Rangers, this performance was emblematic of their entire season - a blistering start followed by a tame collapse in the face of resistance from a home side emerging triumphantly from the debris of five consecutive defeats.

With nothing to play for, the end of season crowd turned up at the Briggs hoping for a carefree exhibition of flowing football.

In the opening minute, Rangers were given a warning of things to come when man of the match Craig Frizzel slalomed past three tackles before running into trouble. How the Gers could do with a wide man with his range of skills.

Berwick settled quickly, however, and forced a batch of corners which a nervy-looking home defence managed to deal with in Sunday-league fashion, before Alan Brazil sclaffed a shot wide from Kevin Gordon’s deep cross in the eighth minute.

Three minutes later, Gordon headed wide from Stuart Callaghan’s cross at the back post with keeper Donnelly looking as if his positional compass had been interfered with.

Rangers were all over Elgin like a cheap suit, though it was still a surprise when Paul Currie sent a booming 25 yard volley into the top corner in the 13th minute to give his side a spectacular lead.

Gordon moved ahead of the field in the ‘miss of the season’ competition in the 17th minute, his brilliant first touch taking him clear of the home defence before rounding Donnelly, only to shoot into the side netting from five yards out with the entire goal at his mercy. On such moments the fate of football matches is decided.

Rangers doubled their lead in the 19th minute, and it was no less than they deserved. Donnelly made a complete hash of punching Callaghan’s cross clear. The ball fell to the marauding Paul Currie who gleefully headed home from eight yards out.

A cricket score looked in prospect, even though Darren Gribben shot wide after outpacing the lumbering home rearguard in the 28th minute. It’s unclear what happened after that.

Either Rangers lost interest, or grew complacent, or maybe it’s just that Elgin decided to put an end to their embarassment.

Eight minutes from the break, Frizzel went past Callaghan and Chris McLeod as if they merely figments of his imagination, only to be chopped down by Lee Currie as he hove in on goal. Crooks dispatched the penalty with a minimum of fuss.

Rangers started the second half brightly enough, Callaghan thundering a 30 yard angled volley past Donnelly’s goal in the 48th minute, before Paul Currie passed over his hat-trick opportunity by heading Gordon’s cross over the bar in the 54th minute.

City equalised 11 minutes after the break, McDonald ramming home the rebound after Ian McCaldon could only parry Wilson’s fizzing volley. David Greenhill, on for the injured Paul Currie, should have restored his side’s lead in the 62nd minute, but sent a free header over from five yards out.

The previously anonymous Gribben burst into life midway through the half, cracking a 30 yard free kick inches wide before forcing Donnelly into a diving save from a snap shot.

McCaldon made a stunning double save from Wilson and Gunn to keep his team in the match with 15 minutes remaining, but he was helpless when Elgin took a decisive lead in the 79th minute.

Aaron Punton, on for McLeod, headed a clearnace straight to Paul Kaczan’s feet, and the veteran midfielder, making his 200th appearance for City, needed no second invitation to bury his volley beyond McCaldon.

There was only one team in it after that, and only McCaldon and some desperate defending kept Elgin’s lead to a single goal.

The one bright spot for those of the black and gold persuasion was the introduction of youngster Kristian Neil with a few minutes to go, making him the first Berwicker to play in a league match since his illustrious uncle hung up his boots.

Rangers look set to finish the season in sixth spot, and currently have two fewer points than the previous campaign. With second-placed Albion visiting for the final match, there is no guarantee they will overhaul that total.

There is a lot of work to be done if Rangers are to convince an increasingly circumspect support that they have the capability to make an impact in what is likely to be an even more competitive Third Division in 2011/12.

Elgin City: Donnelly, Barry Wilson (Miller 90), Kaczan, Nicolson, Niven, Cameron, MacDonald (Gunn 69), O’Donoghue, Frizzel (Forbes 86), Crooks, Gormley

Berwick: McCaldon 8, McLeod 4, Ewart 7, McLean 7, Grant 3, P Currie 7, L Currie 5, Callaghan 5, Gordon 5, Brazil 3, Gribben 5.

Referee: John Beaton

Attendance: 496