Berwick Rangers 1
Gribben 80 (pen)
Annan Athletic 3
Cox 19, Winters 20, O’Connor 59
by Name Here
at Shielfield Park
BERWICK turned in arguably their worst performance under new manager Ian Little when they slumped to defeat against promotion-chasing Annan at Shielfield on Saturday.
After decent performances against leaders Alloa and Clyde in the previous week, where they took four points out of a possible six, this was a bitterly disappointing displaly and there is no doubt that it left players, management and supporters all feeling a sense of frustration.
After the game Little said: “What a difference a week makes. After the games against Alloa and Clyde I was expecting a much better performance against Annan, but we just didn’t show up.
“I am bitterly disappointed because it was a chance to close he gap on some of the sides at the top, but in all honesty that was probably one of our worst performances since I took over as manager.
“I can’t really explain it, but it has made me realise that there is more to being a manager than just picking a side.
“I am learning that you need to have a mental strength, and maybe I should have gone with my gut feeling which was to make a few changes to the side, rather than stick with a similar set-up.”
The catalyst for Berwick’s defeat was the fact that the Rangers’ defence went AWOL allowing Annan to score two goals in just over a minute in the first half.
And Little admitted: “If we don’t defend we can’t expect to win games.”
His anguish surrounded two incidents in the 19th and 20th minutes which allowed the visitors to take a stranglehold on the match when they scored twice in quick succession.
First of all the tricky David Cox rode three tackles on the edge of the Berwick box, when the defence looked decidedly lead-footed, and he finished well with a low shot into Jamie Barclay’s bottom left hand corner.
Then, just over 60 seconds later, the back four seemed to stand off the dangerous David Winters on the edge of the area. They failed to close him down and they were punished when the striker curled a sublime left foot shot into Barclay’s top right hand corner of the net.
In a game which was spoiled by a strong wind it would be fair to say that neither side mastered the conditions, with spells of quality play few and far between.
For their part the Berwick defence looked nervous, the midfield never got a grip on the match and the strikers, starved of quality service, survived on scraps and found chances at a premium.
In fact, the closest they got to the Annan goal was in the 14th minute when during a goalmouth scramble Rangers had three shots blocked in quick succession, the last of which was by front man Damon Gray whose effort looked to be cleared off the line.
Apart from that Little’s side rarely threatened, but at the other end Annan looked dangerous against a less than solid back four and after Cox went close when he shot over from the edge of the box, the visitors had the ball in the net again before the break, only to have it ruled out for offside.
At the start of the second half Berwick made a change with Fraser McLaren replacing defender Chris Mcleod.
But this had little effect on the course of the game and when Sean O’Connor was allowed to turn and shoot after 59 minutes before netting on the rebound for a third goal after Barclay saved his initial effort, it would be safe to say it was game over at that stage.
Berwick then introduced substitutes Darren Gribben and John Ferguson, who was making his home debut, and they tried to inject some pace into their play.
In the 80th minute Gribben made a good run down the left and his cross into the box was handled by Peter Watson, referee Barry Cook awarding what some saw as a soft penalty.
Gribben promptly dispatched the spot kick to make it 3-1 and a couple of minutes later he forced Alex Mitchell into what was a rare save.
However, Berwick’s problems were compounded in the 85th minute when defender Richard Walker was sent off for a second bookable offence.
He tackled twice within the space of ten minutes and saw red, a colour Little was seeing shortly afterwards in his office when he conducted his after-match interviews. “It was a poor, poor performance,” he said. “We were bad and I am disappointed, but who knows, we might just turn it around on Tuesday when we go to Queen’s Park.”
Berwick: Barclay 5, McLean 5, Deland 5, McLeod 4 (McLaren 46) 3, Townsley 4, Currie 5, Notman 5, Walker 4, Noble 4 (Ferguson 73), Gray 4 (Gribben 61), Greenhill 4.
Annan: Mitchell, Muirhead, McGowan, Swinglehirst, Watson, Steele, McKenna, Sloan (Mckechnie 77), Winters, O’Connor (jardine 78), Cox.
Referee: Barry Cook.