McLaren at double as Rangers bounce back

Berwick Rangers 2

McLaren 12, 43

Peterhead 1

McAllister 14 (pen)

by Keith Hamblin

at Shielfield Park

BERWICK, courtesy of two goals from the in-form Fraser McLaren, bounced back from their shambolic performance against Montrose the week before with a creditable 2-1 win over Peterhead at Shielfield on Saturday.

With the squads both clubs had assembled at the start of the season, few would have predicted that this was effectively a bottom of the table clash so early in the campaign.

But the fact remained that before kick-off both Rangers and Blue Toon had only recorded one league win apiece and both found themselves in the bottom three.

Berwick, still smarting from their 2-1 reverse at the hands of Montrose, and with manager Jimmy Crease’s words ringing in their ears, made two changes for the game with Andy McLean coming in at centre back to replace the suspended Chris Townsley and assistant manager Ian Little being drafted in to provide a bit more bite in midfield.

But from the way in which they started off - Peterhead enjoyed most of the possession and territorial advantage - it looked like it might be another tough day at the office.

They had goalkeeper Jamie Barclay to thank for keeping them in the game with a fine double save from strike pair Bryan Deasley and Rory McAllister after 11 minutes, somehow showing very quick reactions to block the second effort from very close range.

But less than 60 seconds later, in what was their first meaningful attack, Berwick suddenly found themselves in front.

As the ball spun high from a blocked shot in the area Mclaren was the quickest to react and he nipped in between defenders and goalkeeper to prod the ball home from close range for his fifth of the season.

Rangers’ joy was short-lived however, for just two minutes later Jamie Redman was floored in the box by Chris McLeod and McAllister - the leading goalscorer in Scotland last season - slotted home the equaliser from the spot with consumate ease.

The game then started to even out a little and it was McLaren who looked Rangers’ best outlet as he looked sharp with some darting runs down the right flank.

Barclay had to make another save from McAllister and he also had to rush off his line as Peterhead threatened.

But at the other end Damon Gray was unlucky when he saw a chip shot bounce back off the top of the crossbar with goalkeeper Raymond Jellena beaten and then Darren Gribben, cutting in from the left, saw his effort scrape the face of the woodwork.

Kevin McDonald, who put in another decent shift in midfield, rode a tackle in the middle of the park before shooting narrowly wide from 25 yards out, but as the game swung from end to end McAllister shot into Barclay’s side netting.

Then, just before half-time, Berwick got the breakthrough they were looking for when Gray and McLaren linked up well on the right edge of the box. They played a neat one-two with the latter taking the return in his stride for a smart finish and his sixth of the campaign.

The second half was less entertaining by comparison, as goalmouth incidents were fewer.

But Rangers looked comfortable within themselves, even if they couldn’t find a third goal to finally kill off the opposition.

Gribben shot inches wide after a surging run by McLaren, whilst Gray may or may not have got a touch to a crossfield ball from Little which also went agonisingly close.

A McAllister free kick was safely gathered by Barclay, but in the final quarter of an hour Rangers found themselves defending deeper.

Peterhead pressed for a second equaliser, and even though it was a nervy finish McLeod and McLean stood firm at the back.

Elliott Smith made a rare appearance off the bench as a replacement for Little, which seemed to indicate that at that stage Rangers were prepared to settle for what they had.

Under the circumstances Berwick were probably happy with a win of any kind. After the Montrose fiasco it was important they got a result - it was one which lifted them back into a middle of the table position and hopefully they can now kick on from here.

Berwick Rangers: Barclay 7, Notman 6, Thomson 6, McLean 7, McLeod 7, Currie 7, Mclaren 8, Little 6 (Smith 74), Gray 6 (Noble 81), Gribben 6, McDonald 7.

Livingston: Jellena, Donald, McBain (Rattray 78), Ross, Bishop, Sellars, Sharp, Redman (Watson 62), McAllister, Wood (Bavidge 55), Deasley.

Referee: Bobby Madden.

Attendance: 334.