Berwick Rangers 4
P Currie 9 (pen), Gray 50, McLaren 71, 90
East Stirlingeam 2
Love 74 (pen), Gibson 88
by Keith Hamblin
at Shielfield Park
BERWICK put their first league points on the board on Saturday with victory over a stubborn East Stirling at Shielfield.
After losing heavily at Elgin in their opening fixture the previous week, Rangers were keen to replicate their recent cup form in front of their own fans.
And as they stormed into a 3-0 lead, playing some sublime football in the process, it looked like they were on course for a comfortable win.
But suddenly, after the visitors were reduced to ten men, they unexplicably seemed to lose their way for a spell.
East Stirling scored twice and at 3-2 the alarm bells were starting to ring.
It was only a second goal from substitute Fraser McLaren, with the very last kick of the game, which gave the final scoreline a more realistic look.
Not surprisingly, Berwick fielded the same starting 11 who had beaten Dumbarton 2-0 so convincingly in the Ramsdens Challenge Cup in midweek.
It took them a few minutes to find their rhythm as ‘Shire, managed by former Berwick boss John Coughlin, got stuck in in the early stages and prevented Rangers from settling on the ball.
But a ninth minute penalty from Paul Currie, who sent goalkeeper Callum Antell the wrong way, proved to be the turning point.
The spot kick had been awarded when a through ball to Stuart Noble found the striker with his back to goal, and he was simply bundled over in what looked like a needless challenge from behind by fullback Iain Chisholm.
Two minutes later a brilliant snap shot on the turn from Noble was deflected for a corner.
This proved to be the first of a number of first half, half chances, all of which unfortunately went abegging, and later manager Jimmy Crease admitted it was something which caused him some concern at the break.
Paul Currie fired inches wide from the edge of the area, Damon Gray beat his fullback but there was no one in the centre to meet his cross across the face of the goal.
David Greenhill hit a first-time effort from 25 yards out which had Antell scrambling across his line and Rangers might have been awarded a second penalty when Kevin McDonald burst into the box where he appeared to be fouled, but referee Andrew Dallas blew for an infringement the other way.
As the gameprogressed Rangers grew in stature and their passing game at times was a delight to watch, with six, seven, eight and even nine and ten man moves.
The midfield quartet of Paul and Lee Currie, McDonald and Greenhill virtually ran the show, and up front Gray in particular was full of running.
But that’s not to say this was all about forward, attacking play.
Shire were troublesome without ever being really dangerous, but in Jordyn Sheerin they had a front man who posed a constant threat.
Chris McLeod had to make a telling interception inside the six yard area when goalkeeper Jamie Barclay saved, but parried a cross from Sheerin on the left, and as the game wore on fullbacks Richard Walker and Stephen Thomson became more involved, as did Chris Townsley in the heart of the defence.
Paul Currie and McDonald both had headers which lacked any real power as the half drew to a close, whilst McLeod had to make another good blocking tackle almost right on the whistle.
Rangers made their intentions clear at the start of the second half, none moreso than Gray who was desperately unlucky when he turned beautifully, cut in from the left, shrugged off a challenge and shot from the edge of the area. Antell was beaten all ends up, but the ball hit the underside of the bar and bounced to safety.
Townsley had to head off the line as Sheerin threatened again after 48 minutes, but just two minutes later Gray finally got the breakthrough he had been looking for when he again beat his marker on the edge of the box. He might have shot, but he took one, then two touches before shooting low into the corner. It was the sign of a striker playing with some confidence.
Some of Berwick’s build-up play was a joy to watch and Paul Currie turned an shot at the end of a delightful move. Noble also fired over the top, whilst at the other end Barclay had to be alert to an effort from Ally Love.
Rangers then made two substitutions with McLaren and Darren Gribben replacing Gray and Noble up front.
Both looked lively and energetic and it was a foul on Mclaren which turned the game for a second time after 70 minutes, centre back Steven Jackson being shown a straight red for a rather reckless tackle.
Within a minute McLaren had expertly tucked away Berwick’s third after being set up by Gribben.
A brilliant ten man move then ended with Greenhill’s shot being deflected for a corner, and at that stage there was no indication of the mini collapse which was to follow.
First of all Elliot Smith was introduced at left back in place of Thomson. He hadn’t been on the pitch for 60 seconds, and certainly hadn’t touched the ball, before he challenged Love on the edge of the box. A penalty was awarded and Love converted from the spot after 74 minutes to make it 3-1.
A second goal after 88 minutes when substitute Nico Gibson rifled the ball into the net made for a nervy final few minutes.
But with the 90 minutes up McLaren, with the very last kick of the game, ran onto a long through ball from the inspirational Paul Currie and again finished with aplomb, much to the relief of the home crowd.
Overall, this was a fine performance from Berwick. Fine build-up play across the midfield augers well for the future, but in allowing Shire to come back at them shows a certain lack of concentration, and this is something they must try and eradicate from their play.
Berwick: Barclay 8, Walker 7, Thomson 7 (Smith 73), Townsley 7, McLeod 8, L Currie 8, Greenhill 7, P Currie 8, Gray 8 (Gribben 67), Noble (McLaren 67).
East Stirling: Antell, Chisholm, Dingwall, Jackson, Frances, Hunter, Lurinsky (Gibson 46), Stirling, Turner (Maxwell 79), Sheerin (Savage 79), Love.
Referee: Andrew Dallas