Berwick Rangers 3
Noble (26), McLaren (67), Ferguson (80)
by Shaun Niven
at Stair Park
Berwick ended their recent run of poor results with a hard-fought if slightly fortunate victory from the long trip to play-off chasing Stranraer by taking advantage of their hosts’ inability to translate possession into chances and giving a master class in how to take your own chances.
Stranraer burst out of the blocks when Scott Taggart broke forward and crossed from the right only for Conner McGlinchey to half- clear, and follow-up efforts from Sean Winter and Craig Malcolm were blocked.
Martin Grehan was then given a through ball from Stephen Stirling to chase but with Steven Tulloch toiling, Jamie Barclay came to his rescue by dashing from his penalty area and ending the attack with a decisive challenge.
Steven Noble created the next chance from the left with a dangerous cross that eventually fell to Stuart McColm who fired over from 12 yards.
Berwick, though, served notice when Darren Gribben picked up a loose ball and made a chance for himself but shot tamely straight at David Mitchell.
Berwick had a couple of corners in succession and their best effort so far came from Townsley whose attempted shot through a crowded goalmouth hit David MacGregor and flew away to safety, and as the ball returned to the penalty area Jordon Forster had a speculative effort from 18 yards but dragged it well wide.
Berwick showed the home team how to take advantage by grabbing an unlikely lead. Stranraer gave the ball away on the Berwick right and McLaren took advantage, crossing into the middle where the unmarked Stuart Noble turned the cross past Mitchell.
Taggart delivered another cross from wide that Winter miscued at the front post but Berwick almost doubled their lead when Lee Currie picked up a Gribben pass and turned John Kane before attempting an audacious chip that only just cleared the Blues goal.
Stirling was the next to miss the target for Stranraer by shooting high and wide and just as it looked like an interval advantage for Berwick, Stranraer equalised.
Winter broke down the right and squared across goal for Stuart McColm, who rushed in from the back-post area and drilled the ball into the net. The same player almost scored again moments later when he picked up a pass from Malcolm but shot just wide and the score stayed level at the break.
The pattern continued in the second half when MacGregor had a snap shot when a corner fell at his feet but Townsley blocked on the goal line. Aitken delivered a succession of corners and the best chance from these fell to Grehan, who hit the top of the crossbar with a free header. Aitken then shot over from a good position before Tulloch earned the only caution of the day for chopping down McColm, and Stirling wasted the free kick with a wild effort.
For Rangers, Gribben found himself in acres of space but Noble delayed in finding his strike partner and when the ball did reach him, MacGregor was able to block his stinging effort.
Stranraer should have got themselves in front with the move of the match in the 65th minute. McColm won the ball on halfway and charged forward before delivering a pinpoint cross for Grehan to pick his spot. However, Barclay hurled himself to his left to make a superb save that would prove to be a pivotal moment in the match.
Gribben then found McLaren on the right but Mitchell showed his worth too, with an equally good save. Gribben was more successful when he threaded a perfectly weighted pass for McLaren, who slotted the ball under Mitchell and the Borderers were back in front.
Berwick gained confidence from this and showed great character in playing out the remainder of the match looking comfortable in keeping Stranraer at arm’s length.
Gribben had hobbled off after taking a knock to be replaced by John Ferguson, and it took the substitute only six minutes to notch his first goal for the club and clinch the points for Berwick. He cut in from the left and skipped between Kane and Taggart before calmly curling the ball round Mitchell and into the far bottom corner with consummate ease.
Stranraer had a couple of Michael Moore efforts late on but never looked likely to reverse their fortunes.
Stranraer: Mitchell, Taggart, Noble, MacGregor (Shepherd 75), Kane, Aitken (Cochrane 78), Winter, Stirling, Malcolm, Grehan (Moore 69), McColm. Subs not used: Agnew, Marshall.
Berwick Rangers: Barclay, Forster, McGlinchey, Tulloch, Townsley, Currie, McLaren (Walker 72), Notman, Gribben (Ferguson 74), Noble, Gray (Greenhill 64). Subs not used: Deland, Sorley. Booked: Tulloch.
Referee: E Anderson.