Trialists push their case as Accies prove stiff test

Berwick Rangers 0

Hamilton Accies 2

Trialist 5 (pen), Anderson 75

by Keith Hamblin

at Shielfield Park

BERWICK’S build-up to the new season continued at Shielfield on Friday when they faced a strong Hamilton side.

After taking on Premier League Hibernian six days previous, and then being involved in a bounce game with the Reserves on Tuesday, this was effectively Rangers’ third game in a week.

It gave manager Jimmy Crease the opportunity to run the rule over a few players who were involved as trialists, and he must have been pleased with the performances of a number of them, including Michael Deland, who continued to impress at right back, and Kevin McDonald, who showed some nice touches in midfield.

Up front there was also a run-out for local striker Michael Robinson, who has just signed for the Reserves.

The Berwick-based 21 year-old, who started out with Berwick Rangers Juniors, has been playing with Berwick United in the Northern Alliance League until recently.

Crease said he was impressed with his performance in the bounce game against the Reserves earlier in the week, which was why he gave him the opportuity against Accies.

Robinson came on as a 73rd minute substitute for Damon Gray, and it would be fair to say that he showed up reasonably well, his angled runs in particular catching the eye.

In the continued absense of injured goalkeeper Ian McCaldon, Berwick again utilised ex-Hibs stopper Andy McNeil between the posts.

His punching may not have been the best, but on more than one occasion he proved himself as being agile and alert enough to make some good point-blank saves.

Hamilton took the lead as early as the fifth minute, and it was a mistake by Andy McLean which let them in.

The defender was adjudged to have pulled back the dangerous looking Douglas Imrie as he got the wrong side of him in the box, and it was one of their unnamed trialists who slammed the ball into the net from the resultant penalty.

For a spell, with Imrie pulling the strings, Accies looked as if they might run riot, but Berwick weathered the storm and after a good build-up Paul Currie was just denied by goalkeeper Tomas Cerny, who spread himself well.

Two minutes later and another good build-up resulted in a shot inches past the post whilst trialist striker Darren Lavery managed to round Cerny but pulled his shot almost square across the face of the goal from a tight angle.

McNeil, meanwhile, was forced to make a fine double save to keep Berwick in the match.

First of all he got down well to parry Imrie’s low shot, and then he was quick to react and block the loose ball from close range on the rebound.

McNeil then had to be on his toes again early in the second half, tipping over an Imrie shot from the edge of the box, and he was called into action again a few minutes later from a shot by a trialist on the left.

As is the norm in matches of this type, both sides took the opportunity to switch players about after the break. Hamilton used five substitutes in all, including ex-Ranger Darren Gribben, who played for the last 17 minutes), whilst Berwick brought on Lee Currie, Chris Townsley, Arran Ponton, Fraser McLaren and Robinson.

Chris McLeod, who played the full 90 minutes, had a shot deflected for a corner. Robinson bore down on goal at least once, but his path always looked blocked and the danger was cleared.

The game was then put beyond Berwick’s reach in the 75th minute when McNeil punched clear from a corner, but the ball only went as far as substitute Grant Anderson on the edge of the box and he shot straight back into the goal for his side’s second.

Overall, another decent work-out for Berwick, but with only a Newcastle XI to come before the serious action begins, Crease must make a few decisions on his player front.

Berwick: McNeil, Walker, Deland, Mclean, McLeod, McDonald, Smith (T) (Townsley 60), P Currie (L Currie 47), Gray (Robinson (T) 73), Lavery (T) (McLaren 45), Maxwell (T) (Ponton 45).

Hamilton: Cerny, McAlister (Devlin 80), Hendrie (Hopkirk 45), Gillespie, Mensing, McLaughlin, Imrie, Chambers (Kirkpatrick 45), Trialist (Trialist 73).