Berwick Rangers 2
Brazil 41, Ponton 49
Albion Rovers 2
Love 5, Gilmartin 87
by Keith Hamblin
at Shielfield Park
BERWICK brought the curtain down on their season when they were held to a 2-2 draw by league runners-up Albion Rovers at Shielfield on Saturday.
But once again it was the same old frailties which cost Berwick victory, poor defending resulting in the visitors taking a point from a match Rangers looked as if they had won with just a few minutes left on the clock.
This was the club’s 13th draw and as manager Jimmy Crease rightly pointed out afterwards, had they been able to hold out in half of those matches they would easily have made the play-offs and maybe gone on to achieve even more.
As it is, the Borderers have to settle for sixth place in the final third division table, and all they can do now is look forward to next season and hope that the 2011-12 campaign brings better fortune.
As final day games go, this wasn’t a classic. Rangers effectively had nothing to play for, whilst the visitors were already assured of a play-off place, although they were looking for a win to guarantee them a home tie in the second leg in the knock-out stages against Annan,or as it eventually turned out, Queen’s Park.
And they couldn’t have wished for a better start when Berwick goalkeeper Ian McCaldon effectively handed them they first goal after only five minutes.
As Mccaldon went to clear a back-pass from Jamie Ewart he somehow managed to play the ball straight into the path of Robert Love on the edge of the box, and the ever-dangerous Rovers’ number seven gratefully accepted the gift and waltzed past him before slotting the ball into the empty net.
Berwick gradually started to regain their composure, however, and with Darren Gribben showing some nice first-time touches Rangers started to play their way back into contention.
After nine minutes a long crossfield ball from the right was smartly taken down by the striker, and he slipped it inside to Alan Brazil whose first time shot unfortunately came back off a post.
McCaldon was forced to redeem himself for his earlier mistake with a good save from Love, but for a while Berwick were in the ascendancy and Gribben twice went close, on one occasion being set up by the energetic Arran Ponton, who was making his full home debut, and who himself had a shot deflected for a corner.
Rangers hit the woodwork for a second time when an Andy McLean header from a corner came back off the post, but on 41 minutes Rangers got the breakthrough their play deserved when Brazil slotted the ball into the net from close range with just goalkeeper Thomas Flynn to beat.
The second half wasonly four minutes old when Ponton marked his home debut with a goal.
Gribben appeared to mis-kick the ball on the edge of the area, but as it fell to the Portobello-based teenager, he struck it sweetly with a left-foot shot into the keeper’s bottom left hand corner, going in via the inside of the upright.
But if Rangers fans thought this was the start of a second half surge they were to be disappointed.
For it was Rovers who upped the pace as they desperately sought a goal to keep their hopes of second place in the table alive.
Rangers came under increasing pressure at the back and it was hardly surprising that Crease had his head in his hands when McCaldon almost presented Love with a carbon copy goal to his first half effort.
Fortunately, on this occasion, the keeper, who had lost the ball as he tried to dribble his way out of trouble, managed to retrieve the situation by narrowing the angle and blocking Love’s shot from close range.
Chris Boyle then missed a clear-cut chance to equalise when he headed wide in front of goal, and minutes later he had a shot which fizzed past McCaldon’s upright.
A Stuart Callaghan cross-cum-shot eased the tension slightly when Flynn was forced to go full stretch, but with Gribben being replaced after 78 minutes Rangers lost their way slightly up front and were forced to defend deeper.
Callaghan cleared an Albion effort off the line and McCaldon had spread himself well to block andother close-range effort. The ball was eventually forced into the net by Chris hamilton but the effort was ruled out for offside.
Rangers looked as if they might survive the barrage, but in the 87th minute they succumbed when McLean wasn’t alert to the danger on Berwick’s right hand side of the area and substitute James Gilmartin nipped in to slot the ball through McCaldon’s legs and deny Rangers another two points.
After the game Berwick boss Crease said: “The stats don’t lie.
“We have drawn too many games this season. That’s 13 now, and the fact is that if we had managed to hang on and win half of those matches we would have been in a much healthier position.
“The simple truth is we just cannot defend, and by that I don’t just mean the back four. We need to defend from midfield as well, but it seems we havn’t been capable of that in some matches.”
Of Ponton’s home debut he said: “We have nursed Arran along and when it was obvious we had a few injury problems today we decided to give him his chance.
“He is still a bit lightweight for a defender which is why we played him in a more attacking role, and it was nice that he should get a goal, which he took well.”
Ponton added: “I didn’t know I was playing until the gaffer read out the team lines, but I thought I was in with a chance because of tall the injuries.
“When the ball fell for me for the goal I just hit it. At first I thought it was going to hit the post, but thankfully it went in off the inside of the upright.
“I’ve had to wait a while for my chance with the first team, now all I am hoping is that I am kept on for next season. I’ll be waiting by the telephone this week to see what the gaffer says, but hopefully I’ve done enough to be back.”
Berwick: McCaldon, Grant, Callaghan, McLean, Ewart, L Currie, Gordon (Neil 87), Greenhill, Gribben (Little 78), Brazil (McLaren 87), Ponton.
Albion: Flynn, Reid, McGowan, Innes, Benton, Donnelly, Love, Canning, Hamilton, Ferry (Gilmartin 78), Boyle.
Referee: Gary Hilland