Berwick Rangers 1
Albion Rovers 6
S Gemmell 30; Lumsden 42; Chaplain 45+1, 50, 85; Hamilton 71
by Kirsty Smyth
at Shielfield Park
A WOEFUL Berwick Rangers seriously dented their promotion hopes on Tuesday night when they were hit for six by play-off rivals Albion Rovers.
More than 200 hardy Berwick fans turned out on a cold, damp night at Shielfield to see happy chappy Scott Chaplain complete a hat-trick for the visitors – and make sure Berwick’s night was as miserable as the weather.
“We have given ourselves a massive mountain to climb in terms of qualifying for the play-offs,” admitted fuming Berwick manager Jimmy Crease, who said his team had let themselves be “completely bullied”.
Berwick actually got off to a decent start and took the lead on eight minutes, Damon Gray finding the back of the net with a fine strike from 18 yards after some good running down the right by Darren Gribben.
Rovers quickly had the ball at the other end, but Mark Peat was quick to close down the advancing Robert Love to deny the Albion striker. The prolific Love had a second chance to level minutes later but fired straight at Peat.
Berwick had a couple more half chances. A penalty claim was waved away after a Berwick player went to ground on the edge of the box, and Labion goalkeeper Thomas Flynn caught a header from a Berwick corner on 25 minutes.
A minute later Paul Currie played a nifty ball down the right for Gribben to run on to, but the Berwick striker was judged offside.
Albion began to dominate proceedings half way through the half and they levelled on the half hour mark with a fantastic John Gemmell strike when he spun on a bouncing ball at the edge of the box and hit it past the helpless Berwick defence.
From here on in Berwick were under pressure. Love got on the end of a good cross to sneak behind Mark Peat, but somehow failed to find the target, and Gemmell looked certain to score minutes later after a Berwick defensive mistake, but his shot went wide.
The Rovers pressure finally paid off at the worst possible time for Berwick when they scored two goals in two minutes just before the break. First Todd Lumsden cashed in on a defensive mistake to find the back of the net on 42 minutes, before a Steven Canning free kick was nodded into the net by Chaplain.
Albion’s fourth came on 51 minutes. when Rovers skipped through a wide-open Rangers midfield. Chaplain’s effort was tipped over the bar by Peat, but the Berwick defence were once again flat footed when Chaplain scored from the resulting Canning corner.
Midway through the half Berwick had a chance against the run of play when Kevin Gordon found himself with the ball eight yards out, but he took too long to pick his shot and the Rovers defender took the ball from his toes. An Ian Little shot from the edge of the box was well saved by the Rovers keeper shortly before the Berwick man was replaced by Arron Ponton.
Rovers substitute Chris Hamilton furthered Berwick’s misery on 71 minutes when he got on the end of a Gemmell pass and advanced unchallenged into the box to fire home.
Crease had his head in his hands in the Berwick dug out as Chaplain bagged his hat-trick on 85 minutes for Albion’s sixth.
An incensed Crease said afterwards his team had “completely collapsed”.
“We were actually bullied, we never got near them,” he said. “I’m not advocating foul play, but there’s nothing wrong with a few hard tackles going in and we were just soft.
“We gave the ball away continually and you can’t build a pattern when you do that.
“A few players weren’t available, but I’m not going to hide behind that excuse. It’s been the same drill, and we were just rubbish tonight.
“The goal was a great move and a good finish, but it was down hill after that. We couldn’t handle them tonight. We were all over the shop.”
A top-four finish is still mathematically possible, but the loss was a bitter blow to Berwick’s play-off campaign. “As long as it’s possible we’ll go for it, but on that performance it’s not going to happen,” added Crease.
Berwick Rangers: Peat, Smith, McLean, Ewart (John Grant 46), Callaghan, Gordon, Paul Currie (Greenhill 74), Lee Currie, Little (Ponton 67), Darren Gribben, Gray. Subs (not used): McCaldon, Darling.
Albion Rovers: Flynn, Reid, Donnelly (Benton 59), Lumsden, McGowan, Ferry (Hamilton 67), Canning, Stevenson, Chaplain, Gemmell (Gilmartin 77), Love. Subs not used: Gaston, Darren Smith.
Referee: G. Salmond