Alarm bells sound for Rangers after Four-far defeat

BERWICK RANGERS ....0

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 17th February 2010, 9:02 am

BERWICK turned in what manager Jimmy Crease described as 'the worst performance' since he took over at the club . . . and few people would argue with that.

For this was a totally inept display by a Rangers side who showed little fight, dedication or commitment throughout the entire 90 minutes.

Some fans left the ground 15 minutes before the end - at just about the stage in the game where Berwick were reduced to ten men with the sending off of Paul Currie - and for those who stayed, they were so disgruntled that they even booed the players off as they left the pitch.

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Forfar arrived at Shielfield four points behind Berwick in the title and play-off race, but with three games in hand.

It was a must-win game for the Black and Gold, but on a heavy pitch, which almost persuaded referee Kevin Clancy to call it off earlier in the day, Rangers failed to adapt to the conditions and subsequently paid the price.

They were out-played and out-fought by a Forfar side who dominated throughout, and in truth, had Rangers trudged off at the final whistle on the end of a much bigger scoreline they would have had no cause for complaints.

How manager Crease must have wished, in hindsight of course, that he had accepted the referee's earlier decision, one can only summise, but there was no hiding his disappointment afterwards and in his words 'heads could roll' as a result.

A wet and sticky surface meant the long ball and a more direct approach was called for in this match, but Berwick, who have now only recorded one win in their last eight outings, continued to try and play their close passing game, and in the end this led to their undoing.

In the opening exchanges it became apparent that goalkeeper Mark Peat was not fully fit. He was seen hobbling around his area and when defenders were called upon to take his goal kicks fans quickly realised something was wrong.

But Rangers had no one to bring off the bench. New signing Ian McCaldron was unavailable, and Stevie Ellison, who was on the bench, was also not fully fit, so Crease said afterwards he had no option but to make Peat play on.

As it was, he made a number of telling saves throughout the afternoon, and Crease added that he did not blame him directly for any of the goals.

Early on Paul McMullen, in a more advanced role up the left, made a telling run into the box, whilst a Stuart Callagan free kick found Damon Gray, whose snap shot rebounded off keeper Ally Brown.

But Berwick were struggling to cope with the threat of Chris Templeman, Paul Watson and Ross Campbell, and with Martyn Fotheringham pulling the strings in midfield it was all Rangers could do to hold out at the back.

Watson had a glancing header go inches wide from a corner, and then Templeman shot across the face of the goal after being set up by Fotheringham.

The inevitable first goal came after 32 minutes when Campbell took advantage of a poor clearance, cut in from the left, took a touch past central defender Scott Gair and fired in a shot from the edge of the box which squirmed under Peat into the net.

At the other end Currie showed great skill in bringing down a long ball, but his weak shot was easilly cleared and it was the Berwick goal which appeared to be under the biggest threat.

Campbell had another shot just wide, Peat had to save well from a Steven Tulloch shot and then Fotheringham tried his luck from distance, only to see his effort rebound off a post.

Just before half-time Berwick had a strong claim for a penalty when Ian Little broke down the right and his cross appeared to strike a defender's arm in the box, but the calls went unheeded.

The second half was just two minutes old when Forfar doubled their advantage, Templeman heading home from inside a crowded goalmouth after a cross was headed back across the face of goal by Watson.

On 55 minutes it got even worse when Tulloch saw his speculative cross from 40 yards out on the left find a way straight into the net, and when Watson headed in a fourth from a corner just three minutes after that, Rangers looked to be all at sea and the visitors looked as if they were going to run riot.

Fullback Ian Campbell pulled a shot wide as he tried to get in on the act, shortly before Berwick's afternoon went from bad to worse when Currie was shown a straight red for a tackle on substitute Barry Sellars on the halfway line.

After that Forfar had four or five other clear chances to extend their lead, and another substitute, Ian Harty might have ended the day with a hat-trick had he had his shooting boots on.

Twice he was denied by Peat and on another occasion he was clean through but was halted by a good covering tackle.

And a third substitute, Bryan Deasley might also have got his name on the scoresheet when he outstripped the Berwick defence after latching onto a through ball, but again Peat came to the rescue.

Afterwards, Forfar boss Dick Campbell said he was delighted with the performance and the result, and he said he now firmly believed that his side, who he thought would get better as the season progresses, were clear title candidates.

Berwick on the other hand, are now left looking nervously over their shoulders, because clearly current form suggests even the play-offs may now be slipping from their grasp.

Berwick - Peat 7, Guy 5, Smith 5, Ewart 5, Gair 4 (McLean 61), Callaghan 5, McLaren 4, Currie 5, Gray 5, Little 4 (Savage 63), McMullan 5 (Greenhill 70).