Berwick Rangers 2
Noble 79, D Gray 82
Queen’s Park 0
by Ian Smith
at Shielfield Park
Berwick Rangers struck a killer blow as they hit Queen’s Park with a quickfire late double at Shielfield Park to earn the points and leapfrog their opponents into fifth spot in the table.
It marked the end of the Spiders’ six-match unbeaten run but took Ian Little’s record to two wins and a draw from his opening three games in charge as caretaker manager.
Rangers, who registered their first clean sheet in the league this season, might easily have won by a much bigger margin but for the heroics of keeper Neil Parry, who pulled off a string of super second half saves, including a penalty stop from Darren Gribben.
Little described Berwick’s first-half performance as “dreafdul.” He said: “But we were much better in the second half and despite a penalty miss at 0-0 we ran out worthy winners.
“Darren Gribben’s spot kick was well saved by the goalkeeper, and there is no comeback on Darren for that. He had scored three goals in the previous two games so we can’t complain about his contribution.
“The players’ heads might have dropped after that, but they responded well. We could have changed the 4-3-3 system which I have introduced, but we stuck with it and it all worked out in the end because we finished the stronger side.”
Berwick’s second goal was scored by striker Damon Gray, less than 60 seconds after coming on as a substitute. “When the ball came over from the left I just stuck my toe out and prodded it home from close range,” he said. “You can’t turn up chances like that.
“Naturally I am disappointed I have been on the bench lately, but you have to take your chances when they come and that is what I did today.
“The players all seem to be playing for ‘Yano’ (Little) at the moment and that’s great. There is a good atmosphere within the camp and hopefully we can keep it going. We all want to see ‘Yano’ get the job and do well.”
Queen’s dominated the early stages, forcing three quick corners but the home defence stood firm. And as they continued to apply pressure after Gribben just failed to control on the edge of the box and Ross Gray – full of running throughout – saw a weak shot gathered in, Jamie Barclay fisted away a dangerous inswinger from Martin McBride.
The home keeper was forced to move quickly to beat David Murray in a race to the ball in the box before McBride sent a fierce shot flashing across the goalface.
As the hosts settled Kevin McDonald lobbed marginally over and Gray blasted wide then just before the break Parry saved from Steven Notman, who was at full stretch to meet a Gribben cross, then saved from Lee Currie.
It ended a pretty drab opening period in which neither side were in control and created few clear- cut scoring chances.
But it was a different story after the interval with the Borderers taking the fight to the visitors, and three minutes into the half only a brilliant fingertip flick over the bar by the keeper denied Gribben with Stuart Noble paving the way.
With Berwick turning the screw Sean Burns was guilty of flooring Gray in the penalty area as he raced through to collect a delightful delivery from Gribben, but the hitman who has scored three in two games saw his 53rd minute spot kick blocked by Parry, who then beat away McDonald’s follow-up strike as he completed a tremendous double save.
The Spiders were on the back foot and McDonald was marginally off target with a low effort then Parry saved from Noble after impressive build-up work by Currie and Gribben.
The homesters, undeterred by the penalty miss, finally got the breakthrough they deserved in 79 minutes. Parry again came to his side’s rescue, fisting away from McDonald, but his clearance fell to Noble, who coolly headed home.
And Rangers struck again three minutes later to clinch it. Sub Damon Gray swept the ball over the line with his first touch less than a minute after taking over from Noble as Ricky Little tried in vain to reach it.
Berwick Rangers: Barclay 7, Smith 6, Deland 6, McLeod 7 (McLean 65mins 6), Townsley 7, Currie 7, R Gray 7, McDonald 7, Gribben 7 (Lavery 73mins 6), Notman 7, Noble 7 (D Gray 81mins 6). Subs not used: Ponton, Wood.
Queen’s Park: Parry, McGinn, Burns, Little, Meggatt, Anderson, Stewart (Smith 70mins), McBride, Watt (Daly 8l mins), Longworth, Murray. Subs not used: Brough, Gallacher, Strain.
Referee: Barry Cook.