Berwick Rangers 2
Gray 74, L Currie 79
by Phil Johnson
at Shielfield Park
LEE Currie’s stunning free-kick 11 minutes from time capped an impressive second-half fightback as Berwick came from behind to win the East of Scotland City Cup for the fourth year in a row on Tuesday night.
With dip, swerve and pin-point accuracy, the former Hibs midfielder’s spectacular left-foot strike from 25 yards flew over the wall into the top corner and would have been a fitting way to win any match.
Berwick were in the ascendancy by then, but it took three half-time substitions from manager Jimmy Crease to turn this game around.
Spartans dominated the first half and deservedly led through Ross Archibald. Damon Gray’s equaliser turned the tide in Berwick’s favour before Currie stole the show with his sensational winner.
“It’s always good to win a cup and a game like this is certainly better than training,” said Crease. “I know Spartans would have been shouting from the rooftops had they won it. They had one or two missing themselves, but they are a good side and it was a good test for us. It was also an opportunity to bring a handful of youngsters in and let them see for themselves the standard expected.”
If the three half-time substitutions are anything to go by, some of them still have a long way to go before reaching that standard. Ross Cowan, Jason Darling and Chris McLeod got the hook at the interval, and their replacements, David Greenhill, Paul Currie and Christian Neil, turned the game in the home team’s favour.
“We tried three at the back in the first half and the young lads got a little bit lost in the system we were trying to play,” explained Crease, who was forced into a late team change when defender Jamie Ewart failed to turn up and started with four players who usually feature for the reserves. “It was a formation they were not used to, but it wasn’t just them. We gave away a sloppy first goal and there was no cohesion in the first half.”
A mistake from John Grant led to Spartans opening the scoring after ten minutes, Gavin Malin and Donal Henretty combining well before Jack Beesley’s low cross from the left was finished well by Ross Archibald at the back post.
Had it not been for Berwick goalkeeper Mark Peat, who kept out an earlier Archibald strike and also saved well at his near post from Beesley, Crease’s men would have been more than one behind at the break.
“The dressingroom was dead at half time, so we had to change it,” said Crease. “We took three of the younger lads off at half time, and we were far more fluent in the second half. We retained the ball better and scored two good goals, Lee Currie’s especially.”
Greenhill went close with a free kick early in the second half, and after Peat palmed away a Malin effort at the end of a slick Spartans attack, Berwick gained a foothold in midfield and graduallly got the upper hand.
Gray headed an equaliser from six yards following a positive run and inviting cross from young left-back Aaron Ponton before Currie struck the winner. “It was an opportunity to show the young boys who came in what level they have to achieve and the fitness levels that are required for first-team football,” added Crease. “Their fitness levels have to be better.
“We’re trying to encourage the younger lads to progress. Aaron Ponton has stepped up a few times and done well, and he put in a great cross for the first goal. I was also pleased with Christian Neil’s contribution when he came on. He was bright, positive and demonstrated his trickery.”
Berwick Rangers: Peat, Cowan (Neil 45), Ponton, McLean, Carter, McLeod (P Currie), L Currie, Darling (Greenhill 45), Gray, Gordon, Grant. Subs not used: Little, Callaghan.
Spartans: Flockhart, O’Donnell, Hoskins (Smith 76), Townsley, Sivewright, Fowlie (Finnie 83), Malin, Manson, Archibald, Henretty (Sinclair 83), Beesley. Subs not used: Etale, McGarrie.
Referee: B Colvin.