BERWICK RANGERS 1 ARBROATH 1
Berwick and Arbroath had to settle for a point apiece following a 1-1 draw at Shielfield on Saturday.
After the previous week’s shock Scottish Cup exit at the hands of Hawick Royal Albert, when manager John Coughlin offered to resign, it was important for Rangers to make a statement of intent in this match.
But they trailed 1-0 at half-time after former Berwick player David Gold gave the visitors the lead.
And it was only a superb free kick from Steven Thomson which saved the day, meaning both teams remain separated by only one point in the table.
Rangers went into the game with Michael McKenna and Kevin McKinlay both suspended, but skipper Jonny Fairbairn returned to the starting line-up, and he helped shore up the defence, which had been so cruelly exposed in the Cup defeat.
Berwick had a strong claim for an early penalty turned aside when new striker Greg Rutherford appeared to be floored, just as he was about to pull the trigger, but referee Grant Irvine was unmoved.
Later, Coughlin said he thought the claim came too early in the game as the referee might have had to send the offending player off.
Martin Scott headed wide from a cross on the right as Arbroath tried to get a foothold in the game.
Rutherford was presented with a chance when Jordyn Sheerin slid the ball into his path, but visiting keeper Ricky Gomes was off his line quickly to block.
Former Berwick player Gold forced home keeper Kevin Walker into an acrobatic save with a shot from distance, but on 20 minutes he opened the scoring when he danced past two defenders before shooting low into the net.
It was the fourth goal conceded, scored by a former player, in the past two games, and Coughlin’s frustration was obvious on the sidelines as he threw his match notes in the air.
Less than a minute later another low ball fizzed across the Berwick penalty area, but there were no takers.
At the other end, a Darren Lavery cross was deflected and Gomes had to punch clear and Rutherford was only inches away from a Sheerin cross, but at half-time it remained 1-0.
The second half was only three minutes old when top scorer Steven Thomson equalised with a sweetly struck free kick which beat Gomes hands down, curling into the side netting.
Minutes later Thomson shot narrowly wide after Sheerin created the opening.
On 71 minutes Thomson sent a lovely cross into the box for Sheerin, who controlled it well, but Gomes was equal to his effort from close range.
Mark Whatley then waltzed through the Berwick midfield, but he pulled his effort wide.
In the final minute Thomson found himself standing over another free kick, in exactly the same spot for his goal, but this time he lifted the ball over the crossbar.
After the game, goal hero Thomson said: “It was important we imposed ourselves after last week, and in general I think we did.
“I struck the ball well for the free-kick and I knew as soon as I hit it and it was curling away from the goalkeeper that it was going in. It’s just a pity we couldn’t get a second goal to win the game.”
Skipper Fairbairn added: “That was a much better performance from us, and in all honesty we needed to do that after last week’s cup defeat.
“Hopefully we can now start turning some of these draws into wins.”
Berwick Rangers: Walker, Hamilton (Orru 88), Wilson, Fairbairn, Martin, Beveridge, Notman (Stirling 84), Thomson, Lavery, Rutherford, Sheerin (Hurst 74).
Arbroath: Gomes, Gold, Phillips, Little, Hamilton, Whatley (Prunty 84), Kader, McCord, Doris (Hester 73), Scott, Linn (Callaghan 84).
Referee: Grant Irvine.