McLaren steps up to the mark in new striker role

Berwick Rangers v Newcastle United XI
Berwick Rangers v Newcastle United XI

Berwick Rangers 1

McLaren 74 (pen)

Newcastle United XI 2

Moyo 39, Miele 70

by Keith Hamblin

at Shielfield Park

BERWICK’S pre-season build-up was completed on Saturday when they took on a young Newcastle XI at a rain-hit Shielfield.

It was another good work-out for the Rangers, but from the supporters’ point of view the lack of any trialist strikers - an area where Berwick are desperately short on numbers - was perhaps the biggest disappointment.

Fraser McLaren was asked to play up top alongside Damon Gray, who is the club’s only recognised front man, and to be fair to him he might have had a hat-trick had it not been for the woodwork and Newcastle goalkeeper Ole Saderberg.

McLaren, who netted a second- half penalty, went agonisingly close twice in the first half. First of all Saderberg blocked from point-blank range when he directed a header goalwards from a cross on the right, and then, with the keeper well beaten, he saw a glorious first-time left-foot shot from 20 yards out come crashing back off the crossbar.

Newcastle had originally in-tended to send a stronger side to take on Jimmy Crease’s men. But after picking up a couple of injury knocks in a first-team pre-season friendly at Darlington the night before, reserves manager Peter Beardsley later admitted that some of his players had been called up to the first-team squad with a view to flying out to the United States for a ten-day tour on Sunday.

“Alan Pardew (the Newcastle first-team manager) had also intended to be here,” said Beardsley.

“But because of what happened [at Darlington] last night, and the amount of work he has to do before flying off to America, he decided against it.”

Beardsley was well pleased with the performance of his side, considering it was their first pre-season game, and he said all his players were now looking forward to an eight-day tour of Holland, which would be a test of character for some of the youngsters.

Berwick used trialist goalkeeper David Crawford, and he played for 70 minutes before being replaced by Andy McNeil, who had been between the posts for the previous matches against Hibernian and Hamilton.

Apart from that it was almost ‘as you were’, except for the inclusion of midfielder Alex King, who also played as a trialist alongside new signing Kevin McDonald and play-maker Lee Currie.

In the early stages it became evident that Newcastle were an accomplished side, who were skilful as well as pacy.

Patrick Nzuzi stood out in defence and up front it was Yven Moyo who caught the eye, constantly being involved in the play.

Trialist full-back Michael Deland had to make a good covering tackle to stop Moyo bearing down on goal just minutes into the game, and a short while later it was the woodwork which came to Berwick’s rescue as a chip shot from the edge of the box bounced off the top of the bar.

McLaren’s header and a snap shot from McDonald were the closest Berwick went before good build-up play saw King steal in, but he took a touch instead of shooting and the opportunity was lost.

Chris Townsley stood out at the back and he made a good tackle before Greg McDermott brought out a good save from Crawford from 25 yards out.

It was no surprise, however, that Moyo should open the scoring after 39 minutes, beating two defenders before shooting low into the bottom corner.

McLaren’s shot which came back off the bar meant Newcastle managed to hold onto a 1-0 lead at the interval, and as the rain eased off in the second half Newcastle upped the ante, but were guilty of some poor finishing which might have put them out of sight.

Brad Inman, Dan Taylor and Adam Campbell all went close before substitute Brandon Miele made it 2-0 after 72 minutes with a shot from just outside the box which took a deflection off a defender and wrong-footed McNeil.

Just two minutes later Berwick were thrown a lifeline when referee Brian Colvin awarded a penalty to McLaren, who was bundled over by Nzuzi in the box, and he stepped up himself to convert from the spot.

By this stage so many changes had been made by both sides that the rhythm went out of the game, but Berwick substitute Darren Smith managed to get in a couple of late shots, although neither really troubled Saderberg.

Berwick: Crawford (McNeil 70), McLean, Deland (Thomson 46), Townsley, McLeod, L Currie, King (Smith 46), McDonald, Gray (Maxwell 70), McLaren (Robinson 74), Ponton (Lavery 70).

Newcastle: Saderberg, Nichol-son, Toland, McDermott, Turton, Nzuzi, Moyo, Inman, Airey, Newton, Edmondsson. Subs used: Storey, Aird, Sayer, Knight, Ions, Campbell, McGorrigan, Taylor, Miele.

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