Sheerin 22, Doris 51
Berwick Rangers 1
Hill (og) 90
by David Cook
Berwick Rangers’ six-game unbeaten run came to an end on a gluepot of a pitch in abysmal weather conditions at Gayfield against red-hot title favourites Arbroath on Saturday.
Don’t be fooled by the close scoreline, because the home side were superior for the vast majority of the match against a Rangers outfit whose midfield were a distant second best to the class of Paul Sheerin, Gavin Swankie and Josh Falkingham.
It was only Mark Peat’s goalkeeping and another sterling effort from Jamie Ewart that kept the score down, though the most disappointing feature of Rangers’ performance was their lack of intelligence with the wind at their backs. Despite bossing second half possession, a litany of brainless long balls gave the home defence a more comfortable second period than they might reasonably have expected until the last ten minutes, when the penny belatedly dropped that playing the ball to feet might lead to some goalscoring opportunities.
With unlikely guest of honour Lorraine Kelly looking on, Arbroath won the toss and elected to play with the howling gale and bullet-like rain at their backs. It did’nt take much for anyone with prior knowledge of Gale-field to guess what would follow - a siege on the Rangers goal.
Credit to Arbroath, they went about their business with intelligence, player manager Sheerin dictating play with his classy use of the ball in challenging conditions. It was his 8th minute through ball that sent McManus clear, only for the unsighted Peat to make a superb low save.
Seven minutes later, Sheerin’s back-heel put in Doris but Peat was again equal to the shot. The home side made the inevitable breakthrough in the 22nd minute, Peat fisting Sheerin’s inswinging corner into his own net under pressure from Gibson. Rangers did’nt appear to have learned from their previous visit to Gayfield, when Arbroath’s corners caused carnage in the Gers defence. Rangers finally broke free from defensive duties in the 27th minute, when Ian Little’s superb cross looked set to be finished by Lee Currie only for McMullan to steal the ball off his toe.
It was Currie who saved Rangers four minutes later, blocking Doris’s acrobatic volley on the line. Minutes from the break, Swankie slalomed past three attempted tackles before hoofing a shot wide, before John Grant thundered a shot over Hill’s bar with the final effort of the half.
At least Rangers were still in the match, and had the advantage of the wind for the second period. They were quickly disabused of any notion they might have had of an easier ride, Doris heading home a Swankie corner in the 51st minute after McLean was caught in possession. McLean was a hair’s breadth away from making immediate amends for his error, his wind-assisted cross bouncing back into play off the inside of Hill’s post, but there were no takers. Paul Currie finally emerged from midfield anonymity in the 76th minute, volleying over before completely missing his kick for a routine tap-in sixty seconds later. Six minutes from the end the hard-grafting Gribben beautifully controlled Lee Currie’s pass but shot straight at Hill, before the Arbroath keeper bundled Gribben’s corner into his own net under pressure from McLeod in stoppage time for a consolation goal.
Losing to the best team in the league is no disgrace, but Rangers will want to get their play - off bid back on track in the next two home matches against teams competing for the same prize. To do that, their midfield will need to step up to the plate and introduce some genuine width to their play.
Berwick Rangers: Peat 7; McLean 5; Ewart 8; McLeod 7; Callaghan 6; Greenhill 4; Grant 4; P Currie 5; L Currie 6; Gribben 7; Little 6.