Berwick Rangers 1
Winters 22. Pierce 81 (pen)
by Keith Hamblin
at Shielfield Park
AT 1-0 up and playing like a team full of confidence, Berwick looked as if they had this game in the bag at Shielfield on Saturday.
But as soon as Montrose scored a spectacular equaliser, Rangers lost their fluidity and their shape.
Heads appeared to drop and after that it was always a lottery as to which side was going to come out on top.
However, at the end of the day it wasn’t the home side who had the winning ticket and afterwards it was no surprise that manager Jimmy Crease should lay it on the line both in the dressingroom and in his after-match press call.
Crease described it as ‘a shocker,’ and he said he could not believe what he was watching.
In the circumstances it was easy to understand his frustration, for Berwick had started off like a team who had the message of the manager from the previous week ringing in their ears.
He had told his players that with the cup matches out of the way it was time to kickstart their league campaign.
With just two minutes on the clock Fraser McLaren burst through but had no power in his final shot. A minute later Stuart Noble’s full stretch effort had goalkeeper Michael Andrews going full stretch to deny him.
On ten minutes Andrews thwarted Noble again when got on the end of a Darren Gribben cross, but as he spuilled it McLaren was on hand to steer in the loose ball for the opener.
After this Rangers knocked the ball around well and created several chances, but they failed to capitalise on them.
Later, Montrose manager Ray Farningham said that after their 6-0 mauling the previous week at the hands of Stranraer he had thought ‘here we go again.’
But the Angus side rolled up their sleeves and after Terry Masson pulled a shot wide, Jamie Winter scored a superb equaliser after 22 minutes when he turned 30 yards out and fired an unstoppable shot into Jamie Barclay’s bottom left hand corner.
It was a goal out of nothing, but it galvanised Montrose, and had the opposite effect on Berwick.
Rangers suddenly lost all the inventiveness they had earlier in the match.Gribben managed to shoot into the side netting after a long through ball from McLaren, but the recalled striker also turned up at least two other opportunities in the box, when he failed to make contact with crosses, one from a corner.
Rangers might have regained the initiative shortly before the break when McLaren found himself one on one with Andrews, but referee Des Roach inexplicably blew to bring play back for an earlier foul, failing to play advantage.
On such incidents games can turn, and this was clearly one of them.
McLaren may or may not have scored, we will never know, but Andrews then saved brilliantly from Lee Currie’s free kick, and when, seconds later, the ball bounced around after two deflections in the Berwick penalty area before Barclay managed to collect, it showed just how quickly a match can change.
Kevin McDonald turned in another good shift for Berwick and he tried to lift them in the second half, but clearly the loss of play-maker Paul Currie, who joined Hamilton a week earlier, is proving to be a major handicap.
A McDonald shot from distance clipped the crossbar, but Montrose were starting to get a foothold in the game and barclay had to go full stretch as Martin Boyle got in a shot. Full back Stephen McNally also shot wide and a free kick from Winter was deflected for a corner.
Barclay also had to save well from Alan Campbell following a goalmouth scramble, and it became clear that Rangers were struggling to hang on.
The next turning point came in the 81st minute when Boyle got the wrong side of central defender Chris Townsley. As the ex-Musselburgh man tried to make amends he made contact with the striker in the box and both went to ground.
Referee Roach immediately pointed to the spot and sent Townsley off with a straight red. Sean Pierce then dispatched the penalty and suddenly Rangers were staring defeat in the face.
In the very last minute Berwick had the ball in the net with a header from a Currie free kick, but the linesman’s flag was up for offside and Montrose left with all three points.
Clearly this was not a good day at the office for Berwick. They started well, but not for the first time this season they failed to kill a team off when on top.
Too many players then went missing after Montrose equalised and it’s obvious that a long hard season now looks to be in prospect.
At the start of the campaign a top four place was being predicted, by some fans as well as the management, but clearly Rangers are a long way off that at present and a big improvement is needed over the coming weeks.
Berwick: Barclay 7, Notman 6, Thomson 6, Townsley 6, Mcleod 6, Currie 7, McLaren 6, McDonald 7, Noble 6 (Gray 76), Gribben 5, Deland 5.
Montrose: Andrews, Mcnally, Cameron, Campbell, Crighton, Lunan, Crawford, Massson, Boyle, Winter, Pierce.
Referee: Des Roach.