A sensational fight back, demonstrating a team spirit that has been arguably lacking at Shielfield Park for a number of years, earned Berwick Rangers a spot in the League Cup Round Two draw tomrorrow afternoon (Monday 3rd August, 2:30pm).
The ‘Gers were forced to dig deep after going in at half-time two goals down, Alloa’s Iain Flannigan replicating the individual brilliance of St Mirren’s Scott Agnew to net a brace from distance.
But as soon as Darren Lavery latched on to Kevin Walker’s long pass and smashed home, the momentum switched and David Morris’ well-timed header forced the tie into extra time – where David Banjo would rise to meet a corner, send Shielfield into raptures and complete an unlikely comeback.
The deadlock was broken after just six minutes when Flannigan latched on to a loose ball, cut in from the left flank and smashed in an effort from 25 yards.
‘Gers heads refused to go down, and though Dwayne Coultress and Lavery both went close, ‘keeper Andy McNeil was equal to both efforts.
While Berwick’s play going forward was often threatening, the ‘Gers defence and midfield were somewhat struggling to handle constant Alloa overloads, and with ‘Gers defenders standing off Flannigan and midfielders failing to pick him up, it came as no surprise when the midfielder doubled he and his side’s goal tally for the day, drilling a low effort to the left of Kevin Walker.
The ‘Gers attempted to respond immediately through Michael McKenna, who was denied by a brave last ditch tackle from Dougie Hill. The ‘Gers again went close from the resultant corner, Jonny Fairbairn showing good feet to take two defenders on in the box and firing at goal, but McNeil did well to hold on.
Alloa could have made it three when Colin Hamilton fizzed a ball across the box, only for Geoff Mitchell to fluff his lines when it perhaps looked easier to net.
But, showing the back and forth nature of the game, Darren Lavery had Berwick’s best chance yet, a lovely ball from Ewan McNeil found Lavery at the back post, who was denied by a fantastic from Alloa’s number one.
A half-time team talk from Colin Cameron appeared to wonders for the ‘Gers defence particularly, who returned to the pitch a much more solid unit – and it was the confident defending that allowed the ‘Gers to build a platform for a comeback.
Striker Lavery netted his first of the season with an absolute scorcher from distance, showing good pace to latch on to a Kevin Walker pass, strength to hold off his marker and incredible technique to smash the ball past the helpless McNeil.
With the ‘Gers seemingly sniffing Wasp blood, Berwick began to dominate proceedings and whilst Alloa matched them for possession, the Black and Gold army’s time on the ball appeared to be much more purposeful. However, they had Kevin Walker to thank when the stopper remained alert to deny Hill, his bullet header being tipped around the post.
As Berwick chased an equaliser, Morris was introduced in place of Coultress, and the move proved to be a smart one, with the winger adding to the energy provided by the likes of McKenna, Graham and Banjo and causing Alloa defenders no end of problems.
It’d be Morris who netted the ‘Gers equaliser too, when he’d meet a tantalising ball from McNeil deep out on the right flank with a diving header, sending the ball past McNeil and into the far corner.
Alloa may have stole the tie in added time when Alloa substitute Isaac Layne met Hamilton’s cross, only for his headed effort to cannon back off the bar.
However the momentum was very much with Berwick, who answered any questions about fitness levels to continue to have the better of the game through the extra thirty minutes.
It took only four minutes of added time for the ‘Gers to net what proved to be the winning goal, when another stunning cross, this time a McNeil corner, was met by David Banjo who lost his marker, rose tall and headed the ball into the far corner before celebrating with a world class slide by the corner flag.
The goal knocked the stuffing out of the away side, and the Dream Team were unlucky not to add to their lead in the second half of extra time when the impressive McKenna was sent in on goal by Morris, only to be denied by the feet of Alloa’s number one McNeil.
In all, it was an unbelievable effort from all in the smart new Black and Gold jersey, and one which has left fans with a renewed optimism ahead of the coming season. Lets hope the spirit of this upset will live on throughout the league campaign this season!