Berwick bounced back to winning ways with an impressive 3 -1 win against Stirling Albion at Forthbank Stadium, thanks to a Craig Comrie own goal, a first league goal for the club for Finn Graham and the impressive Blair Henderson with a Ronaldoesque finish. A result that takes us joint top on points, but in sixth place in the table!
After an inept performance the week before at East Fife, changes needed to be made and were. The sending off the previous week of Kevin Walker guaranteed a first start in goal for Eyemouth lad Mark Walters, with Berwick based Kieran Ainslie replaced Robert Wilson in central defence. This meant a start in the first team for three local players for the first time since the early 90’s. Dwayne Coultress came back into midfield replacing David Morris while the boss, Colin Cameron replaced David Banjo.
A sense of fear was in the air amongst the 59 diehard fans who were present and their mood wasn’t helped when a free header in the first minute from Ross McMillan was net bound, only for Walters to produce a world class save.
Stirling continued to pressure on and half chances fell to Robertson, Johnston and Dickson but they lacked real finishing power, this despite being lead up front by ex-Scotland and Celtic target man Craig Beattie. Dickson’s in particular looked easier to score than miss.
In between that flurry the ‘Gers had a header from McKenna sail over the bar and a Lavery shot going just wide of the post.
There was a sense that a goal was forthwith and it was, but thankfully on this occasion though, a Sandy Cunningham effort was ruled out for offside!
The team gained in confidence from that and were playing some lovely football with Michael McKenna and Ewan McNeil in particular impressing down the right wing whilst Graeme Beveridge and Coultress were causing problems down the left.
The breakthrough duly arrived in bizarre circumstances, a run down the wing from McKenna was played into the box and Lee Hamilton steered the ball past his own keeper, though Craig Comrie was blamed for the incident by the press association. Comrie’s afternoon didn’t get any better either, as he was booked, could have been sent off and then taken off injured.
Two minutes later and it was two, a lovely passing move saw Lavery play the ball into Finn Graham who with the help of a post made Cameron’s half time team talk that bit easier.
The expected Albion fight back early in the second half never materialised and shots from Blair Henderson, one hitting the post should have seen Berwick even further ahead.
It was no surprise when a third was scored and a lovely goal it was too. Great play down the right hand side resulted in yet another wonderful low cross from McNeil which saw Henderson volley home after a Finn Graham step over seconds before he made contact with it.
The home team finally started to apply some pressure as the outstanding Cameron, was replaced by David Banjo whilst Andy Russell replaced the exhausted Darren Lavery in a bid to freshen up the team.
Willie Robertson duly pulled a goal back with shot across Walters into the far side of the net, and nervy final twenty minutes was to be endured.
With the home team now laying siege to the Berwick goal surely it was only a matter of time before a second goal would be scored, but a defence superbly marshalled by skipper Fairbairn alongside debutant Ainslie were not going to be beaten again.
Despite the goalmouth action being plentiful for Albion it was Berwick who could and probably should have sealed a more emphatic victory as great breakaway chances for Russell and McKenna were well saved by Chris Smith.
The only downside to a terrific afternoon for the Black and Gold was Ainslie being replaced late in the game by Ross Graham, Ainslie looked to be in slight discomfort as he left the field, let’s hope it’s nothing serious as his partnership with Fairbairn was a cornerstone of this impressive victory.
Fairbairn spoke afterwards on the win and his partnership with Ainslie “It was exactly the reaction we were all looking for after last week. After dealing with a bit of pressure early on, we played with a real intent and I was pleased with our shape, especially in midfield. There was a few changes from last week, including Kieran who slotted in well. We both felt comfortable throughout the game and if anything, were disappointed not to keep a clean sheet.
“We were dangerous on the counter attack, especially in the second half and on another day we could have had more. The performance and result was very pleasing and one we will use now as a standard set, especially away from home.”
Kieran Ainslie meanwhile described making his league debut for his hometown club “Chuffed to make my debut, I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I would have been but the lads around me helped me settle in and really happy to get the most important thing…3 points! I kept cramping up and had a slight niggle from the first half…I will be ok though, just a lack of match fitness with no games of that standard and speed lately.”
Report by George Thompson.