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“An ugly performance is a bit of an understatement,” admitted ‘Gers boss Colin Cameron after he saw his side struggle to a win over a Queen’s Park side which played more than 70 minutes with ten men.
Scott Gibson was sent off in the 18th minute after handling Blair Henderson’s shot on the ground, with Darren Lavery stepping up to convert the resulting penalty.
But Berwick scarcely looked like taking further advantage and the Spiders perhaps undeservedly came away with nothing – despite fervent calls for a penalty against substitute Steven Notman in second half stoppage time.
With David Banjo out with a hamstring strain and Cameron only fit enough to name himself on the bench, Ross Drummond made his first start of the season at left-back and Graeme Beveridge moved into central midfield alongside Finn Graham.
In what was a quiet start to the match, Berwick started slightly the stronger with Henderson heading over Graham’s cross and Lavery cutting inside from the right, only for his tame left-footed effort to be gathered easily by William Muir.
Things sparked into life in the 18th minute though as Drummond burst forward from left-back and had his shot parried into the six-yard box. With Henderson certain to apply the finish, Gibson went to ground, handled the ball and was subsequently shown his marching orders.
Visiting boss Gus MacPherson was irate on the touchline and, after Gibson eventually trudged off, Lavery held his nerve to send Muir the wrong way from the spot for his fourth goal of the season.
But if the ‘Gers planned on things getting easier playing against 10 men, they were deeply mistaken. Any slight momentum that was built up ahead of the penalty came to a halt and it was the visitors who looked more assured on the ball for the remainder of the first half and, in truth, the match.
Despite that, Queen’s rarely threatened ahead of the interval with a Jamie McKernon effort from 30 yards and a string of corners which came to nothing the closest they came to testing keeper Kevin Walker.
It was a different story in the second half though. Again, Berwick failed to make their man advantage count and visiting striker Chris Duggan – on loan from Scottish Premier League outfit Partick Thistle – started to cause a couple of problems for the centre-back pairing of Jonny Fairbairn and Kieran Ainslie.
He had a shot gathered by Walker and twice fired wide after finding space on the edge of the area, while Craig McLeish nodded wide from a deep free-kick.
With half an hour to go, boss Cameron attempted to gain a stranglehold on the match by introducing the returning Notman into the middle of the park. But still the Spiders battled and looked more likely to get the next goal, before a brief foray into the Queen’s half saw Lavery cut inside and shoot narrowly wide.
A clash of heads saw Henderson off the field for five minutes, with Cameron incensed that the striker wasn’t allowed back in the pitch before the ball went out of play again and the result of his treatment had been seen by referee Steven Reid.
The manager was booked from the sidelines for his protests and the final 10 minutes proved to be an uncomfortable watch as, after Drummond had a cross-shot gathered by Muir after good work from Michael McKenna, Queen’s reacted with disbelief when they weren’t awarded a penalty in the dying moments as the ball fell in the penalty area and John Carter saw his effort from close range blocked by what looked like the hand of substitute Notman.
By Martin Inglis