Suspended for Berwick’s League 2 game at Montrose this coming Saturday, club captain Jonny Fairbairn was joined by four other local players, Mark Walters, Kieran Ainslie, Regan Graham and Daniel Pattenden in the home team for this Development League match against opponents who beat Berwick 2-0 when the sides met further north at the start of the season. Amongst Rangers’ subs was another local, Lewis MacKay and, from slightly further afield, Gala-based Lewis Swanney.
Daniel Watt returned after injury but Charlie Denton could be missing for another six or seven weeks having dislocated his right shoulder playing for Junior club Rosyth.
Any Scottish football aficionado chancing upon the match would have struggled to instantly identify the teams. The ‘Wasps’ were in Scotland blue with yellow flashes. Berwick’s uniform was practically all red apart from some narrow black piping.
Swirling rain at the start of the match made an already damp pitch even more slippery. Whether it was this or simply playing on grass which cramped Alloa’s style, they struggled to find the fluency displayed when the teams last met. They also faced a team with the experienced backbone of Walters, Fairbairn and Ainslie though the latter had come off a 12 hour shift at work ahead of the game.
First half territorial advantage was in the region of 70:30% in Berwick’s favour. Despite a bevy of corners, they could not break down Alloa’s defence. Pattenden rode a couple of tackles then passed to Scott Russell but his strike was deflected for one of those corners. Barry Hogg and Watt both saw efforts rise over the bar and near the end of the half, David Morris turned to release a good shot from 25 yards, only to witness keeper Jamie Brown palm away the ball for yet another corner. Early in the game, Walters saved Callum Hutchison’s cross in similar fashion which was about the sum total of the visitors’ serious first half threats.
A minute into the second period, a stray pass from Ethan Anderson almost proved costly. Aidan Rush smartly whisked the ball just a shade above Walters’ bar. Increasingly, it looked as if a single goal would be sufficient to win the match. Rangers remained the more likely to net it but sometimes, forced final passes or choice of wrong option, inevitable in the learning environment of the Development League, hindered them.
The goal finally arrived with 19 minutes remaining. Out on the right, Watt held off his would be tackler and passed across to Graham who gave Brown little chance of stopping his well placed shot.
Alloa immediately made a double substitution bringing on Mark Greene and John Stewart. The action now swung from end to end. When the heavily built Swanney was slow to reach a ball which should have been his, Nathan Moore flashed another shot over the bar. Frantic Berwick defence was relieved when Scott Russell broke away and got a second chance to worry Brown when the ball fortuitously came back off his tackler but the keeper rushed out to block the ball for a corner. Opposite number Walters then dived to make a one-handed save from Aiden McNeill. It was Berwick’s turn again. Watt set Morris away but pressurised by a chasing defender, he chipped the ball wide of Brown’s goal.
A visiting scout from Chesterfield F.C. noted Morris as a player who caught his attention but in truth, it would be hard to pick out a particular home man of the match. The three points from this, Berwick’s fourth win in eight matches, were won by a solid team effort.
Berwick Rangers: Walters, McDonald ( Herriot 85 ), Anderson, Fairbairn ( capt. ), Ainslie, Regan Graham, Morris, Hogg, Watt, S.Russell ( MacKay 88 ), Pattenden ( Swanney 72 )
Unused sub: Cockburn ( GK )
Match report courtesy of Berwick Rangers Supporters Trust