Two goals inside ten second half minutes from Scott Agnew ended Berwick’s hopes of causing a shock result after they took an early lead in this Petrofac Training Cup First Round tie in Paisley. Rangers wore their new, light blue away strip. Saints, who last season were in Scottish football’s top flight, were in customary black and white stripes upon which black numbers did not help with the identification of players.
Only three of Berwick’s starting XI were with the club last season, manager Colin Cameron, skipper Jonny Fairbairn and Blair Henderson who put Rangers ahead after only seven minutes. Michael McKenna drove forward to link with Dwayne Coultress. The ball was played on by him from out on the left to the big striker who turned in the box before shooting low into the Buddies’ goal.
The hosts looked poised to level five minutes later when left winger Lewis Morgan was put through but keeper Kevin Walker got into exactly the right spot to save with his legs. Saints were soon foiled again, this time by Berwick’s bar which Jack Baird hit with a header.
On 20 mins, referee Alan Muir provoked the ire of the away support by awarding a penalty against Robert Wilson for an alleged foul on Stephen Mallan. Captain Steven Thompson duly equalised.
Walker then punched away an awkward, swerving cross from Morgan who gave his marker Ewan McNeil a pretty torrid time in the first half, only to switch flanks in the second.
Berwick ended the half with two successive corners but neither posed problems for home side custodian Mark Ridgers.
As the second half commenced, in a tacit acknowledgement that the Berwick fans had been the more vocal, the man
on the microphone encouraged the Paisley fans to make more noise. They soon had something to shout about for five minutes in, Scott Agnew scored with a cracker to put Saints in front. Seconds earlier, Rangers’ fans were convinced their team were denied a penalty when Finn Graham appeared to be upended as he received the ball following more good combination work between McKenna and Coultress.
Agnew repeated his scoring feat on the hour showing the ball to two defenders as he glided past them before setting up his shot. Berwick nearly pulled one back, Henderson unlucky to see his solid header from a Coultress corner fly over heads only to bounce off the bar/post intersection. Rangers were certainly not going to bow out without a fight, producing some slick, confident passing moves which took them forward but they could not penetrate the home defence.
Walker made a terrific save from an Agnew free kick and near the end, St. Mirren twice came close to scoring again. Morgan cut inside before firing a foot outside one post and Agnew hit the other one.
Three Berwick players were booked. Cameron’s 30th minute yellow seemed harsh. Fairbairn and Finn Graham could
have no complaints about theirs for incidents close to the respective touchlines. Berwick’s captain bowled over Thompson in the first half and in the second, Graham pulled down Morgan by the sleeve to prevent him embarking on a potentially long run downfield when Berwick were pushing extra men forward late on. Yet, apart from free kicks, there was no sanction when McKenna was taken out in the 40th minute and needed treatment from the physio nor when Coultress was fouled by Jason Naismith as he went round him a few yards outside the box in the closing minutes.
This was an encouraging performance by Berwick’s new look team in a tough baptism to the official season. The attendance was announced as 2,394. Sportingly, special thanks were conveyed to the 77 strong Berwick contingent for travelling to back their team.
Berwick Rangers: Walker, McNeil, Beveridge, Cameron ( Drummond 71 ), Wilson, Fairbairn, Banjo ( Lavery 61 ), F.Graham, Henderson, McKenna, Coultress
Report courtesy of Berwick Rangers Supporters Trust