Berwick Rangers made an undignified exit from the William Hill Scottish Cup despite leading 1-0 at half time and still being in front going into the last half hour of the match. Rangers started with a 4:4:2 formation. That had to change after the 29th minute when each side had a man sent off following a touchline incident.
Clearly seen by the Berwick fans in the main stand on the opposite side of the field was Smart Osodalar raising an arm to Jonny Fairbairn. Referee Gavin Duncan immediately showed the Annan man a red card. A scrum of heated players gathered and after it broke up, the travelling support was mystified as to why, after conferring with his linesman, the ref also dismissed Fairbairn.
After the game, Berwick’s captain explained he took hold of Annan’s agitated number 11 to restrain him, an action interpreted as violent conduct by the officials.
Robert Wilson was rewarded with the number 6 shirt after a good midweek showing for the Development League team but made a shaky start. Penalised for climbing, when the resulting free kick was played into the penalty area, his mix up with keeper Kevin Walker gifted Annan a corner.
The home side were awarded another corner by the ref despite no flag being raised by his assistant but this controversy paled into insignificance compared with what was to come.
Annan continued to make the early running but danger man Osodalar was largely kept under wraps by Berwick’s offside trap. By about the twenty minute mark, Berwick were starting to look more confident in attack. One move featuring Finn Graham and Michael McKenna had the home defence working overtime to crowd out strikers Blair Henderson and Darren Lavery to stop either getting a hit of the ball.
Three minutes after the reduction in numbers, Rangers did go ahead. A persistent Dwayne Coultress pushed forwards and then shot low into the far corner of Jordan Hart’s net.
With high punts downfield, Annan attempted to make the most of the bounce of the ball on the artificial surface and the absence of Fairbairn’s aerial prowess but this ploy proved unproductive.
Up to the time of the equaliser, Rangers’ fans remained in good spirits. It resulted from a penalty. Bryan Gilfillan went down inside a crowded box as a corner ball came over, apparently pushed, and Peter Weatherson comfortably took advantage from the spot.
At this point, Coultress, who had generally had a good game, was replaced by Ross Drummond, who, like the rest of the defence might wish to forget the final segment of the match.
Josh Todd gave a warning of things to come when he easily got past Ross Graham before planting the ball past Walker. It didn’t count. The referee concurred with the Berwick fans that there had been a handball and Rangers won a free kick.
Annan, faster in thought and deed, returned to the long ball game but the passes were lower and more accurate leading to a catastrophic ending for the visitors. Their defence was all at sea as Todd gave Athletic the lead on 69 minutes. He then sent a classy inside ball to Rabin Omar who was only denied a goal by Walker’s legs. But there would be no respite for Rangers.
The defence was sliced open again, Weatherson leaving Drummond standing as he turned inside to beat Walker. With six minutes to go, another long ball–from the home keeper–got through to where he wanted it and Omar finished off. Sub Stuart McColm might have made it five but for another save by Walker.
Berwick managed to conjure up a few late raids. One was launched by Walker’s long kick. Henderson flicked the ball on to Andy Russell but the lack of conviction in his shot over the top was symptomatic of a dispirited team. It was all in marked contrast to the previous week’s battling second half display v. East Fife.
Henderson, McKenna and Notman were all booked for needless indiscretions. Rangers’ discipline should be another worry.
Berwick Rangers: Walker, McNeil, Ross Graham, Notman, Fairbairn, Wilson ( A.Russell 81 ), McKenna, Finn Graham, Henderson, Lavery, Coultress ( Drummond 63 )
Berwick fans might have a chance of seeing something more encouraging when the Development League team host Alloa Athletic at Shielfield on Tuesday, October 27th in a match brought forward a week. Kick off is at 7:45 p.m.
Match report courtesy of Berwick Rangers Supporters Trust.