Berwick Rangers 1-6 Stirling Albion – SPFL Development League

Prior to the match, referee Evan Cairns, quite familiar with Berwick this season, asked assistant manager Robbie Horn, ”How many trialists have you got tonight?” The question may have been asked in jest but the fact that Berwick had eight such players listed served to highlight the difference between the teams. Albion, fielding a well-drilled, genuine under 20 team who knew each other’s play; Berwick having cobbled together a makeshift team.
Horn was one of Rangers’ unregistered men, down as a trialist substitute just in case the need arose. Berwick also welcomed back former player Arran Ponton, able to help out now that his Junior club Haddington Athletic’s season has ended. Of the half dozen younger trialists, Fifers Charlie Denton and Daniel Watt had played on a number of occasions. The other names were less familiar.
Two previous meetings between the sides had been a lot closer but this time, Stirling went in at the break with a 4-1 lead. The first goal came in the 23rd minute. Home captain Gregor Watson was unable to control an awkward ball a yard from goal and Sandy Cunningham nipped in to poke the ball beyond keeper Nils Bleakley.
The manner of Cunningham’s second goal, two minutes later, was in complete contrast. He collected a through ball and left defenders trailing before judging the angle right to beat Bleakley again.
In the 33rd minute, Jordon Sinclair scythed down Matthieu Judor inside the box. Denton’s well executed penalty brought Berwick briefly back into the game before they were hit by another quick double. Cunningham made it a personal hat trick after taking another through ball which pierced the Rangers’ rearguard. The back four were expecting a flag for offside but the Ducket ‘lino’ was resolute that Albion’s small striker had been played onside by one of them.
One minute later ( 39 mins. ), Kerr Young, whose performance on the night did not suggest a man fighting to regain his first team place, was one of three players beaten by Conor McKenzie. From the edge of the box, he then drove the ball into the far corner of Bleakley’s net.
The second half opened with a 20 yard lob from Blair Springhall just floating over Cameron Binnie’s bar. There was further bad luck for Berwick around the hour mark when Sam Davidson’s shot inside a crowded penalty area took a deflection off a defender which made it 5-1. It could have been more but Bleakley made two good saves from Tommy McAllister and one at point blank range from McKenzie’s head.
With around five minutes remaining, some frenzied tackling by Zak Khouiel inside Bleakley’s area proved to be a mere stay of execution for when the ball broke to Keiron Magennis, he stylishly hit home number six.
In between Albion’s fifth and sixth goals, Michael Fairnie fired over the bar after Watt headed down the ball to him following Springhall’s corner. Seconds from time, though again well positioned, Fairnie was wide with a header off another Springhall corner meaning that not even a late token second goal was coming Rangers’ way.

Berwick Rangers: Bleakley, Denton*, Ponton*, Doig*, Young, Watson, Springhall*, Fairnie*, Watt*, S.Russell*, Judor ( Khouiel 72 )

Unused sub: Horn*
*Denotes trialist