At a rain soaked Shielfield, Berwick Rangers twice came from behind to eventually secure their first win in all competitions since the middle of September. They managed to complete the game with a full complement of players. Technically, Albion did not. Already on a caution for pulling Michael McKenna’s shirt when Berwick took advantage of a poor second half free kick, Darren Petrie got another after the final whistle for words communicated to the referee and thus, was officially red-carded.
On a night of high drama, the victory was hard earned but ultimately deserved. Because of injuries and suspensions, Berwick were forced to move Kevin McKinlay infield to partner Jonny Fairbairn at centre back. New signing Samuel Perez made his debut replacing Greg Hurst for the final 20 minutes.
The 302 spectators did not wait long for the first goal. Stirling worked the ball to Dylan Nguene Bikey who cut inside from the right and picked his spot to score. Rangers’ reply was immediate. They went straight to the other end, Hurst nodding in an excellent cross from the right to make it 1-1 after only seven minutes.
Nguene Bikey struck again in the 23rd minute. With his team pressing, Berwick cleared the ball out of their penalty area but it went straight to a red shirt. Another attack was built. It finished with Albion’s number 14 displaying some flashy footwork before slotting the ball home once more. He almost created a third goal with a ball across goal, Kevin Walker doing particularly well to save from Angus Beith out by the far post.
Berwick drew level again after Hurst tumbled inside the box. His fall looked dramatic but Mr Ross was on hand to see what had happened and straightaway pointed to the spot. Ominously, Chris Smith almost saved Jordyn Sheerin’s penalty kick.
Berwick were fired up as they began the second half but a couple of early chances fell Stirling’s way. Lee Hamilton got back to stop the ball crossing the line and, with better balance, Sean Dickson might have converted a corner at the far post.
Rangers missed out when there was no one near enough to connect with Hurst’s low cross. Steven Thomson took the kick himself after he was tripped but the ball floated over the bar. McKenna was given space to drive forward before shooting straight at Smith.
Downfield, ex-Ranger Blair Henderson headed wide after outjumping Fairbairn. Back at the other end, McKenna turned his marker. Greg Rutherford rushed in to meet his cross but could only prod it outside Smith’s goal. However, the fans in the Ducket had something to sing about ten minutes from time. Though not quite with the same finesse, Sheerin did a passable imitation of Nguene Bikey by cutting in from the right to curl a left foot shot between Smith and his post.
A few minutes later, Sheerin had the opportunity to wrap up the game and claim a hat trick. Perez, already fouled on his way in, was fouled again inside the box and Rangers won another penalty. This time, Smith’s save was real setting up a tense finish with some desperate Berwick defending.
Pretty quiet for most of the second half, DNB sprung back to life, trying to work some of his magic from the right though blotted his copybook on the other flank, collecting a yellow for a bad ‘tackle’ on Hamilton. Then his manager Dave Mackay was ordered out of the technical area by the ref on the report of his assistant Jordan Stokoe.
Daniel Watt, who had played all 90 minutes for the Under 20s the previous night, now got a few more minutes when he formed part of a double substitution along with Barry Hogg as the game entered stoppage time. Presumably, the necessary break in play was designed to stop Stirling’s momentum.
When the final whistle went, the relief within the Berwick camp was as palpable as the frustration and anger on the Stirling side, much of it directed towards the man in the middle. The result leaves the Forthbank side second bottom but takes Berwick up two places into fifth spot.
Berwick Rangers: Walker, Hamilton, Beveridge, Notman, McKinlay, Fairbairn, Thomson, Hurst ( Perez 71 ), Rutherford, McKenna ( Hogg 90 ), Sheerin ( Watt 90 )