A banner near the Main Stand at Station Park proclaims Forfar Athletic as 2014-15 SPFL Development League champions. Judged on their first half performance in this game, they look quite capable of retaining the title even though they currently lie fourth in the table, eight points behind leaders Stirling Albion.
Traffic problems on the way up delayed Berwick’s arrival meaning the scheduled 8:00 p.m. kick off was put back almost twenty minutes and the game ended after 10:00 p.m.
Another timing of note was the forty seconds it took the hosts to open the scoring. Playing out on the left, despite wearing number seven, Craig Smith got behind the Rangers’ defence and Kerr Hay finished off with the first of what would become a hat trick.
Berwick struggled to read Forfar’s plays as the home side used space and pace to give them a hard time. A good example saw Frankie Devine and Hay combine before Dayle Robertson fired wide.
In spite of their impressive play, it took Forfar 33 minutes following the first goal to net again. With ease, Cameron Clark was able to deliver the ball across field to Smith who again fed Hay to finish off.
Rangers were further rocked by two more goals in the final five minutes of the first half. Keeper Craig Cockburn saved from Robertson but his defenders were unable to snuff out the danger, allowing Hay to claim his third success of the night.
But for a superb tackle by Ross Graham deep inside the box, Hay might have grabbed a fourth goal after Smith sent him through once more. Instead, it was centre half Jack Neave who rifled the ball home after Cockburn, with a wall of home and away players in his way, struggled to get a decent punch of the ball.
Neither of the first half scorers reappeared after the break. In Hay’s case, it was because of his likely inclusion in the first team squad for this Saturday’s Scottish Cup replay against Queen’s Park. Neave’s place was taken by Callum Beattie, a player with a physique resembling a Samoan rugby player.
Whilst it wasn’t exactly a case of the fabled ‘game of two halves’, Berwick restored some credibility with their second half performance. They had taken off Scott Russell immediately following Hay’s second goal as he hurt his shoulder in an earlier mid air collision with keeper Jason King. Ethan Anderson, who has recently been playing in defence, came on in a straight swap, meaning a role up front on the left. Four minutes into the new half, he pounced to score after King initially stopped Charlie Denton’s shot.
Just four minutes later, Forfar regained the four goal margin when Michael Kennedy headed in Devine’s corner. Though Berwick were now generally much tighter in their marking, Smith could have added another after beating Ewan Herriot. Cockburn sufficiently narrowed the angle to force him into shooting wide.
A 72nd minute goal line clearance produced a double dividend for Berwick. It saved a goal and was also the spark for a swift counter attack. Anderson drifted over to the right and with King,… who up to this point looked a safe keeper… poorly positioned, lobbed the ball high into the net.
Less than a minute later, Rangers struck again. Neither Ross Drummond nor Denton appeared to be making headway as they pressed the defence but the ball broke to Finn Graham. With King again in the wrong spot, the ball bounced perfectly for Graham to propel a low header over the line.
The visitors believed they had claims for a penalty when Finn was bundled over but it was Forfar who were awarded one late on. Dean McConnell was adjudged to have fouled Devine and Smith scored with ease.
Berwick Rangers: Cockburn, Herriot, Ross Graham, McDonald, Forrest ( McConnell 68 ), Finn Graham, Denton, Hogg ( capt. ), Watt, S.Russell ( Anderson 34 ), Drummond
** Berwick’s under 20s–augmented by first teamers Kevin Walker, Jonny Fairbairn and Blair Henderson–were involved in another high scoring game the previous week, a 4-4 draw in a friendly at Dalkeith Thistle. On the same night, the first team beat Haddington Athletic 2-1, Darren Lavery getting both Berwick goals.