Berwick ended a run of four defeats with a deserved victory at Central Park. The result lifts them from last to eighth place in the table ahead of Cowdenbeath on points and Montrose on goal difference.
Michael Dunlop, signed from Arbroath in midweek, missed out because of injury but Gary Phillips, who has also joined from the Angus club, played a forward midfield role on the left and was unlucky not to mark his debut with a goal in the 11th minute. Home keeper David McGurn’s fumble helped Phillips’ shot over the line. Berwick celebrations were premature; the flag was late. Who exactly was offside was a mystery to most.
The goal that counted also came late. With six minutes to go, Phillips won a corner taken by Michael McKenna. McGurn missed the ball when he came for it and Stevie Thomson jumped to head it in, his third goal so far this season against the Blue Brazil.
Pat Scullion was playing his fourth game for Berwick and it was his best performance to date. He saved Jonny Fairbairn from embarrassment in the first half and, in the second, made a great tackle on Kris Renton close to goal.
There was a healthy contingent of Berwick supporters in the 343 crowd and some were in good voice throughout. The names of back four men Scullion and Kevin McKinlay….no pretence at having wing backs this time….fitted nicely with the rhythms of some of their repertoire. Some other songs were less than flattering about the environs in which they found themselves. In the dim light and in view of the distance from the away stand to the far side of the pitch because of the stock car track around it, many following the Black and Gold were uncertain which player actually got the goal.
Cowdenbeath won a couple of corners and got in a couple of shots before Berwick’s disallowed goal. Lewis Moore’s low drive went outside Kevin Walker’s right post whilst Shaun Rutherford’s was over from further out. Walker parried a Renton effort in the 16th minute. Four minutes later, Rangers won their first corner, a home man back footing Thomson’s angled shot into the side netting.
Berwick began to get on top in the later stages of the half, working hard to put together decent moves. McKenna won another corner after a 1:2 with Phillips. Another came in the 35th minute when Thomson’s 25 yard free kick, awarded when Gerry McLauchlan sent Greg Rutherford to earth, was deflected.
A minute from the break another 1:2 involving Berwick’s Rutherford and Thomson ended with McGurn going down to beat the former to the ball. At the other end, Walker used both fists to deal with a rasping shot from Burton O’Brien.
Cowdenbeath’s start to the new half gave their fans cause for optimism. On intercepting the ball, Kyle Walker broke forward until Fairbairn got between him and Walker which enabled the goalie to kick the ball to safety.
Rangers again took over and before his substitution with eighteen minutes remaining, four more potential scoring opportunities came Rutherford’s way. McGurn again beat him to the ball after both went for a long kick from Walker. The home captain injured himself in the process and needed attention on the field.
A McKenna pass allowed Rutherford to jink to his right but he lifted the ball over the bar. Twice, Phillips sent excellent crosses over to the striker positioned near the far post. He couldn’t control the first and McGurn grabbed the ball. Next time, there were two defenders in his way, one of whom blocked his shot.
It was an anxious ending for those Berwick fans, remembering how Cowdenbeath had snatched a point at the death on their last visit to Shielfield. They would have done so again if a back pedalling Walker had not tipped over his bar Shaun Rutheford’s unexpected lobbed shot from the right.
Berwick Rangers: Walker, Hamilton, McKinlay (Orru 88), Notman, Scullion, Fairbairn, Thomson (Stirling 88), Lavery, Rutherford (Sheerin 72), McKenna, Phillips
Match report courtesy of Berwick Rangers Supporters Trust.