When Sandy Cunningham hit the post early in the second half, many of the home fans probably felt that, despite dominating the opening forty five, this was not going to be Berwick’s day. Blair Henderson made sure it was when he headed in Finn Graham’s retaken 72nd minute free kick.
Rangers’ first half performance was altogether much better than where they left off in Tuesday’s drab affair versus Queen’s Park. Good support play helped them put together some exciting moves. Henderson laid off many a good ball with head and foot and a couple of times left Montrose men standing as he slipped out of tackles. Jordan McGregor gave an accomplished performance at the back whilst Stevie Notman was busy all over the place.
Berwick created more than half a dozen first half chances, amongst them, an early arched shot from Darren Lavery when Graham’s free kick was knocked back out of the penalty area. Lavery twice headed narrowly wide and on those occasions when the ball was played over in his direction out on the right, he had Andrew Steeves working flat out to keep up with him.
Montrose keeper Jordan Millar dived to punch away a 6th minute shot from Henderson and also held the big man’s header when he connected with Ewan McNeil’s cross. Millar did well to stop a strike from McNeil himself after Henderson headed down Graham’s cross and Cunningham’s snapshot from outside the box ended barely a foot above the crossbar.
Montrose got in a few efforts of their own. Gary Fraser, who didn’t see out the first half, pulled away from defenders but aimed too high. A Notman miskick presented the ball to Terry Masson. He held his head in his hands as proof of his disappointment that he was only able to volley it over the bar. Almost on half time, Ross Campbell’s thumping free kick took a deflection for a corner.
The Gable Endies came more into it in the second period as Rangers lost some of their fluency but were given a reprieve when their defence was cut open, Lavery putting Cunningham through. With Millar out of his goal, he shot towards an empty net. Neither he nor the Rangers’ supporters could believe it when instead of hitting the back of the net, the ball bounced off the far post. Immediate thoughts were on the lines of might Berwick’s eventual fate this season be determined by this piece of wood?
Notman buckled on the end of a crunching tackle by Masson with whom the ref had words when he later fouled the same player. McNeil’s long free kick was blocked.
The home side were beginning to look less assured in defence and were fortunate when Fraser’s replacement Ryan Ferguson clipped the ball over the bar as the clock passed the hour mark. Long throw man Campbell threatened inside the box until McGregor cleared the danger. A shot from Masson was deflected on to the post for a corner.
The free kick leading to the winning goal was awarded when Callum Crane was sent flying. Having taken a knock earlier in the half, McGregor went off a minute later but there was a further three minutes’ play before Robert Wilson got on to replace him.
Berwick endured some more anxious moments, some self-induced. Kevin Walker could only send Brian Martin’s bad back pass for a corner. With the home support urging Grant Irvine to blow for time, the Angus side brought all but Millar into the Berwick half. Notman’s decisive tackle on full back Greg Pascazio eventually relieved the pressure.
The Berwick players deserved the end of match applause. A look at the league table shows this result puts Montrose back in the relegation mix and with East Stirling losing at Elgin, Berwick are now five points ahead of the bottom club who are due to play their game in hand away to Clyde this Tuesday, March 1st.
Berwick Rangers: K.Walker, McNeil (Beveridge 84), Crane, Notman, McGregor (Wilson 76), Fairbairn, F.Graham, Cunningham (McKenna 69), Henderson, Lavery, Martin
Interview courtesy of Berwick Rangers Supporters Trust