Berwick bounced back from their weekend disappointment against East Kilbride FC with a comfortable victory over basement boys Edinburgh University AFC, a match in which attacking duo Calum Smith and Lewis Allan both got off the mark for the season.
Ahead of the game, Manager Ian Little was facing something of a selection crisis after Saturday’s bruising encounters against the big spenders, with defenders Craig Reid and Jack Cook ruled out through suspension and injury respectively, while Kieran Somerville, Jordan Sinclair and Sam Daniel were all carrying knocks.
Thankfully, the latter three were all declared fit and, despite the shortages in central defence, the ‘Gers continued with the 3-5-2 formation that served them well against East Kilbride, with Euan Smith dropping into the heart of defence alongside Ali Forster and Ryan Finnie and Grant Nelson coming into central midfield.
It was Nelson who had the first sight at goal when he picked the ball up from 25 yards out but blazed over, before the ‘Gers threatened out wide – which would become a feature of the game – when Jack Wright beat his man and sent a teasing cross in which the defender scrambled clear with striker Smith lurking.
Somerville found himself with numerous crossing opportunities down the right flank and played a series of teasing balls into the box, but couldn’t find anyone to finish take advantage. The provider then turned goalscorer just after the half hour mark though, with the wide man rising highest in the box to direct a Sinclair corner into the net with his head.
Despite the students barely threatening goalkeeper Dougie Horne with the exception of one tame effort from Patrick Baird when he found himself in space inside the box, the Dream Team’s lead lasted a matter of minutes as Nelson was dispossessed in the left-back area and a low cross came in from the byline and found Baird, who this time made no mistake and slotted past Horne to score Edinburgh Uni’s first goal of the season in their fifth match.
As time wound down towards the break, it looked as though the ‘Gers weren’t going to go in with the lead that they deserved. However, that changed in the 44th minute with another goal from a wide area. When Wright’s front post corner was cleared back to him, the attacking midfielder sent an inviting, looping cross in and Calum Smith rose to head past the goalkeeper and score his first goal of the season.
As the second half got underway, the ‘Gers started to create even more chances with Sam Daniel, in particular, influential down the left flank. A deep cross just evaded Dan Purves and, in the 52nd minute, Wright found an opening 20 yards out and fired a shot off the base of the post.
The hour mark saw Dan Purves and Somerville replaced by Lewis Allan and Jo Purves, with Allan immediately in the thick of things, collecting a chested knock-down from Smith but directing his effort from 20 yards past the far post.
With 20 minutes to go, the ‘Gers were given the ideal opportunity to make it three from the penalty spot when Nelson was felled in the box after an excellent, slick move. Up stepped Sinclair, who dragged his left-footed spot kick wide of the post.
A criticism of ‘Gers teams spanning years has been that they’ve been unable to kill teams off and, with 15 minutes to go, the students felt they had a good shout for a penalty when Daniel lunged in – the referee believing that the left-back got just enough of the ball to deem it a fair challenge.
Continuing to seek that all important third goal, Little tweaked the system to go four at the back, pushing Euan Smith into central midfield and Nelson and Wright out to the flanks. The goal followed soon after, with Nelson’s deflected path directed into the path of Calum Smith. The striker got the ball under control expertly and fed substitute Allan, who took a touch to get it out of his feet and fired into the far corner for his first goal in Black & Gold.
With ten minutes to go, Sinclair and Calum Smith were replaced by Liall Smith and player/coach Darren Smith, with the ‘Gers seeing out that period comfortably to record their third win from five league matches.
Photos: Ian Runciman