A disappointed Stirling Albion left Shielfield though the young Binos remain top of the SPFL Development League East table. When the teams last met in January, Berwick were hammered 7-0 but this one remained locked at 0-0 until the 71st minute.
At this point, Rangers’ sub Daniel Pattenden was fouled. Albion overlooked Dean McConnell up by the far post and he turned in Allan Walker’s long free kick for the only goal of the game. It was the central defender’s first for Berwick. Walker played the whole match after a month out with a back injury unrelated to football. Afterwards, he acknowledged he had found it hard going, his recovery not yet complete.
Jonny Fairbairn started in midfield along with Walker and Barry Hogg. Manager John Coughlin wanted to try out his first team captain in a more forward position than usual. Like Fairbairn, Brian Martin, suspended for last week’s SPFL 2 game at Annan, played just over 50 minutes.
These two left the field at a time when Berwick were under sustained pressure as Albion upped the tempo at the start of the second period. They kept the hosts pinned inside their own half for most of the opening 15 minutes. McConnell blocked an early shot. Connor McMullan was marginally wide with a long free kick, its trajectory misjudged by the home defence. Berwick were making other mistakes and after the double substitution, Morgan Reid had the ball in the net only for referee Duncan Smith, well placed, to spot a Stirling infringement beforehand.
Just before the hour, Berwick keeper Mark Walters’ clumsy challenge on Ross Kavanagh resulted in a penalty but he saved it. The ball hit the post on its way to safety.
There was some frantic defending by Berwick with Walker doing his share. Reid hit the post and a free kick from Tommy McAllister ended up on the top of Walters’ net.
Berwick might have doubled their lead when the local trio of Kieran Ingram, Regan Graham and Pattenden combined but goalkeeper Cameron Binnie was quick to the edge of his box to prevent the Chirnside lad making a decisive strike. A goal would have been just reward for centre forward Daniel Watt whose work rate was selfless. He was also involved in some rare old tussles with his markers, in one instance Scott Burns even climbing up his back Aussie Rules style! In the 83rd minute, Watt stooped to head in a free kick taken by Glasgow-based trialist Kieran Beaton but the flag was raised for offside.
In fact, especially in the first half, there were numerous calls for offside by the linesmen, contributing to a lot of whistle from the ref. Both teams’ coaches attributed the battering the pitch has taken from a very wet winter as a major factor for passes going astray and some mistimed tackles. All the same, Berwick were glad of Stirling errors as they desperately sought an equaliser. Gregor Gwynne’s cross from the right ended up directly in touch instead of at the feet of a teammate. Another ball to the left wing was more threatening. With more composure, Luke Martin might have done better than flash it wide of Walters’ goal. The game finished with a series of throw ins to Berwick, a further indication of how, for Stirling, everything was now going wrong.
Berwick remain in fifth place in the eight team table but have moved level on points with fourth placed Alloa who have a superior goal difference but have played two more matches.
Berwick Rangers: Walters, McDonald, Denton, McConnell, Martin (Beaton 51), Fairbairn (Ingram 51), Chitemere (Pattenden 64) Hogg (capt.), Watt, A.Walker, R.Graham
Unused sub: S.Allan (GK)
Report courtesy of Berwick Rangers Supporters Trust.