There was much to talk about after this match which ended in a second successive 1-0 away defeat for Berwick Rangers. It started with the teams looking poles apart, the league leaders keeping Rangers penned inside their own half for most of the opening twenty minutes. It ended with Berwick piling on the pressure, ironically after they were reduced to ten men after the 52nd minute dismissal of skipper Jonny Fairbairn.
The number of away supporters barely reached double figures and they struggled to make themselves heard within the biggest crowd to watch a Rangers’ game in Ladbrokes League 2 so far this season. But they could certainly hear the frustration of the home fans when Berwick threatened to take a point from a team which early on seemed capable of taking Berwick to the cleaners.
With their defence lying deep Berwick struggled to get the ball downfield even when they broke up attacks. It also allowed Elgin space and in the 5th minute, this led to Archie McPhee releasing a powerful shot unchallenged.
Brian Martin, playing in left midfield, had already put in some useful tackles when confronted by Dylan Easton in the 12th minute. Rangers’ new signing from Musselburgh Athletic was making his full debut and appeared to slip, helping Easton to get past him to deliver into the box. An initial shot was blocked but with the next strike, marksman Craig Gunn showed how to finish.
Coincidental with the rearguard taking up a more forward position, Berwick began to make some headway in attack. A 24th minute corner gave Michael McKenna the chance to attempt a bicycle kick but the ball went beyond the far post.
Stevie Notman was booked for putting Easton on his back and Martin also saw yellow for clumsily falling on the troublesome former Berwick player. Minutes before, Martin was involved in Rangers’ top move of the match with Callum Crane. Dylan Stevenson slid in to meet Martin’s low ball across the edge of the goal area but couldn’t connect with the ball.
It left Elgin looking likely to score again. Kevin Walker earned generous praise from the home fans for a great save from centre back Mark Nicolson’s free kick and then saved a header form Marc McKenzie. Ewan McNeil cleared off the line following a Daniel Moore corner. Rangers were undoubtedly relieved to go in at the break still only one down.
Easton winning a corner soon after the re-start was an ominous sign. An even bigger one was the outcome of an off the ball incident inside the Berwick half. Fairbairn’s reckless charge ended with Easton writhing on the ground holding his face. A little curiously, he didn’t require treatment. Adding to the drama, the red card was shown to a bemused Allan Walker who protested his innocence. Linesman Jordan Curran ran on to put the ref right. The red was now flashed at Fairbairn and Mr. Duncan apologised to Walker.
On the hour, Rangers brought on Finn Graham and in a bid to further enhance the momentum, Dwayne Coultress and David Morris in a 72nd minute double substitution. They were allocated the respective flanks with McKenna now leading the attack.
Graham got up to head McNeil’s cross but the ball was safely held by keeper Hurst. Coultress was energetic in trying to carve out an opening but Berwick could not make the breakthrough against an overworked defence.
City did have a few chances to calm their supporters’ nerves. Walker saved from Easton and McNeil again cleared off the line. At the end of normal time, the numerical advantage helped a cross field ball reach Moore who cut inside before firing over.
There were similarities to the East Fife game a fortnight earlier. Rangers were again fairly tight at the back but struggled to do meaningful damage up front their cause not helped by the absence of Darren Lavery for personal reasons. Main contenders for Berwick man of the match were Kevin Walker for his saves, young Jordan McGregor, Martin (who partnered McGregor in central defence after the sending off) and Notman.
Berwick Rangers: K.Walker, McNeil, Crane, Notman, McGregor, Fairbairn, Stevenson ( Morris 72 ), A.Walker ( Coultress 72 ), McKenna, Henderson ( F.Graham 60 ), Martin
Report courtesy of Berwick Rangers Supporters Trust.