Berwick Rangers failed to cap their second half of the season revival with a win in the final game of the season at sunny Links Park. Berwick were without the suspended Michael McKenna and Jordan McGregor but Callum Crane returned after a one match ban.
There were moments in the match when Berwick appeared to be a team unfamiliar with playing on plastic. Their first half play was disjointed, even clumsy, leaving Montrose to make the early running with Graham Webster sending over a couple of useful balls from the right wing. Stevie Notman made the first of several clearances when the number seven got in a shot after the ball broke to him off Brian Martin’s legs.
Berwick’s first shot at goal came from Darren Lavery after passes involving Crane and Allan Walker. Immediately afterwards, in his final game for Montrose, a volley from Adrian Mallagaray was hopeful but hopeless as it screamed way over the Berwick bar. More testing for keeper Kevin Walker was a 26th minute effort from Terry Masson after none of a trio of black and gold men could take control of the bouncing ball. Walker made an excellent save using both fists to punch the ball away.
Seven minutes later, Walker’s short goal kick to Jonny Fairbairn was returned by the Rangers’ skipper. The keeper’s second kick went straight to Gary Fraser. It looked easier to score but his shot ended up a foot wide of the post.
Graeme Beveridge cut inside and sent a lovely ball through a gap. It was meant for Blair Henderson but it touched the bye line whitewash before the big fella could reach it.
Two minutes from the break, following a throw in, the ball was played into the box where Fraser, apparently recovered from an earlier heavy challenge by Fairbairn, turned to rifle it into the top right corner of Walker’s net.
Montrose began the second half with a couple of free kicks but the next twenty minutes or so constituted Rangers’ best period of the match. Monopolising possession, the plan seemed to be to wear out and then draw the home defence into making a costly mistake.
Lavery worked his way inwards to give Allan Walker a good chance but Greg Pascazio cut across and with a thumping header sent Walker’s shot off course for a corner. Finn Graham headed down another Lavery ball to Henderson but, closely marked, he managed only a soft stab straight to Montrose number one Jordan Millar.
There was a spate of yellow cards between the 71st and 73rd minutes; Lavery for complaining about a free kick given against him, Notman for foot up, Montrose men Ross Campbell for chucking away the ball to delay a Berwick throw and, when he caused Crane to spectacularly tumble, Aaron Comrie.
With 12 minutes remaining, John Coughlin sent on Daniel Watt for his SPFL debut but by now, the Angus side were back in the game. Declan Milne headed Comrie’s cross over the bar after he all too easily beat two Rangers’ men out on the right. Kevin Walker palmed away Mallagaray’s corner before blocking a 10 yard strike from Campbell with his body.
Walker was involved in more drama, this time outside his area. Milne blocked an intended pass back to the keeper who found himself tackling the Montrose sub to get the ball. Next, he was racing further upfield to be an extra attacker at a set piece but eventually, it was Barry Hogg who got in a shot which Millar, already on the ground, gathered at the second attempt.
Fearing Berwick would snatch a late point, home fans were urging Mr. Roncone to end the long period of stoppage time. He did so when Milne ended Berwick’s season by hoofing the ball into touch.
A disappointing outcome for Berwick but credit to manager Coughlin and the players for finishing sixth in the table, a position almost unimaginable just four months ago.
Berwick Rangers: K.Walker, Beveridge (Watt 78), Crane, Notman (Stevenson 83), Wilson, Fairbairn, F.Graham (Hogg 62), A.Walker, Lavery, Henderson, Martin
Match report courtesy of Berwick Rangers Supporters Trust.