Stephen Tulloch returned to action for the first time since January and after playing all ninety minutes reported no adverse reaction after a calf injury had kept him on the sidelines for so long. Ross Gray also played the whole game and, along with Tulloch, was booked in the second half.
Berwick looked good early on. A four man move ended with Calum Helm turning just inside the box only to shoot over the bar. Helm provided Daniel Watt with a good pass but his effort was easily held by Stirling keeper Cameron Binnie. Euan Bauld did well to rise to meet Ben Miller’s free kick but he headed it a couple of feet wide.
The Rangers’ defence, with Tulloch prominent, dealt competently with what Stirling had to offer and the teams changed round on the Forthbank Astro ‘turf’ with the match still scoreless. It was after this that Albion, with a more settled playing squad than Rangers, began to assert themselves. Conor McKenzie posted an early warning when he cut in from the right and put in a curling shot which skimmed the top of the intersection. Full back Stephen Al-Sayed began to attack deeper inside the visitors’ half and turned up the heat on Berwick’s Gregor Watson.
The second half also saw an unusually high number of fouls for a Development League game. Tulloch’s booking was a result of his persistence in questioning which Berwick player allegedly committed the foul which led to the award of a 20 yard free kick which McKenzie thumped over the bar.
Soon after this, Albion had better luck. Greg Binnie gave away the ball and Greg Hurst raced towards goal, shrugging off a dubious tackle by Adam Forrest before planting the ball into the corner of the net beyond the reach of the diving Bleakley.
Gray was shown a yellow card for a foul near the halfway line having been given a stern warning by the referee in the opening half as to what his next transgression would bring.
Al-Sayed continued to make trouble of a different kind and despite being faced by two defenders managed to get his cross into the goal area but there were no teammates on hand to take advantage.
Stirling’s substitutions also worked in their favour though number 15, Ally Petrie, was the next to see yellow for a hefty challenge on Miller which made the Berwick player see red.
Another sub, Gregor Gwynne, showed defenders a clean pair of heels with a streak through the inside left channel but his final chip finished just wide of the far post. Tulloch stepped in to stop Petrie after Berwick’s Binnie again gave away the ball. Petrie was also off target from 12 yards as he attempted to consummate an Al-Sayed/Hurst move with another goal.
It wasn’t all one way traffic but, after their bright start, Berwick’s second half performance was a disappointment and the hosts were left to celebrate their seventh win in eight matches thanks to Hurst’s 61st minute goal.
Berwick Rangers: Bleakley, Bauld, Watson, Forrest*,Tulloch ( capt. ), G.Binnie*, Gray, Miller, Helm*, Veyreinc*, Watt* ( Denton* 59 )
Report by Michael Smyth