Berwick Rangers 1 Montrose 0
After the five star performance last week against Elgin City Manager Paul Hegarty stuck to the same starting eleven so Millar was in goal with a back line of Pascazio, Clarke, Steeves and Martynuik. Across the middle were Masson, Comrie, Campbell and Mallagaray with Templeman and Fraser up front. On the bench were Ferguson, Trialist, Hester, Harwood, Milne, McLeod and Butter. Watson, McCord and Webster were still sidelined through injury.
For Berwick the man in the dugout was the well known John Coughlin and up front the main threat was always going to be the tall Blair Henderson. Other threats posed by them were from set pieces where the other tall guys McGregor and Martin needed to be marshalled properly by the smaller Montrose defenders.
The referee was Grant Irvine.
If we hoped for another five star performance at Berwick then we were sadly very disappointed and the home side deservedly took all three points. It was a crucial ‘must win’ game for Berwick who are fighting to steer clear of tenth place and their energy levels were much higher than those of Montrose on the day. Even so they struggled to turn their play into goals but as the game wore on it was always possible for them to see a kindly bounce and take the points.
For Montrose the result was also important as a win or even a point would have kept decent daylight between them and their hosts. Berwick were up on their toes from the start and appeared to be a ‘yard’ faster whereas Montrose were content to soak up the early pressure and play themselves gradually into the game. The first piece of action saw Berwick win a free kick wide left but it was hit high and wide. Montrose themselves had a free kick at the other end as Masson was upended but again the set piece amounted to nothing. Jordan Millar made a great save from Henderson but conceded a corner which was cleared easily. So far the arial threat from Berwick was being dealt with but ominously big Henderson was getting on the end of some good balls in and you sensed he would strike eventually.
On the 20 minute mark Fraser hit a 20 yarder just over the bar but that was a rare Montrose foray into enemy territory in the first half, yet despite much possession Berwick themselves rarely threatened Millar’s goalmouth. Then came two very close Berwick efforts as headers narrowly passed the right side of the post from the Montrose point of view. The home side then squandered several corners as you urged Montrose to keep a clean sheet until half time.
Then a catastrophe for Montrose as Gary Fraser was substituted on 35 minutes and the main goal threat appeared to go with him as Templeman was left up front without the ever willing Fraser to run off him. Ferguson came on for Fraser. Millar made another good save and Montrose managed a couple of corners themselves but largely rode their luck up to the half time whistle with the game still at 0-0.
The second half started slowly but again Berwick were sharper but without a serious cutting edge. If Montrose could get into a bit more rhythm and open the scoring it could well have been a much different game but still they were hardly creating a chance. On the hour mark Sandy Cunningham should have given Berwick the lead when he was put clean through and as he rounded the onrushing Millar he dragged his shot across the open goal and back into play off the foot of the far post. A let off for Montrose. Berwick almost paid the price for that miss as Mallagaray in pushing more forward found Ferguson in space but his shot went high and wide following a deflection. Mallagaray hit the resultant corner too short and it was easily cleared. If there was going to be a purple patch for Montrose it was now with only 20 minutes to go. Another Montrose corner bobbled around in the Berwick six yard box as the hosts desperately hacked it clear without it bouncing kindly for Montrose. From another corner Templeman headed well over the bar.
Henderson at the other end was still winning plenty of high balls but was being played better by centre backs Steeves and Clarke in the second half. Then came the stroke of luck Berwick were praying for. They won a free kick in a dangerous position wide left for an inswinger to the assembled tall guys of Berwick. The kick was taken and it was a poor one easily cleared by Montrose. The referee however had other ideas, he ordered the free kick to be re-taken. The second time it was a much better delivery and that man Henderson got on the end to send the ball hard and fast past Millar into the bottom corner to make it 1-0. It was to be honest no more than Berwick deserved.
There were 15 minutes plus stoppage time left and both teams made a raft of substitutions, Berwick presumably to break up the play and Montrose to try anything which might produce an equaliser. On came Hester for Mallagaray as Montrose threw caution to the wind but with no Fraser up front to use pace and guile it would take a kindly bounce or a Berwick error but neither came as the game wound down to a 1-0 home win much to the relief of the home fans.
Throughout the ninety minutes Berwick shaded it but without ever looking likely to carve out many clear chances but for Montrose it was ‘a bad day at the office’ in what was a very winnable game. Star men were Millar in goal along with the centre back pairing of Steeves and Clarke. No midfield success to speak of and very little indeed up front.
Fraser came to sit with the fans in the second half and it was something of a relief when he said he was not injured but instead was suffering from flu like symptoms which had completely drained him of energy. Hopefully he will be fully fit for another important game at East Stirlingshire next game.