Berwick Rangers 3 Montrose 3The Shielfield pitch thankfully passed two morning inspections following wet weather and overnight frost. By 3pm however it was fine, dry and not too windy or cold so it was game on for the 129th league meeting between the two sides.
Montrose had McKenzie in goal with Crawford, Harwood, Andrews and Graham across the back. Midfield was occupied by Webster, Masson, McCord and Deasley. Up front were Wood and Johnston who despite being starved of good steady service did remarkably well against what looked like a Berwick defence well capable of being broken through. Campbell, Harkins, Cavanagh and McCafferty were on the Montrose bench.
The referee was Gavin Duncan who had a decent enough game though at times some of his decisions were disputed mainly by the home fans.
Montrose almost gifted a goal to Berwick in the very first minute as McCord gave the ball away just defensive side of the halfway line. Two Berwick attackers descended on McKenzie but the big keeper managed to push the ball away to safety. Then came a free kick to Montrose just outside the 18 yard box. It was Paul Watson territory but the big lad was out injured and McCord rattled the free kick well over the bar. Back at the other end Berwick squandered another promising attack as McKenzie again interrupted it.
Montrose swung the ball wide left and the cross was aimed at Wood in the centre of the Berwick box but a defender and the keeper collided and instead of the ball falling to Wood for a tap in it unkindly for Montrose rolled out of play. After the keeper received attention a drop ball was handed to the keeper instead of a corner to Montrose – very odd.
Then followed a period of sustained Berwick pressure which involved a series of corners and awful misses as Montrose rode their luck for a while. Then as the pressure was withstood Montrose came forward more and Ross Graham tried his luck with a long range effort which was Montrose’s first shot of the game after 30 minutes. Better was to follow a minute later for Montrose as a great cross field ball left to right found SCOTT JOHNSTON in space. He gathered it cleanly and made straight for goal before threading it neatly past the onrushing keeper and into the bottom left hand corner. 1-0 to Montrose and at that time somewhat against the run of play. That however is what typical away teams should be all about, defend then break away and score. Simple game is it not?
As was expected Berwick stormed back like a wounded animal and a bit too aggressively as McKenzie soon found out when he gathered a through ball but was piled into and injured by a late challenge whilst on the deck. Russell of Berwick was yellow carded but so too was Garry Wood who had joined in with a bit of pushing though it looked more like he was separating Crawford and Russell who had already started the ‘handbags’ session.
When the game restarted Berwick conjured up the equaliser as McKenzie did well to push out a shot but it was ANDREW RUSSELL who was first to the stray ball to pounce and fire home from close range to make it 1-1 after 38 minutes.
Montrose now needed to be strong and not concede again before half time. Famous last words as a similar goal was conceded in the 45th minute to send the home team in 2-1 up at half time. A through ball was initially cut out by Andrews but again Berwick were quicker to the loose ball and PAUL WILLIS fired it home.
For the second half Montrose brought on Stephen O’Neil to replace Terry Masson who took a knock to the knee after 30 minutes or so. O’Neil slotted into Masson’s vacated central midfield area.
Berwick’s Darren Lavery was then booked for dissent when complaining about a clear offside decision. Andrews was in complete command of everything above head height at the back by now and played a long ball through to Wood who made good ground before running out of space and support to win a throw in down the left hand side.
The Gable Endies were now having more possession but huge gaps were appearing in midfield as Berwick broke into them several times but wasted more chances. Montrose won their first corner in the 54th minute as they needed to find an equaliser. It came in the 59th minute and was worth waiting for. Scott Johnston did well to hold up play in midfield before slotting it forward down the centre to GARRY WOOD on the edge of the 18 yard box with his back to goal. In a very clever swivel he beat his man and fired it hard and low into the net to make it 2-2.
At that time it was no more than Montrose deserved even though Berwick had wasted many promising looking attacks. Berwick responded with more aggressive running down the flanks and through the middle but Montrose defended well marshalled by Andrews and Graham particularly. Andrew Russell let fly from 25 yards but his effort flew well over the top and soon after McKenzie watched anxiously as a curler from the right dropped just wide.
With 20 minutes to go Berwick had another spell of sustained pressure but it was Montrose who were looking stronger on the break. Frustratingly McCord took a well positioned free kick too quickly before Andrews could get in position. The result was that Berwick cleared the ball quickly and found Andrews in no mans land. Fortunately Montrose got away with it but a better decision with the free kick might have paid better dividends.
Scott Johnston was causing problems all afternoon for the Berwick defence who never looked composed and centre back Kerr Young was fortunate not to see a red card pointed at him. A through ball saw Johnston scampering away one on one with the keeper until he was pulled down from behind. A free kick was given just outside the box and Young was yellow carded whilst O’Neil wasted the free kick.
Worse was to follow in the 84th minute when Berwick were rightly awarded a penalty as Andrews mistimed a header and handled it on the edge of the penalty area. Crawford was booked for disputing the decision before PAUL WILLIS made no mistake with the spot kick to make it 3-2 and you sensed with only a few minutes to play Montrose would get nothing out of a decent display. Cavanagh came on late for McCord but it was MARVIN ANDREWS who was not quite finished for the afternoon. He had other ideas about the scoreline. In the 90th minute he trundled up for a Montrose free kick taken wide left by Ross Graham who floated it to the right hand corner of the Berwick six yard box. Andrews came thundering in and there it was in the back of the net for a last gasp equaliser similar to our last visit to Shielfield a few months ago. After that there was just time for Berwick’s Kerr Young to finally see red for another poor tackle before referee Gavin Duncan blew for full time and a well deserved point for Montrose.