BERWICK RANGERS 3
The Shielfield pitch passed two morning inspections, following wet weather and overnight frost. At kick-off time it was 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.
Montrose almost gifted a goal to Berwick in the very first minute, as McCord gave the ball away just shy 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 rolled out of play. After the ‘keeper received attention, a drop ball was handed to the home team, instead of a corner to Montrose.
This was followed by a period of sustained Berwick pressure, which involved a series of corners and awful misses, as Montrose rode their luck for a while. Then, having withstood this pressure, Montrose came forward 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 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 somewhat against the run of play.
As was expected, Berwick stormed right back 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 re-started, Berwick conjured up an equaliser. McKenzie did well to push out a shot but ANDREW RUSSELL was first to the stray ball and fired 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 but a similar goal was conceded in the 45 minutes, to send the home team in 2-1 up at the break. A through-ball was initially cut out by Andrews but Berwick were quicker to the loose ball and PAUL WILLIS fired it home.
Half-time: Berwick Rangers 2, Montrose 1.
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 54 minutes, as they needed to find an equaliser. It came in the 59 minutes and was well worth the wait. 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 man’s 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 84 minutes, when Berwick were rightly awarded a penalty as Andrews mistimed a header and handled 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 it felt, with only a few minutes to play, that 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 90 minutes 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 put it in the back of the net for a last-gasp equaliser, similar to the 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.
Montrose: McKenzie, Crawford, Graham, Harwood, Andrews, Masson (O’Neil), Webster, McCord (Cavanagh), Wood, Johnston, Deasley. Substitutes not used: Campbell, Harkins and McCafferty.