Berwick Rangers 2 Montrose 2
Unlike the three previous visits to Shielfield it was a fine night for football with only a light wind, no rain and a very decent looking playing surface. Oh, and the floodlights stayed on this time! George Shields made one change to his starting line up with Leighton McIntosh replacing Graham Webster.
It was McKenzie in goal with a back four of Crawford, Wood, Campbell, and Graham. Johnston played wide right, Deasley wide left with McCord and Watson in the holding midfield positions. McIntosh played at the top end with Harkins tucked in behind him. On the bench were Webster, O’Neill, O’Kane, Day, Cavanagh, Masson and Birnstingl.
For Berwick ex Gable Endie Michael Andrews was in goal and the main threat appeared to be coming from the partnership of Scott Dalziel and Darren Lavery up front.
Only a handful of Montrose fans faced the usual vociferous Berwick crowd and it was the home team which made the early running until Montrose weathered the first few minutes and then began to push forward.
Deasley made headway down the left but was unable to find the strong running Leighton McIntosh with his cross and the ball was cleared easily.
Shortly afterwards a good ball in from the left by Deasley was turned for a corner from which Wood had a fine effort held under the crossbar by Andrews.
Both sides were using the wide men well with Deasley and Johnston for Montrose and Gray and Gold for Berwick.
It was good wing play and a telling through ball which led to the first goal for Berwick coming in the 12th minute when DARREN LAVERY made no mistake hitting it at pace on the run.
Having gone a goal in front Berwick tightened their grip on the game with Lavery hitting another rasping shot over the bar. All of a sudden you sensed Montrose were under the cosh and treading water but through a combination of wasted effort and the giving away of free kicks by Berwick it allowed Montrose to again weather that storm. Ross Graham wasted a free kick wide right but Watson did well to retrieve the ball only to slot through to Deasley who was offside.
Any thought of a Montrose purple patch was quickly dispelled in the 28th minute when another good move saw ROSS GRAY slice through to make it 2-0 to the home side.
It looked too easy and one sensed another might come unless Montrose re-grouped because they were not at their best. Johnston could not get into the game, midfielders McCord, Watson and Harkins were not winning their battles and the back four seemed ill at ease with Crawford having a tough time at right back.
A third Berwick goal would certainly have been game over at that point with only 30 minutes gone. It didn’t come however and the game settled more into a midfield stalemate. Leighton McIntosh won a 50/50 race for the ball with Andrews but was adjudged to have fouled the keeper in a foot to foot challenge.
In the last couple of minutes before half time Montrose won two corners in quick succession before Berwick broke quickly following the poor delivery of the second corner.
Then in the last couple of minutes before the break Montrose were handed a lifeline back into the game when they pulled a goal back. Tulloch and Andrews got into a mess with a pass back and LEIGHTON McINTOSH outstripped the home defence to go one on one with Andrews. McIntosh was pushed out wide but sensibly he did not try to slot it in from a tight angle but he turned back, beat the keeper again then rounded a bemused defender before slotting it into the bottom right hand corner to make it 2-1
As might be expected Berwick came out firing in the second half but it was a different Montrose who re-appeared as they looked more up for the task. It was more 50/50 now and although it was by no means flowing football it was a different Montrose side which began to get on top of a stuttering Berwick side.
On the 65 minute mark Graham Webster came on for Scott Johnston who had a quiet night and it needed a change of personnel at that point.
Alan Campbell was rightly booked for a midfield tackle in a different time zone then Lavery missed a sitter when he skied an effort which looked easier to hit on target.
Berwick then tasted yellow when Stephen Day who had replaced Harkins was felled. McCord took the free kick which was deflected for a corner again taken by McCord but hit too long.
It was McCord’s last piece of action as he was replaced by Terry Masson in the 75th minute to add more bite in midfield.
Berwick also made a substitution with player Manager Colin Cameron coming on for Ross Gray clearly sensing more direction was required on field in the closing stages of the game. Garry Wood was then booked for some reason which looked unclear and for the last 10 minutes he moved to join the attack in a last effort to get something out of the game. Suddenly Berwick were tiring and the crowd very not happy.
In the 87th minute Watson should have done better with a free kick wide right but scuffed it to set up a quick Berwick breakaway which could have been fatal had McKenzie not proved equal to the task.
As the game moved into stoppage time Deasley hit a corner high and much too long and that you thought was that.
Not as far as PAUL WATSON was concerned however and with the clock showing 94 minutes Berwick Rangers messed up the throw in, the midfielder manoeuvred himself into a shooting position outside the box and let fly with his left foot. It was not a straightforward shot as it seemed to cannon of at least one or two objects on the way but anyway it finally ended up behind Andrews and a vital point had been won by Montrose who then only had to survive the restart and final whistle.
Berwick will be kicking themselves for not making the game safe in the first half when Montrose were well below par. It was a better second half but by no means vintage Montrose – yet, it was still a well won point in the end and one which might prove vital come next May.
On the plus side however Montrose did not cave into another five goal toasting at Berwick. At one point in the first half it looked to be heading that way but despite the lack of spark this eventually was a more resilient Montrose which nicked a point in a never say die second half performance.