Annan FC vs Berwick Rangers
ANNAN TOO HOT TO HANDLE AS PLAY OFFS LOOM
Its too early to talk about play offs but if Saturday’s performance is anything to go by manager Jim Chapman has Annan well positioned to make a serious challenge for the play offs, his team looks to be coming good at the critical time of the season after a convincing victory over play off rivals Berwick Rangers at Galabank to earn Annan their third victory in the space of seven days.
After a fairly even first half when only a 38th minute Ally Love penalty separated the teams it was Annan who took the initiative in the second half to completely dictate the play to leave Berwick deflated and with no illusions that their season looks like petering out unless they can find a rich seam of form to kick start their play off ambitions.. With over a quarter of the fixtures to play it’s still too early to predict who will win the league and who will make the play offs but there is a clear gap starting to emerge between the top four teams and the chasing pack, and on this form Annan must rank as one of the clear favourites to secure a top four position.
Berwick started brightly and for the opening 15 minutes Annan found it difficult to impose any authority on the game with Berwick looking the most adventurous team. Arthur dealt confidently with a Ross Gray effort on the 4th minute and the home team had to defend a couple of corner kicks as the wee Rangers pressed for an opening. Daziel blasted over in the 16th minute and moments later Hoskins skied over the bar. There was 20 minutes on the clock before Annan forced their first corner with Andrew Mitchell picking out Ally Love who rolled the ball into the path of Martin McNiff but the shot was blocked to avert a dangerous situation , this was followed by a Stephen Black effort as Annan started to make an impact on the game.
Annan opened the scoring in the 38th minute and it was the pace of Kenny MacKay which exposed the frailties in the Berwick defence after a neat pass split the Berwick defence and MacKay homed in on goal, rounded the keeper but Dean Hoskins denied MacKay with a last gasp challenge which sent MacKay tumbling to the ground . The referee was left with no option to award Annan a penalty with Hoskins fortunate to escape a red card. Ally Love converted the spot kick sending Andrews the wrong way. The goal spurred Annan on and Andrew Mitchell’s 39th minute effort was tipped over the bar as the home side went all out to add to their goal advantage. Ally Love’s 43rd minute shot tested Andrews who turned the ball round the post for a corner kick. Berwick finished the half with a flourish and Ross Drummonds 43rd minute shot was blocked for a corner and from the resulting corner Andrew Mitchell came to Annan’s rescue when he was on the goal line to clear Dean Hoskins net-bound header. It was the closest Berwick came to unlocking the Annan defence.
Berwick started the second half promisingly taking the game to Annan and the lively Ross Gray tested Kenny Arthur with a low raking shot. MacKay then broke clear down the left and with the Berwick defence stretched MacKay failed to pick out Ally Love who had taken up a promising position. Annan struck again in the 58th minute, Steven Sloan done the damage with a penetrating run down the right before picking out the advancing Kenny MacKay with a perfect cross which MacKay headed into the net under pressure to give Annan a two goal cushion. Annan continued to take the game to Berwick and shots from Love in the 60th and 61st minute almost put the game beyond the reach of Berwick.
Annan were not to be denied and in the 70th minute they secured the points with a well constructed goal. Black done the damage with a ball played into the path of Kenny MacKay. With the outside of his foot and with the advancing Keeper caught in no mans land MacKay finished with a clinical lob over the head of the keeper and into the empty net. The goal signalled a period of intense pressure by Annan and left Berwick with a mountain to climb. The introduction of Fairburn and O,’Brien in the 73rd minute appeared to steady the ship for Berwick. Kenny Arthur pulled off a fine double save in the 81st minute to keep the Annan goal in tact . Berwick’s misery was completed in the 89th minute when Peter Watson connected with an Andrew Mitchell corner to head home to conclude a comprehensive victory for Annan and keep their play off hopes firmly on target.
Colin Cameron pulled no punches, “we lost our way and composure and made mistakes defensively. You cant give any team the space that we did today and expect to come away with a result, if the truth be told Annan looked as if they wanted it more than we did and they deserved their win . For me it’s a case of seeing what kind of characters we have in the club and how we respond to this result . With nine games to go its not impossible for us to make the play offs but with performances like today the season will fizzil out and I am not here to let that happen . We’ve lost four nil and hardly put a tackle in that’s not good enough and not acceptable. We will have a few changes to make next week and its up to the lads who step in to prove they are up to the task.
A delighted Jim Chapman said “A fabulous three points and fully merited. We were a wee bit nervous and sketchy at the decision making in the first half but once we started making better decisions in the second half the quality came out and we could have scored a few more but I think we have to give praise to Kenny Arthur and the back four for a fantastic clean sheet against good players as they were prepared to throw their bodies in, that gave us the foundations to move forward . It was a fabulous team performance and a great result . Kenny’s only as good as the service he gets, he is certainly a threat in this division but it’s the foil of Davidson and Love who create the space, we have to play to our strengths. We know the strengths we have, its a cutting edge that we have that makes teams envious, we have just brought in another striker, we are not standing still, I can’t wait till we get David Hopkirk back then we will have more options .Hopefully we can get a good squad available to go up to Peterhead on Tuesday night, the logistics of going to Peterhead and guys having to get time off work makes it difficult but we will go up North on the back of three good performances it should be a mouth watering encounter between the leagues top scoring sides
Annan Athletic – K Arthur, S Sloan, M McNiff, P Watson, S Black,, C Jardine ( K Brannaon 84 min) , I Chisholo are hungrym, A Mitchell, K MacKay ( Trialist 86 min) S Davidson , A Love (M Flynn 84 min) Substitutes not used A Mitchell, P Bradley, J Moffat, D Orsi .
Berwick Rangers – M Andrews, D Jacobs , R Drummond, D Gielty, M Dunlop (J Fairburn 73 min), D Hoskins, R Gray, L Currie, S Dalzeil (K O’Brien 73 min), B Miller ( P Currie 59 min), A Russell. Substitutes not used J Morris, C Cameron, W Bald.
Annan – A Love pen 38min,K MacKay 58 and 70 min, P Watson 89 min.
Referee M Taylor Assistants M Cryans and A Kerr