Bradley Coyne’s third goal in five matches was not enough to prevent Shire from going down to another defeat, this time at the hands of Berwick Rangers.
The on-loan St. Mirren striker gave the home team some hope after equalising an early Darren Gribben goal for the visitors. But the team’s inability to defend at set pieces once again proved their undoing as Berwick regained the lead through Andy McLaren after Shire failed to deal with a corner.
The visitors had other chances to increase the lead but Shire were at least always in with a shout until the issue was settled from the penalty spot when Gribben fired home from twelve yards after Stuart Noble had been fouled inside the box.
Coach John Coughlin gave a debut to Hibs’ midfielder Lewis Horner after his arrival on an emergency loan deal with skipper Kevin Turner dropping out from the team that had lost narrowly, and controversially, against Montrose at the weekend.
A good start was important but again Shire conceded an early goal and an avoidable one at that. The move which gave Berwick their sixth minute lead was simple enough in construction; a pass from Noble put Gribben in behind the home defence and the experienced striker was left with a relatively simple task to notch his 35th league goal in Berwick Rangers colours.
Kevin McDonald kept the pressure on and not long after his shot produced a decent save from Shire keeper Calum Antell. The home team tried to respond but, apart from a couple of dangerous looking balls into the box, there was no real end product.
However, Shire were given a lifeline back into the match after 16 minutes. Referee Andrew Dallas awarded a free-kick just outside the Berwick Rangers and Coyne, who had been unlucky not two score with two free-kicks at Montrose, this time found the back of the net with a great strike.
But even after the equaliser Berwick looked by far the more dangerous side. Twice Gribben forced Antell into decent saves and McDonald went close with a shot from just outside the box.
If Shire were likely to concede again then the chances were any goal would come from a set piece. And that is how it proved after 31 minutes when Lee Currie’s in-swinging corner kick from the right-hand side was missed by the home defence, leaving Andy McLean the simple task of side-footing the ball into the net from six yards out.
It could have been worse for Shire. Four minutes before the interval Gribben cut inside the box from the left and sent in a brilliant curling shot that just shaved the outside of Antell’s far post.
Seconds before the break the Berwick Rangers striker forced a decent save from the Shire keeper and Shire were perhaps thankful not to be further behind as the coach gave his interval team talk.
The second period saw less danger around the Shire goal but the visitors were always prepared to have a go and Currie’s shot on 58 minutes had Antell scrambling across his goal to usher the shot wide of the target.
The game was put beyond Shire’s reach after 64 minutes when Noble was played clean through on goal. Antell raced to dive at the Berwick player’s feet and Noble fell to the ground ten yards from goal. Despite that there was considerable surprise when referee Andrew Dallas pointed to the penalty spot, with even Berwick fans conceding the award was soft and perhaps undeserved.
Antell was booked by the referee for protesting about the decision and worse was to follow for the home goalie as he was beaten by a penalty kick for the first time this season; Gribben’s low, powerful drive sent Antell to wrong way and nestled in the bottom left-hand corner of the net.
The game was effectively over at that point but Shire, to their credit, kept looking for openings. Scott Maxwell almost found one with a curling shot from just outside the box that Berwick keeper Jamie Barclay almost fumbled into his own net.
Then Andy Stirling’s corner after 71 minutes gave Stuart Beveridge the chance to reduce the deficit but he could only shoot wide of the target from close range.
Berwick continued to pepper Antell’s goal with shots from around the edge of the penalty box, the best of which was a cracker from substitute Damon Gray but Antell was equal to the task and made a decent save.
In injury-time Berwick might have claimed a fourth goal from another Currie corner kick but, luckily for Shire, Chris Townsley shot past the post when well-placed.
SHIRE : Antelll, Chisholm, Maxwell, Beveridge, Jackson, Hunter, Stirling, Horner, Coyne, Lurinsky(S. Love 66), A. Love(Gibson 56).
BERWICK RANGERS : Barclay, Walker(Ponton 80), Townsley, Smith, McLean, Currie, R. Gray, McDonald, Notman, Noble(Lavery 71), Gribben(D. Gray 71).
REFEREE : A. Dallas.
ATTENDANCE : 310.