League Two’s bottom side Cowdenbeath fell further behind in the fight for survival as they lost at home to Berwick Rangers. The Borderers picking up only their second win in eight attempts.
The Blue Brazil gave a debut to forward David Cox while newly signed loanee Brandon Luke was a part of the substitutes. Robbie Buchanan and Kyle Miller missed out through suspension, however, which gave Gary Bollan some thinking to do, in terms of who to play in the middle of the park.
Berwick also gifted a first start to striker Jack Hamilton after the 17-year-old joined Robbie Horn’s men on-loan from Livingston. Playmaker Michael McKenna and experienced midfielder Steven Notman missed out through suspension, which made the trip to Fife a tougher one for the Wee Gers.
The game started off with the away side in control: the initial chance of the match fell to Oliver Fleming at the back-post, who was picked out by Steven Thomson from a flighted in free-kick but the defender’s touch let him down and he couldn’t get his shot away.
Moments later, Ousman See managed to bustle his way into the area before firing a low shot which was goal-bound; David McGurn got down low to his right-hand side to push the ball away from danger before Jamie Pyper cleared the danger.
Next, Thomson was left free on the left-hand side and his shot across goal was gathered first-time by experienced shot-stopper McGurn who was keeping the Fifers on level terms.
The first foray forward for the hosts saw them win a free-kick on the right-hand side, mid-way inside the opposition half. Harvey Swann went across to swing the ball in left-footed, with his cross finding the head of David Syme but the former Kilmarnock and Partick Thistle youngster headed the ball harmlessly wide of Robby McCrorie’s goal.
Shortly after, the opening goal was scored. Calm play by Berwick saw the ball being held up down the left before it was laid back to Gary Phillips. The captain swung the ball in for the away side, which found youngster Jack Hamilton free at the back-post, who stooped low to head Horn’s side ahead.
The Borderers continued to dominate as the match reached the mid-way point in the first-half. Thomson fired a free-kick from 25 yards over the bar before Darren Lavery fired in an effort from the edge of the area which was deflected through to McGurn.
It was the ex-Raith goalkeeper who was impressing for the hosts as he once again single-handedly denied See. Kieran Stewart set the former Edinburgh City man through on goal but the 37-year-old came out to narrow the angle before getting the slightest of touches to divert the ball away from goal before the Cowden defence cleared the loose ball.
The game then hit a lull as it looked like both teams were settling for the interval. However, in the first minute of stoppage time, referee Kevin Graham gave Cowdenbeath a penalty when Brad Smith was taken out by Alex Petkov.
Swann stepped up and rifled the ball home, left-footed, past McCrorie who was left with no chance to save the strike despite going the right way. The sides went in level at the break which was slightly fortuitous for Bollan’s side. A big improvement needed in the second-half if they were to find a massive three points.
The second-half was slow to get going with the match being bogged down in the middle of the park. However, a moment of brilliance put the visitors back in-front.
Steven Thomson picked up the ball and drove forward into the space: the attacker, with no pressure on him, hit an absolute thunderbolt into the top corner of the net to send the away supporters into raptures. The experienced midfielder pinged his left-footed effort in off the underside of the bar, leaving McGurn rooted to the spot and helpless with 54 minutes gone on the clock.
Thomson was in a confident mood all afternoon, with another free-kick attempt being taken by the Wee Gers’ number 7. This time, however, his shot from outside the box was unable to be directed on target as it went out for a goal-kick.
Bollan had seen enough of his side with Matthew McInally coming on to replace Aiden Malone, meaning David Cox would now go up-front on his own as the central striker.
On-loan Ross County midfielder Blair Malcolm, who started at left-back but had been moved into the middle of the park had began to get to grips with the midfield battle and was beginning to control the tempo of the match. His run down the left saw him cut inside before swinging the ball to the penalty area. McInally was free at the back post but he sliced his left-footed effort.
However, minutes later McInally swung a good ball in from the right which found Cox; the new signing looped his effort up into the air but it couldn’t get Cowdenbeath back on level terms as it spun the wrong side of the net for the home sides’ liking.
Berwick made their first substitution of the afternoon with Jack Hamilton making way for Aaron Murrell on the right-hand side of the attack while Brandon Luke came on for Ben Reilly in the closing stages to try and give fresh impetus in the final-third for the Fifers.
Bollan’s plan was in tatters just seconds after the sub was made with Thomson doing the damage again. This time, it was he who swung the delivery in from the left which teased the backline of Cowden. See was to arrive at the far-stick to nod the ball into the ground and past McGurn to give Horn’s side a two-goal advantage with less than 10 minutes remaining.
Darren Lavery was replaced by Jack Cook with a few moments remaining while Jordan Orru came on for the influential Thomson in injury time. Sandwiched in between these two switches was a last-gasp chance for Cowdenbeath to make stoppage time interesting but Cox was only able to slot the ball past the post from inside the 6-yard-box when it looked easier to score.
A disappointing afternoon for the Blue Brazil while Horn’s men pull themselves clear of the relegation zone with a deserved win at Central Park. Both sides have catch-up matches this mid-week, with Berwick aiming to build on Saturday’s victory while Bollan is demanding a much better performance from his troops.
FULL-TIME: Cowdenbeath 1-3 Berwick Rangers
1. David McGurn
2. Jamie Pyper
3. Blair Malcolm
4. David Syme
5. Scott Rumsby (Captain)
6. Fraser Mullen
7. Ben Reilly (Brandon Luke 82’)
8. Brad Smith
9. Aiden Malone (Matthew McInally 68’)
10. David Cox
11. Harvey Swann
17. Blair Penman (GK)
12. Matthew McInally
14. Jordan Hornby
15. Jack Whittaker
16. Craig Henderson
18. Brandon Luke
19. Cammy Muirhead
1. Robby McCrorie
13. Kieran Stewart
2. Oliver Fleming
6. Jonathan Fairbairn
11. Gary Phillips (Captain)
14. Declan O’Kane
12. Alex Petkov
17. Jack Hamilton (Aaron Murrell 72’)
8. Darren Lavery (Jack Cook 85’)
7. Steven Thomson (Jordan Orru 90’)
21. Ousman See
20. Sean Brennan (GK)
3. Jordan Orru
9. Aaron Murrell
15. Jack Cook
18. Paul Simpson
22. Ewan Herriot
Referee: Kevin Graham