Ally McCoist reads riot act after Borders raid is repelled by Wee Gers

SHIELFIELD PARK was the scene of one of the biggest shocks in Rangers' history when Berwick knocked them out of the Scottish Cup in 1967.

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Ally McCoist says he will not accept a repeat of the Berwick debacle
Ally McCoist says he will not accept a repeat of the Berwick debacle

Forty-five years on, yesterday's 1-1 draw between the sides in the Irn-Bru Third Division may not quite rank alongside that result. But it was still enough to leave Ally McCoist furious as his side continued their stuttering start in the bottom tier.

At Brechin, an extra-time winner was needed to progress from the opening round of the Ramsdens Cup. At Peterhead, only a last-minute equaliser spared Gers' blushes in their first league game.

All of which must surely have meant McCoist had his men well warned that only their best would suffice if another banana skin was to be avoided in front of a capacity crowd of 4,140 at Berwick.

Yet the scares at Glebe Park and Balmoor Stadium seemed to have been ignored and Rangers can count themselves mighty lucky to have escaped with a point when they were second best far too often. Indeed, this trip two miles south of the Border would have seen history repeated had referee Mike Tumilty not inexplicably chalked off Berwick skipper Chris Townsley's last-minute header for alleged obstruction on Neil Alexander by Fraser McLaren.

Manager McCoist warned afterwards he would accept no repeat of this below-par display. He said: "I was far from happy with this performance. It was as poor a performance as we have had in a long, long time. It was not nearly good enough and it won't be accepted.

"It is still very early, but I am concerned about the performance and the way we went about it. Our use of the ball and our passing was miles short and I have told the players that in no uncertain terms. I will not accept that now or again. I cannot."

A candid McCoist admitted Berwick's disallowed goal should have stood. He said: "It looked a reasonable ball in and I would have to say I was delighted it was chalked off. I have to be honest about that."

McCoist will now focus on upping the ante in his recruitment drive ahead of the visit to Ibrox this weekend of league leaders Elgin City. He said: "After this performance it is clearly evident we need freshening up and we need numbers."

An early warning as to the level of bristling opposition awaiting Gers was soon delivered when Berwick midfielder Lee Currie lunged in on Ian Black with boot raised.

It was an offence that should have been punished with a red card rather than the yellow proffered by Tumilty. Yet it was clear the home side were more than keen to emulate the heroes of '67.

While Rangers youngsters Lewis Macleod and Barrie McKay have sparkled on either side of the Ibrox midfield, it has been Andy Little's scorching start to the season that has grabbed the headlines.

The Northern Ireland international had banged in six goals in five games before yesterday and his positioning just off Francisco Sandaza saw Gers field an attack that would have frightened many an SPL defence, never mind the part-timers of Berwick.

But it was a partnership that was subdued early on by a towering performance by the home rearguard, magnificently marshalled by Townsley.

Indeed, McKay and Macleod were woefully under-used in a team that displayed a distinct lack of rhythm despite containing five internationals. And it did seem complacency was a factor in that lack of fluidity.

In first-half stoppage time, though, Berwick's resolve suffered a blow. Ian Black's adroitly-placed free-kick found Lee McCulloch in acres of space at the back post and the veteran nodded back for, who else, but Little, to smash in an opener Berwick did not deserve to ship.

To their enormous credit, Ian Little's side came out for the second period with renewed resolve and the new- look Ibrox defensive pairing of skipper Carlos Bocanegra and Brazilian signing Emilson Cribari came under increasing scrutiny.

And, 17 minutes into the second half, Gers' hopes of coasting to victory were shattered. Berwick sub McLaren got in behind Cribari to lash home an equaliser the home side fully deserved.

As the game sprang to life, Sandaza charged into the home box, but his disappointing effort was smothered by home keeper Youssef Bejaoui.

Berwick continued to threaten and, with four minutes left, Townsley's close-range effort stuck under his feet, stopping him from applying vital velocity and allowing Alexander to save comfortably.

With the clock ticking down to full-time, Alexander was called on to make an outstanding save from McLaren's 20-yard Exocet as the Shielfield men surged on in search of a famous win over their illustrious but half-hearted opponents.

Right at the death, that history-making moment seemed to arrive.

Townsley rose to head home a Steven Notman corner only for Tumilty to blow his whistle, incredibly adjudging that McLaren had obstructed Alexander before the arrival of the ball in the Rangers six- yard box.

Minutes later, Tumilty put Gers out of their misery. But, make no mistake, if they continue to ignore the fact that every outing away from Ibrox will be treated like a cup final by their hosts, they will be in for a long, hard season in the basement that will be anything like the procession it had seemed a certainty to be.

RANGERS MAN BY MAN

NEIL ALEXANDER (6) Was kept busy without being severely tested before Fraser McLaren beat him with a low shot across goal. Superb late save to deny McLaren a second.

ROSS PERRY (5) Back in the team after being forced to watch from the sidelines in the opening weeks. Handed a right-back berth and wasn't at his best in an unfamiliar role.

EMILSON CRIBARI (5) Partnership with Bocanegra still clearly in its infancy. Got caught a few times and will have been disappointed to lose McLaren as Berwick pulled level.

CARLOS BOCANEGRA (6) The most composed member of the backline, the American turned in a typically steady performance at the heart of the defence.

ANESTIS ARGYRIOU (5) The Greek star was given his Rangers bow just hours after putting pen to paper to become McCoist's latest summer recruit. Decent debut, but did look uncomfortable at left-back on occasion.

BARRIE McKAY (5) Flirted between the Rangers right and a more central role, but made little impression in either. Frustrating afternoon for the youngster before being subbed.

LEE McCULLOCH (5) Again took up a midfield berth to add experience and fight to the Rangers engine room. Neat cushioned header set up Little for the opener.

IAN BLACK (5) Was given a harsh Shielfield welcome as he was clattered by Lee Currie inside the opening minutes. Dusted himself down to battle on in midfield.

LEWIS MACLEOD (5) Switched from his usual central role to the left side of the Rangers midfield. Didn't influence proceedings often enough.

ANDREW LITTLE (6) Struggled to get into the game in the first half, but again showed his knack of popping up in the right place at a crucial time, converting McCulloch's knockdown.

FRAN SANDAZA (4) Again utilised as target man, but didn't do enough. Was replaced just after the hour mark.

KEVIN KYLE (3) Replaced Sandaza. Still looking for his first Rangers goal.

ROBBIE CRAWFORD (3) Came on for McKay. Bright showing from the youngster as Gers toiled late on.

KAL NAISMITH (2) Given a late run out, replacing Macleod, as Rangers chased a winner.

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