City battle the elements

Brechin City 4, Berwick 1

IN A year or so when Brechin City record the events which have seen them survive and, occasionally, prosper throughout the last 100 years, a large section must, surely, be set-aside for Richard Campbell.

The last four-and-a-half seasons have seen Brechin City enjoy levels of unprecedented success and much of the credit for that goes to Dick, his brother Ian and more recently Bert Paton and John Ritchie.

So the news that Dick was leaving Glebe Park, which was announced by a very emotional manager, to his players after they had secured another three points, might have been met with a number of glum responses.

However, nothing could be further from the truth. City's players were, to a man, delighted their mentor has finally secured a move back to a full-time club.

Which, surely, his abilities deserve and the Brechin squad were boosted further by the news that Brechin already have pinpointed Dick's successor, namely his brother Ian, who will have the vastly experienced Bert Paton as his number two.

One reporter asked a Brechin official on Saturday: “How do you think you're fans will react to giving his brother the job?”

“Well,” the official replied, “Those same fans voted our new manager the most popular player in the club's history only a matter of a few weeks ago so what do you think?”

It would have been easy for those behind the scenes to be side-tracked, especially as the BBC's Chick Young did his best to reveal that talks were going on between Brechin and Partick prior to Saturday's game.

To everyone's credit at the Glebe, City recorded their 15th game unbeaten and retained their place at the top of the table.

The rain lashed Glebe Park prior to kick-off, but the surface was good and despite playing a side that were at the foot of the table, City were also up against a side whom had not lost in seven games.

Rangers had the first chance of the day when ex-Hibee Gareth Hutchison received the ball in the penalty area, but Craig Nelson was on his toes.

Brechin responded with Paul Ritchie finding Charlie King whose drive was turned away by Gary O'Connor. Still inside the first 10 minutes, Ritchie found King with a superb cross-field ball, before King's dangerous cross was sent behind by Rangers' skipper, Mark Cowan.

Berwick were showing promising signs, but Brechin were always looking capable of scoring.

In the 17th minute, Steven Hampshire's cross was headed down by Paul Ritchie to Craig Winter at the edge of the box, but his low shot flew past the outside of the post.

In a similar move two minutes later, Hampshire picked out the run of Kevin McLeish, but the right-back couldn't hit the target.

Darren Smith impressed throughout for Berwick and he went on a good run in the 21st minute only to be halted by a superb last-ditch Paul Deas tackle.

City took the lead on the half-hour mark, but owed a debt of gratitude to Berwick's goalkeeper Gary O'Connor.

He attempted to flick a passback up in order to boot the ball clear, but his miskick allowed Steve Hampshire a simple tap-in from four yards out.

Moments later, the goalkeeper nearly compounded his agony with a weak punch from a cross that fell invitingly to Charlie King, but he was unable to control his lob with O'Connor in no-man's-land.

Eight minutes into the second half; Brechin doubled their advantage. A Berwick player presented Paul Ritchie with the ball 30 yards from goal. He found Steve Hampshire whose shot looked to be flying in, but was assisted by a deflection that took it over O'Connor and into the net.

Brechin were two-nil up, but had never been at their best. Berwick were not downbeat and probably had their best spell of the game. They got back into the match in the 66th minute when a corner was half-cleared to Mark McGarty, a former City trialist at the edge of the area.

His volley was a beauty – Craig Nelson was able to get a touch but not enough to prevent the ball going in off the woodwork.

City survived a scare in the 73rd minute when a deep cross found David Murie unmarked at the far post, but he was unable to hit the target. He really should have done better, but it was a let-off that would cost his side.

The decisive third saw Ritchie head down for Hampshire who played an exquisite ball wide right to Charlie King. 'Chuckie' ran towards goal and found the corner of the net with his low shot.

Brechin were able to make the scoreline a bit flattering a couple of minutes later. Hampshire was pulled down in the box and got up to secure his hat-trick from the penalty spot thanks to Paul Ritchie, the regular penalty taker, who handed Hampshire the responsibility and the chance of a hat-trick. O'Connor dived the right way, but the ball was right in the corner.

Hampshire, Deas, Nelson and Walker once again excelled for the reds. While four-one flattered City, some of the attacking football was excellent.

Nobody should underestimate Berwick's contribution, they look a much-improved side under Sandy Clark and passed the ball well all afternoon.