ARBROATH kickstarted their title push with what player/manager Paul Sheerin later described as ‘a massive win’ against Berwick Rangers on Saturday.
But the Lichties’ boss is not getting too carried away, claiming that there is still a long way to go before his players can start thinking of the championship, or indeed the play-offs.
“After a poor start to the season we are now starting to play well,” he said. “This was a massive win for us, but we must continue to build from here and the hope is that we will still be in the mix come the end of the season.
“I consider Berwick to be one of the better sides in the league. They beat us heavily here earlier in the season, so this represents a big turn-around.
“At the moment the front players are taking all the plaudits because we are scoring a lot of goals, but there is a great team spirit here and the goalkeeper and defenders also take a lot of satisfaction from keeping clean sheets, as they have today, so they also deserve a lot of credit for the way things are going at the moment.”
Gavin Swankie, who took his tally for the season to 11 with two second half strikes added: “I originally set myself a target of 20 for the season, but I might have to start reconsidering that now.
“We were expecting a tough game today, but I have a good scoring record against Berwick and it’s nice to get on the scoresheet again.”
Arbroath arrived at Shielfield as the only side to have beaten the Wee Rangers in the league so far this season, a recent 5-0 thumping of Montrose also emphasised their obvious potential.
Berwick, meanwhile, after a run of six draws in their last eight games, were desperate to avenge that defeat and get their own title chase back on track.
But after an evenly contested first half they simply had no answer as the visitors upped the tempo in the second 45, and home manager Jimmy Crease later admitted that as soon as the first goal went in he knew there was no way back for his side.
Conditions for this match were far from ideal. The pitch was still bumpy in patches from the Celtic cup tie the previous week, and the lack of a drying wind meant it was soft underfoot.
Squally rain and a blustery wind blowing up the pitch only added to the difficulty factor, and under the circumstances both sides are to be congratulated for their efforts to play open, attacking football.
The first half in particular was end to end and there were a handful of chances for both sets of strikers.
After seven minutes Darren Gribben found his way to goal blocked after good work by Ian Little in the build-up.
Stephen Thomson then had to block a Steven Doris effort, one of three occasions he managed to put his body and head on the line to save shots on goal. The other two came from central midfielder Keith Gibson, one of which was a thunderous shot from distance.
Berwick ‘keeper Mark Peat, meanwhile, twice came to the rescue against his former club when he denied Doris by smothering at the striker’s feet in the box and then making a good save from a long range shot by Gavin Swankie.
Paul Currie found himself crowded out by the Arbroath defence as he tried to get in a shot, Gribben then shot inches wide whilst Stevie Notman volleyed straight at Hill after meeting a deep cross at the back post and then shot wide in a similar position from a free kick.
Half-time: Berwick Rangers 0, Arbroath 0.
At the start of the second half Gribben fired in a 30-yard free kick which Hill grasped under his crossbar, but this was to be Berwick’s only speculative strike on goal in the second 45.
For Arbroath, with Stuart Malcolm dominant at the back, Josh Falkingham and Ross Chisholm controlling midfield, and Doris and Swankie always a danger up front, simply stepped up a gear and Berwick had no response.
As the pressure mounted Peat made good saves from Gibson and Doris, but he was finally beaten after 67 minutes when Berwick lost possession inside their own half and SWANKIE dribbled his way past two defenders before finding the net.
Two minutes later SWANKIE was at it again, this time capitalising on a mistake by David Greenhill, and as he ran through unchallenged he simply slipped the ball past Peat and at 2-0 it was game over.
CHISHOLM scored a similar looking third after 78 minutes when he also ran through unchallenged after Rangers lost possession and when GIBSON added a fourth with a near post header from a corner, Berwick were heading for one of their heaviest home defeats in some considerable time and were just glad to hear the final whistle.