The following match report and quotes piece were published in the Buchan Observer on Monday 20 March 2017.
Peterhead extended their winless run to seven matches with a 0-0 draw at fellow strugglers Albion Rovers.
The away side will feel hard done by, however, after finding themselves on the wrong side of a couple of contentious decisions late in the match.
Nevertheless, the point could prove valuable come May, with Jim McInally’s men perched precariously above their ninth-placed opponents by a single point. Rovers have two matches in hand, the first of which is a difficult-looking away tie on Tuesday against Barry Smith’s high-flying East Fife.
McInally made three changes to the side that lost narrowly to Brechin – Rory McAllister, Michael McMullin and Ryan Strachan coming in for Steven Noble, Nicky Reilly and Jordon Brown. They lined-up in an unfamiliar shape to combat Albion’s aerial ability, stationing the two young loanees Liam Gordon and Michael McMullin either side of the experienced Craig Reid in defence.
The trio was immense in reducing Rovers to minimal opportunities, securing the club’s first clean sheet in seven matches. In fact, since Reid joined following a stint in Iceland, the former Motherwell defender has played in 180 minutes in which just a solitary goal has been conceded. Before that the Toon had shipped 12 goals in their previous five.
A turgid first half was light on chances as both sides struggled to cope with the muddy Cliftonhill surface that had passed a pitch inspection earlier in the day. The busy Theo Archibald threatened on several occasions and saw his shot well saved after a lay-off from Ryan Wallace, while it took a last-ditch tackle from Gary Fisher to deny Anderson at the other end.
Another notable chance saw Reid deny Archibald a clear shot at goal with a well-executed slide.
The second half was slightly more eventful, though more for its controversy than any enterprising football. After McMullin’s goal-line clearance from Ross Dunlop’s effort, and after McInally had freshened things up with a triple substitution and a switch to a back four, Peterhead began to dominate and were unfortunate not to gain any advantage from two controversial decisions from referee Stephen Finnie.
The first of which saw McAllister – involved in both and returning from suspension – felled outside the area after rounding Albion goalkeeper Ross Stewart. With the Peterhead bench screaming for a red, the officials deemed it worthy of a caution.
That had occurred with around five minutes remaining and was followed by McAllister appeared to be tripped, this time inside the area, but play was waved on.
It was the third draw between the sides this season, with Peterhead winning the other fixture, and it leaves both a point further ahead of bottom club Stenhousemuir who lost at Airdrie.
McInally rues referee call
Jim McInally rued the decisions that left his side suffering from a “double whammy” in their 0-0 draw at Cliftonhill.
Referee Stephen Finnie’s decision not to send off Albion Rovers goalkeeper Ross Stewart after he pulled down Rory McAllister outside the area left the Peterhead manager scratching his head.
And even though he conceded he thought the second incident wasn’t a penalty, the Peterhead manager deferred to the judgment of his players who believed it was.
“I’ve just walked in with [Finnie] and asked him: ‘Do you not think that’s a goalscoring opportunity?’ and he said no,” said a perplexed McInally.
“We’ve had a double-whammy: we’ve never had the penalty which was contentious, and the goalkeeper has stayed on the park.
“He’s knocked the ball by the goalie, it’s a goalscoring opportunity. We were having a laugh with the Albion Rovers guys because the linesman said it’s not a goalscoring opportunity.
“Who thinks that?” he continued with a chuckle.
The result is not ideal for Peterhead, though it was by no means a disappointing performance. They fought well on a difficult surface and shaded the better of the play with their strong end to the match.
“I wouldn’t say it was a great performance. It was a great attitude, they gave their all on a difficult pitch,” said McInally.
“At least we were still going at it [at the end], we were trying to win the game. If they keep that attitude up they should get themselves away from trouble.”