The following match report and quotes piece were published in the Buchan Observer on Monday 1 May 2017.
Peterhead slipped to the bottom of League One and will face a final-day fight to avoid automatic relegation, after a 4-1 defeat at the Toni Macaroni Arena.
It came against a relentless Livingston that haven’t taken their foot off the gas since winning the league three weeks ago – nor were they distracted by any trophy presentation or player of the year night planned for after the match.
First-half strikes from Liam Buchanan, Scott Pittman and Josh Mullin put David Hopkins’ men on their way in a dismal opening 45 minutes for the away side. The defeat means that, at best, Peterhead will be expected to navigate two rounds of two-legged play-offs to remain in League One.
Jim McInally made two changes from the defeat to relegation rivals Stenhousemuir. Steven Noble replaced Aaron Comrie, while Nicky Riley came in for Grant Anderson to partner Rory McAllister in attack.
It was Peterhead that created the first real opportunity. Jamie Stevenson’s throw close to the corner flag sat up nicely for McAllister, who connected well but struck it too high.
That was merely a false dawn. The League One champions began to slice Peterhead continually, though only after a goalkeeping error sent them on their way.
A Josh Mullin free-kick on 11 minutes looked to be bread and butter for Fraser Hobday but he allowed the ball to slip from his grasp, presenting Liam Buchanan with a simple tap-in.
The second came ten minutes later after Declan Gallagher strode out of defence to slip a through ball in behind Craig Reid which Rafael Da Vita cutback for Scott Pittman to strike home from the edge of the box.
Just before half-time a delightful flick at the edge of the box from Raffaele De Vita, a theme throughout, played in Buchanan and, with a slice of good fortune, the ball fell kindly for Mullin who chipped in the third.
McInally sent his men back out early for start of second half and whatever was said gave them a lift. Around the hour mark they gave themselves a lifeline.
By that time Leighton McIntosh and Jordon Brown had been introduced and the latter’s run and cutback was bundled into the net via a deflection by skipper Jamie Redman.
Then goalkeeper Liam Kelly needed to be at his best to palm a McAllister header round the post before Jordon Brown (note: I have used his first name again because there are two Browns) fired into the side netting when perhaps he should have scored.
Livingston then put the game beyond doubt under slightly bizarre circumstances.
It appeared that referee Kevin Graham had blown for a foul in favour of Peterhead before Danny Mullen’s overhead-kick made its way into an open goal, but after a moment of confusion he pointed towards the centre circle, awarding the goal.
The modicum of momentum picked up by Peterhead thus evaporated and the game drew to a close.
With Stenhousemuir winning 2-0 at Queen’s Park, it leaves Peterhead relying on another result as well as taking care of Alloa to preserve their League One status.
Riley: We didn’t turn up
Nicky Riley confessed that Peterhead failed to turn up against a rampant Livingston at the Tony Macaroni Arena on Saturday.
An improved second half performance was too little, too late according to the forward, after three first-half strikes ended the match as a contest.
“We really didn’t turn up today. As much as Livi played well, we know that we can play a lot better than that. Especially the first half,” said Riley.
“[The second half performance is] probably just a little too late, after the first half the game was going to be difficult for us.
All three previous fixtures between the sides this season have been won by the away team, but it wasn’t to be this time as Livingston comfortably saw out that impressive opening 45 minutes.
That frustrated Riley, who said that previous performances against the champions had given them cause for some optimism going into this one.
“That’s the disappointing thing for us because we’ve beat Livi already here before this year,” he said.
“But when we play like that as a team, it’s obviously going to make it even more difficult for us.
He continued: “We knew coming here that we had a good chance of beating them again.
“Even the games up at Peterhead we’ve given them a good game. But you need to come here and play well, which we didn’t do.
“With Livi being a full-time team, you can’t really give them that much of a start.
Even a victory for Peterhead against Alloa at Balmoor this Saturday won’t guarantee League One survival, after Stenhousemuir’s victory over Queen’s Park sunk the Blue Toon to the bottom of the league.
Just one point separates the sides, and even though it no longer remains in the hands of Riley and his team-mates, a draw could be enough given their superior goal difference.
Riley is fully aware of the situation they are in though remains confident they can do their bit to avoid the automatic relegation spot.
“We’ve known we’ve been in a relegation fight for a while, it’s nothing new,” he said.
“We’ve been approaching each game thinking we can win, we know what this league is like – every team can beat everyone.”
“It’s not as if we’re coming into games with no confidence, we’re just not really playing well.
“But next week we’ll go into the game confident and knowing that we need to win.