I will admit to having a soft spot for Peterhead. When Jim McInally took over midway through last campaign I thought that they might just have managed to get into the play offs last year as they galloped up the outside lane… It was not to be so this year I thought maybe their time had come and we would see them come good at last.
McInally started the year well and were the first to welcome Rangers into league business for 2012/13. It was a creditable draw that perhaps should have been an obvious clue as to what the rest of the season had in store for Rangers! The Blue Toon, meanwhile were on a roll and followed up with 3 decent wins.
Things were looking good and the squad at McInally’s hands looked like the one that would get them out the bottom division at last. The blend of soccer nomads, recruited by McInally has continued throughout the year and he has brought David Cox, Andy Rodgers, Bryan Gilfillan and Ryan McCann into the fold as the season has unfolded. The need for such seasoned heads to be recruited seems to have been as a response to the indifferent form with which the initial squad followed up such a great start.
September, October and November all had 3 leagues games each; Peterhead recorded 1 win for each month! All 3 wins were at home and but unfortunately Peterhead were on their travels in 5 out of the 9 games played. All away games were lost.
Statistically it would therefore suggest that it was their away form that needed attention. When you consider that their second away win came in January at Elgin you can see that is a suggestion that is very much fact. What ought to therefore give the Blue Toon faithful some cheer is they smashed 4 past East Stirlingshire at Ochilview and then got a 6-0 win at Montrose in March. Their final game in March was a 2-0 win that sees them sitting in 4th spot.
Both goals in that game were scored by the player that caused a stir when he signed for Peterhead – Rory McAllister. The Peterhead plumber who turned his back on the SPL for a more stable life – he possibly consulted Mystic Meg, or was just more sensible than all the gainsayers who claimed second sight – he has made the front berth his own whilst continuing to contribute to the cause. With decent players around him like Andy Rodgers – on loan to the end of the season from Stenhousemuir, Robbie Winters – was a summer signing and now back in the wilderness, he has gained a lot of experience which has helped him again to be the top scorer in the league. His 16 league goals are a more than decent return from the young striker. Martin Bavidge is the closest with 4; McAllister’s value cannot be over played. Peterhead though, are far from a one man band.
What they do not lack is players who have interesting tales to tell; take David Cox. Cox had a battle at Alloa Athletic which lead to the club and player telling different versions of how Cox found himself out of favour and on the road to Peterhead. Who knows if the truth will ever fully come out and be agreed by both sides but Cox seems to be enjoying the atmosphere at Balmoor. Alongside the likes of Ryan McCann who was in English football until a car accident last year, Graeme Sharp, Dean Cowie, Jamie Redman and Ryan Strachan this is a potent midfield. It is certainly providing plenty of opportunities for the forwards to tuck things away.
It is however, their mean defence – 2nd only to Rangers in goals conceded – that Peterhead are making their way towards the play offs. In all league games this season they have never conceded more than 2 goals. The acquisition of Steven Noble may have been significant here. Bryan Gilfillan – on loan from Clyde, Scott Ross and Ross Smith have certainly been contributory factors alongside the keeper, Graeme Smith. Paul Jarvie has been there too but Smith seems to have the gloves for the moment and if you let a keeper have them then they are likely to try to keep em!
With 6 games left until the end of the season the run in will be interesting for the Blue Toon. They sit in 4th with 1 points between them and Elgin City in 5th. If they need to win their last 3 they may have an edge over the rest. They will play Rangers at Ibrox – who have wrapped up the title; Clyde at home – who will struggle to stay off the bottom of the table; and Queen’s Park who will already be in the play offs.
I believed that Peterhead had made the right appointment with Jim McInally as he has the ability as a coach to get onto the 2nd with this team. He has had some success as a coach already – with East Stirlingshire and Morton. Rather ironically McInally’s first experience of play offs was when his Morton side were beaten in them… by Peterhead! This time round the stars may align and both McInally and Peterhead may manage to make the play offs successfully as a duo. Whether they can then go up is another story… but one thing about the Blue Toon is that is one heck of a story.