Blues focus on play-offs

Stranraer 0, Peterhead 3

Shaun Niven at Stair Park

Defeat was the final statistic last weekend as the Blues were convincingly turned over by the Blue Toon.

This was a match in which the result seemed to matter more to the visitors. This was perhaps borne out by the opening statistic of the afternoon which showed six players missing from the home line-up as the Blues made changes to protect their squad for the play-off matches for which they had already qualified. Steven Noble, Martin Grehan, Stuart McColm and David MacGregor didn’t feature, and Sean Winter and Stephen Stirling were on the bench but the management were only intending to use them if the need arose. As a result, Grant Gallagher, Nathan Shepherd and John Kane got a chance to impress.

Stranraer did enjoy some reasonable possession but this would be a frustrating day when they failed to convert this into chances.

The same could not be said for Peterhead, who, still harbouring an outside chance of a place in the top four and featuring the impressive Rory McAllister up front, showed their hosts how it should be done.

The Blues opened brightly when Craig Malcolm tried to latch on to a Chris Aitken pass but his break and cross found no takers. Craig Tully was the first to create space for McAllister and he burst in from the right flank and picked up a pass before blasting goalwards but just too high to trouble David Mitchell in the Stranraer goal. Both sides had early corners but neither Martin Bavidge nor Michael Moore was able to turn his effort on target. Bavidge had a couple more threatening moments that produced shots but neither got past the defensive efforts of Frank McKeown.

Callum MacDonald copied his counterpart at the other end with a timely challenge as Scott Taggart attempted to jink his way through and the opening exchanges saw neither goalkeeper brought into serious action with the only danger caused by McAllister, who stretched in front of Zak Belkouche to reach David Donald’s cross and out of nothing hit the crossbar with little more than a half chance.

Stranraer had an effort from Malcolm when he ran on to McKeown’s long ball but he was unable to get over it properly and shot wide. Another chance followed when Gallagher found Aitken but his drive hit Ross Smith and the away defence ensured their keeper remained untroubled.

Great work again by the visiting back four, this time by Scott Ross lunging in at the back post denied Shepherd. Peterhead forced Mitchell into a scrambling save when a long throw from Donald caused confusion but it wasn’t long before they did create a better opportunity. A long ball down the middle fell right into the path of McAllister and Mitchell had little chance and the big striker waltzed round him and stroked the ball into the net.

Paul Jarvie had not been tested in the first half but it took less the five minutes of the second to change that. Aitken crossed from the right and Moore rose to meet the header but directed it straight at the keeper. Unfortunately for Stranraer, a rather flat and uninspiring performance dictated that this would be their best opportunity of the game.

Ryan Borris had a long-range effort diverted wide and Malcolm fired one over the top but the Blues couldn’t find a way to goal. Peterhead, though, were still dangerous and when Roy McBain edged past Kane, he had only Mitchell to beat but the Blues stopper was equal to the task.

With 15 minutes left, the Blue Toon killed the game with their second goal. Deasley provided a through ball for McAllister to seize possession and blast past the Mitchell.

Moore almost got a chance to show what he could muster when presented with a decent cross by Winter but Ross typified the Peterhead defensive performance with a timely interception. Eight minutes remained when the visitors completed the scoring. With Donald the provider from the right, McBain arrived from the far post and turned the cross into the back of the net. There was time for another product of the Stair Park youth system to gain a first team debut when Blair Dougan replaced Malcolm but the final few minutes were played out without incident.

A philosophical Keith Knox thought the performance in possession at times was quite good but the cutting edge was missing and Stranraer weren’t threatening enough. A few players had been missing to ensure injuries and knocks would clear up as the play-off objective had been achieved and the other results were helpful as the goal remains to finish in the highest league position possible and picking up as many points as possible in the remaining games to hit the play-off matches in good form with a full squad fit.

Stranraer: David Mitchell, Scott Taggart, John Kane, Zakaria Belkouche, Frank McKeown, Chris Aitken, Ryan Borris, Grant Gallagher (Sean Winter 67), Michael Moore, Craig Malcolm (Blair Dougan 84), Nathan Shepherd. Subs Not Used: Stephen Stirling, Michael Baxter, Ryan Marshall 

Booked: Moore

Peterhead: Paul Jarvie, David Donald, Roy McBain, Scott Ross, Callum Macdonald, Ross Smith, Craig Tully (Lewis Davidson 71), Jamie Redman, Rory McAllister (Dennis Wyness 77), Martin Bavidge (Graham Webster 83), Bryan Deasley. Subs Not Used: Shaun Robertson, Neil Duffy 

Booked: Tully

Goals: McAllister 34, 75 McBain 82

Attendance: 291

Referee: P Robertson