The first quarter has been a roller-coaster

Oct 6, 2021

Peterhead manager Jim McInally has described the first quarter of season 2021/ 22 as a ‘roller-coaster’ and he does not expect the remaining three quarters to be any different.

The Blue Toon ended the first run of nine fixtures with their best win of the season, when Dumbarton were seen off 5-0 on Saturday, and presently sit five points off bottom placed East Fife, and five points of the Sons, Airdrie and Montrose, who sit fourth equal.

Jim said: “It has been a time of highs and lows and, that is, in a lot of ways, what we expected as we are a work in progress. We had a terrific win on Saturday, and everyone enjoyed that, however our first half display against Queen’s Park the week before was as bad as Saturday was good. I do not want to dilute anyone’s enjoyment of our last game but there is still a lot of work to be done to get consistency from the squad.”

“If we can do that and get a minimum of nine points every quarter, then we should avoid any issues at the bottom, however I am not going to get ahead of myself. I am not going to say we are going to rocket up the table as we are still learning what this squad can achieve.”

League leaders Queen’s Park have only won one more game that the Blue Toon this season to have Jim adding: “One of the other reasons that it has been a roller-coaster for us is the nature of the league. Queen’s Park are the only team that have not lost a game but they have drawn five and that shows how tight things are. Their points total also shows the benefit of not losing when you are not winning.”

“It is a tough league where every game is tough and gives you problems.”

The Balmoor boss is pleased with the youthful squad that he has at his disposal however he admits that has had to be patient in putting them together as he explained: “Recruitment has been a roller-coaster as well. We have finished the first quarter with a stronger pool than we started the season with but it has not been easy.”

“In terms of building the squad we needed to get a goalkeeper in as well as defenders and strikers. Some of that work was done before the end of last season and there was also an element of holding back and seeing who becomes available.”

“The chairman Rodger Morrison and his board worked hard in giving us the best budget they could despite the impact of covid. Once we knew what the budget was, we got to work in bringing new players in through old and new methods.”

“Through a third party known to both clubs, we offered the chance of securing senior football by impressing in pre-season to all the boys that were leaving Aberdeen. Unfortunately, that never worked with only one player getting in touch and saying he would come to us after seeing how he got on in his his trial match at Dyce Juniors. We never heard any more.”

In terms of successful recruitment Jim said: “We had to move on from that and were able to bring in Brett Long and Russell Mclean as well as securing Hamish Ritchie after his loan spell. We knew all about Russell and Brett had always done well against us for East Fife in goals. We were made aware that he was looking to move on from there. We got a deal done and he came here to fight it out with Lenny Wilson over the starting jersey.”

“Brett has possession just now, as he has been playing well, but he knows he cannot drop his standards as Lenny is waiting. Our goalkeeper coach Jim Butter deserves a lot of credit for the work he has put in with them.”

“We lost Kyle Bailey but my assistant David Nicholls and I thought we would be okay for defenders as we had kicked off talks with Dundee about Josh Mulligan and Danny Strachan on loan again and we were also due to be adding a defender from Fraserburgh. A pre-contract had been agreed, however just before we started pre-season the player advised that he no longer wanted to commit to playing in the SPFL.”

“These things happen but it left a hole that was not really filled until David Wilson came in a couple of weeks ago. Even with David’s arrival we still have a young defence with the ages of the players that faced Dumbarton being Josh Mulligan 19, David at 21, Jason Brown at 26 and Flynn Duffy who is 18.”

“That does not get a lot of recognition as with players that age you will get mistakes and what we have to do is work with them to eliminate those mistakes.”

Jim added: “Isaac Layne and Steven Boyd moved on and If you take Simon Ferry and Derek Lyle out of things, as they do not always play as they have coaching duties as well, we were also left young in midfield and attack. Ryan Conroy is the only old head as he is 34 whereas Hamish and Andrew McCarthy are early twenties and Scott Brown, who is our skipper is only 26.”

“Niah Payne, who I thought was outstanding against Dumbarton is only 23. Russell was missing through injury on Saturday and we became an even younger team when Andy McDonald and Lyall Cameron came on.”

“Over the coming weeks we should have Jordon Brown, Alan Cook, Russell and Gary Fraser to come back in as well. They are all experienced players who will help us deal with the roller-coaster as soon as our physio Gregg Smith and fitness coach Stuart Hogg have them ready.”

“We also have Jadel Musanhu and Derryn Kesson out on loan getting game time to help us in the second half of the season so we are already building towards that already.”