Queen’s Park 2 Peterhead 1
Peterhead went down 2-1 to Queen’s Park on a 1970’s style muddy pitch at Firhill on Tuesday night with the Blue Toon paying the price for slow starts to both halves.
Striker Russell McLean had shaken off a knee injury to take his place in an unchanged line-up from Saturday’s win over Dumbarton with Gary Fraser making his return after 15 months out following a knee injury on the bench.
The hosts kicked off and got off to the best possible start by scoring within the first minute. Connor Smith took advantage of Peterhead captain Scott Brown going down injured to thread a pass through to Bob McHugh 20 yards out and the striker took the ball past advancing shot-stopper Brett Long and slotted home with just 49 seconds played.
It almost got worse for Peterhead with Queen’s Park denied by the woodwork twice on nine minutes.
McHugh headed a Louis Longridge cross against the bar and then as the visitors struggled to clear Liam Brown played in Smith who chipped over Long but watched on in agony as the ball struck against a post.
Long stuck out a foot to deny Luca Connell on 16 minutes however Peterhead almost drew level a minute later when Russell McLean spotted Calum Ferrie off his line and tried lobbing him however the Spiders’ goalkeeper was able to keep out his effort.
Balmoor manager Jim McInally opted to change personnel and tactics on 18 minutes when he swapped Owen Cairns for Flynn Duffy and moved from a 4-2-3-1 set-up to a 4-4-2 formation with Niah Payne moving up to support McLean.
The moves almost paid a dividend on 31 minutes when a Hamish Ritchie free-kick fell to Brown at the edge of the box and his powerful drive was flicked goalward by Shaun Want however the ball flashed wide.
The first half ended at 1-0 to the hosts and with Peterhead growing into the hunt for at least a point however their start to the second half was as disappointing as the start to the first.
McHugh was allowed to accept a throw-in from Tommy Robson and turn towards the visitors’ goal before rolling a pass along the 18-yard line to Jack Thomson who cracked a low first time shot into the net.
Things looked to get worse for McInally’s men on 53 minutes when Niah Payne had to be substituted by Derek Lyle after suffering a nasty head knock in an aerial joust with Charlie Fox. Referee Duncan Williams initially played on despite Payne lying on the turf and when he eventually received treatment there was no way the hard-working striker could continue with Fox having to change his jersey, and wear a head bandage, due to the cut Payne had suffered.
Peterhead however refused to give up the fight to get something out of the game and they missed a great opportunity just past the hour mark to reduce the deficit.
Grant Savoury robbed Fox on the right wing and charged down the pitch however the midfielder’s cut-back went straight to a home defender despite McLean and Lyle being in the box.
There was further danger created shortly afterwards when Lyle was picked out at the back post and his knock down was begging to be put in however there were no takers.
Midway through the second half Queen’s Park brought on Jai Quitongo for Longridge and the substitute went into a right-wing role where he was up against his brother Rico and it would be fair to say no quarter was given by either player in the rest of the game.
With 17 minutes left Peterhead came close again when McLean picked out Hamish Ritchie with a delightful cross-field pass. Ritchie chested the ball down and fired a low shot goalward however Ferrie did well to push the Peterhead man’s drive past for a corner.
The deficit was eventually reduced in the final minute when Andy McCarthy wriggled free on the left and his cross was flicked home by McLean’s right boot from six yards.
The Blue Toon were aware that there would be a fair amount of injury time played due to Payne’s injury and they pushed and probed for an equaliser during the six minutes played however there was to be no equaliser.
Peterhead – Long, Duffy (Cairns 19), Want, McDonald, Quitongo, McCarthy, S Brown, Payne (Lyle 53), Savoury (Jack Brown 74), Ritchie, McLean.
Unused substitutes – Conroy, Cook, Jordon Brown, Fraser, Cullen (G/k)