It was very much a case of almost but not quite at Balmoor on Saturday. The Blue Toon continued to show the progress that has been made since their relegation and almost won a marathon penalty shoot-out. This was only denied by a determined Partick Thistle side hellbent on not leaving the North East with red on their faces. There had been an air of excitement before kick off with the sun shining high in the skies and the pitch looking a fine shade of green, the new season was most certainly back. The excitement was matched by a larger than normal crowd and both sets of fans were vociferous in their support.
The match got off to an unfortunate beginning for the blue half of the ground. Just 3 minutes had been played when Stuart Bannigan was fouled just wide of the penalty area. From the resultant free-kick Aidan Fitzpatrick saw his cross meet the head of ex-Cove Rangers defender Harry Milne who notched his fourth goal for The Jags by placing his header neatly past former team-mate Stuart McKenzie in the home goal.
This may have upset the pre-match talk but Peterhead grew into the game and chances from newly signed striker Kieran Shanks and Jack Brown almost carved out an equaliser which did come just two minutes after the half hour mark. Jack Brown began the move with a darting surge forward on the right-hand side. He managed to evade the challenge of Williams and cleverly cut the ball back into the path of the onrushing Hamish Ritchie who leathered his shot into the roof of the net. The Balmoor crowd, starved of many goals last season, erupted and it was fitting that Ritchie scored having been a long-term injury absentee last season. Ritchie looked sharp and just two minutes before the break he almost doubled his tally with an ambitious header from the edge of the penalty area.
Half Time: Peterhead 1 Partick Thistle 1
Peterhead had victory in their sights and were pinning their opponents back at every opportunity. The second half was just 10 minutes old when summer signing Conner Duthie almost gave the home crowd a second goal. He worked his way into the six-yard box only to see his shot partially stopped by keeper Sneddon. The ball flashed across goal and was cleared off the line and away to safety. Both teams then had further chances to add to the scoreline but a combination of rugged defending by Jason Brown and good goalkeeping from Jamie Sneddon kept the score level. Thistle began to assert their authority on the game amid a raft of substitutions as we headed to an exciting finale. Time eventually ran out and referee McFarlane blew the full-time whistle to signify the match was to be settled by a penalty shoot-out despite the eagerness of the crowd towards the exit gates.
Full Time: Peterhead 1 Partick Thistle 1
Calculators and pens at the ready as a marathon penalty shoot-out ensued. Despite Joe McKee missing Peterhead’s first penalty kick, Stuart McKenzie was the hero saving Thistle’s fourth kick to send the decider into sudden death. The bonus point was finally decided when Steven Lawless saw his kick tucked behind McKenzie to win 10-9 on penalties and send the Thistle fans behind the Catto Park End into raptures.
Peterhead: Stuart McKenzie, Danny Strachan, Jason Brown, Ryan Strachan, Hamish Ritchie, Andy McCarthy, Kieran Shanks (78’), Jack Brown (67’), Scott Ross, Jordon Brown (71’), Conner Duthie (67’).
Subs Used: Robert Ward (67’), Conor O’Keefe (67’), Joe McKee (71’), Aaron Reid (78’).
Partick Thistle: Jamie Sneddon, Harry Milne, Wasiri Williams, Aaron Muirhead, Stuart Bannigan, Brian Graham, Anton Dowds (87’), Steven Lawless, Aidan Fitzpatrick, Ben Stanway, Zander MacKenzie.
Subs Used: James Lyon (87’)