Disappointing afternoon for Blue Toon

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AA SOLITARY strike on the half-hour saw Peterhead’s run of good league form end against the side it began against. Having taken ten points from their previous 12, starting with a 5-1 win over Airdrie United, the Blue Toon crashed back to reality thanks to Chris Craig’s goal.

The Blue Toon travelled south with a fully fit squad, bar Bobby Mann, and stuck by the same side which had beaten Alloa a week previously.

That meant no start for Conor Gethins despite his goal just 21 seconds after coming off the bench against the Wasps, and his midweek double in Aberdeenshire Shield action against Fraserburgh.

Airdrie were without a number of key players, defender Eddie Forrest missing out along with Scott Gemmill, Jamie Stevenson and former Peterhead trialist Gary Mackay-Steven.

And both sides struggled to get a hold on the game early on, although the hosts looked slightly better in possession.

John Bateman had saved comfortably from both Ryan McCord and David Gray before Martin Bavidge fired Peterhead’s first effort wide of the post from 18 yards after 20 minutes.

Dave Ross had two shots blocked after 27 minutes, but Airdrie, as they did so well throughout, hit on the break and Chris Craig came just inches away from finding the net with his lob, with Bateman left stranded off his line.

The striker did find the net shortly afterwards, although Peterhead’s defending left much to be desired.

Gray’s corner found Paul Lovering, who got above Scott Ross to nod down for Craig. The striker took full advantage of Stuart Smith’s slip to stride into the space and lash a low effort across Bateman and into the far corner.

Stephen McKeown, in his second spell at the Diamonds, thought he was about to double the lead after 36 minutes, but Scott Ross put in a superb challenge to deny the hitman after good work by Craig.

But Peterhead were struck a blow just before the interval, as Bavidge was forced off with a back knock picked up early in the game, with Irishman Gethins taking his place.

Further slack defending two minutes after the interval allowed the impressive Airdrie front pairing of McKeown and Craig to combine again, and Craig had already wheeled off to celebrate when his shot came back off the inside of the post, Stirling Smith clearing off the line.

Soon after, Stuart Smith and Davie Donald were both forced to clear further efforts off the line as the home side stepped up the pressure in a bid to double their advantage.

But Peterhead gradually worked their way into the game, and the lively Gethins was unlucky to see his 25-yard lob drift inches wide of the upright after beating Airdrie keeper Mark Ridgers to a long ball.

The Blue Toon’s spell of pressure coincided with Graeme Sharp seeing more of the ball and moments later the winger teed up Dennis Wyness, only to see the striker slice over.

More lightning footwork from the former Montrose winger saw him squeeze a ball through for Gethins, but the Irishman’s left-foot shot was claimed by Ridgers.

A cross from the disappointing Dave Ross caused mayhem led to a stramash as the Toon maintained the pressure on the Airdrie goal, but the sheer weight of numbers the Diamonds’ penalty area meant the there was no clean shot for Wyness.

Ridgers was to save again from Gethins with 15 minutes to go, but a slew of substitutions from both sides meant the flow of the game was interrupted, and Airdrie began to retain possession again.

In the dying stages, an Airdrie counter saw Stirling Smith shown only a yellow card for what the home fans felt was a challenge that denied a clear goalscoring opportunity, however Neil McVitie looked to be in position to cover.

There was a red card shown, though, in injury time. The home side’s Rhys Devlin handed a straight red for crashing high into Stuart Smith.

It came too late, however, to alter the result on a disappointing afternoon for Neale Cooper and his men.

PETERHEAD: Bateman, Donald, Stirling Smith, Stuart Smith, S. Ross, McVitie, Sharp, Wyness (Clark, 80), Bavidge (Gethins, 41), Strachan (Emslie, 70), D. Ross. Subs not used: Macdonald, Jarvie (gk).

Attendance: 660