The Blue Toon remain the bookies favourite for the title as the first day of Scottish League 2 approaches.
Jim McInally’s Peterhead side came painfully close to promotion last season, only losing out to East Fife in the playoff final after David Muir’s solitary strike ended a 12-match unbeaten run.
Such a harrowing defeat had the potential to set the team back for the new season but the Balmoor side has put in several impressive preseason performances, sending a clear message to the other teams in the division they intend to go one better this year.
First to fall was Ross County who lost 2-0 to Peterhead in the Les Taylor Memorial Trophy. Then came the visit of Derek McInnes’ strong Aberdeen side - described by Neil Lennon as the biggest threat to Celtic’s title defence - for the Scottish Week Challenge Cup.
McInally set up his team to frustrate the Dons and frustrate them they did, running out eventual 3-2 winners.
Then followed a 2-1 victory against Brechin City in the Ramsdens cup, a game which saw yet another goal for 20-year-old star summer signing Jordon Brown.
The only blip has been the weekend’s 2-0 defeat to Alloa in the Scottish League Cup.
Though Paul Hartley’s Wasps ran out deserved winners, Peterhead once again did not concede from open play, something that has buoyed McInally’s spirits.
He said: “They got a lift from the penalty. I said to the players, between the game against Aberdeen and today, we’ve conceded from two penalties and two free-kicks, so we’re not doing a lot wrong defensively. We’ve had to have a makeshift back four, and I thought they did well.
“I think that’s the secret of what our season’s going to be about, grit and determination, because that was the most pleasing thing - when we lost the goal we never threw in the towel, we kept trying to get back into the game.
“If we have grit and determination in abundance I think we’ll be a hard team to beat.”
The first obstacle for McInally’s men en route to promotion to League 1 is Annan Athletic.
The Toon took seven points from a possible 12 against them last season and will be hoping Toon leading goalscorer Rory McAllister can be on target again.
But McInally recognises Annan pose a goal threat.
He said: “I’m wary of Peter Weatherson. I had him at Greenock Morton for four years and he’s as good as McAllister if not better.
“He’s actually played in defence for Annan. I hope he plays there again next week. Peter’s 33 and at the end of his career but he shouldn’t be at this level as far as his ability goes.”
Weatherson is particularly deadly from freekicks and scores many headed goals. McInally, who has often spoken about the need to be more disciplined, will emphasise the importance of not conceding freekicks in areas where Weatherson can threaten.
Throughout preseason McInally has set up his teams with a lone striker, packing the midfield to stiffle stronger teams like Ross County and Aberdeen.
He said: “The problem you’ve got as a manager playing those teams is if you take a really heavy defeat it can be bad for morale. You try and temper that with being a wee bit more cautious.
“It’s worked out fine for us - maybe that’s the best way to play - but when we start next week we’ll have our two strikers. It’s going to be hard. There’ll be a lot of games this year when teams come up here and sit in against us and try and frustrate the life out of us.”
McInally has added Dean Richardson and former Dundee player Kevin Buchan to his squad.