Stirling’s experience will prove stern test

PETERHEAD V STIRLING ALBION'(DUNCAN BROWN)''PETERHEAD'S  DEAN COWIE CLEARS FROM STIRLING'S KIERAN McANESPIE
PETERHEAD V STIRLING ALBION'(DUNCAN BROWN)''PETERHEAD'S DEAN COWIE CLEARS FROM STIRLING'S KIERAN McANESPIE

After Saturday’s false start, Jim McInally’s Peterhead squad now have the chance to show their title credentials against fellow contenders Stirling, writes Joshua King.

Following an excellent preseason many fans believed a home tie against Annan Athletic was a good opportunity to start the campaign with a win.

Defensive errors robbed the Balmoor crowd of an opening day victory however and McInally will instead look at Saturday’s tie with Stirling Albion as a chance to take three points.

McInally has in the past spoken of the threat Greig McDonald’s Stirling side pose to Peterhead’s title aspirations and the first meeting of the two contenders could set the tone for the season.

The Binos began their league season with a combative 2-1 win away at Montrose after the home side’s Ricky McIntosh was sent off after only half an hour.

The match at Links Park marked the third consecutive opening-day victory for Stirling but in the past two years the wins have proved to be false dawns.

They finished 14 points behind Peterhead last season, four points adrift of the playoffs.

McInally remains wary. He said: “It will be really tough. They’re probably the most experienced team in the league with guys who’ve played at every level.

“They’re at that age where they know the game inside out. They’ve signed the boy David Weatherston from Falkirk and he’s very good.

“They’ve got good depth in their squad and I think it should be a decent game.”

Weatherston, who suffered several injuries last season and was released by Falkirk in May, likes to cut inside from the wings and his pace could prove troublesome for Peterhead’s stopgap defence.

With Callum MacDonald a long-term absentee and Ryan Strachan ineligible as the result of a suspension from the end of last season, McInally paired full back Steven Noble with Scott Ross in central defence against Annan.

Despite determined performances, the Toon defence conceded two goals and both players were subsituted.

McInally said: “Scott Ross came off with cramp and hopefully we can get in a couple of training sessions under his belt this week to get his general fitness up.

“Ryan’s available again next week and I think Steven Noble will be okay. It was more of a kick than any damage to tissue or ligaments.

The trip to the Forthbank Stadium will be Peterhead’s first competitive away match and Stirling’s first home league tie. It may prove pivotal.

McInally said: “I’m sure the onus will be on them to attack.

“They’ve got a support that demands that they attack and Stirling are a club who really don’t think they should be in this league. There comes a pressure with that.

“They’ll be expected to come out and we’ll play the same way we’ve been playing and it should make for a more open game.”

One player who will be desperate to take advantage of the situation is Peterhead hitman Rory McAllister.

Last season’s top goalscorer, heralded as one of the finest strikers in the lower leagues, missed an injury-time chance to score the winner against Annan.

McAllister scuffed a shot across the goal and his manager said he was distraught in the dressing room afterwards.

McInally said: “I’ve had a look at the video and it was a bad miss by his standards.

I told him not to dwell on it, he’ll win more points than anything with his goals.

Rory just loves scoring goals. He wants to move onto the next game as quick as he can and get himself into those scoring positions again.”