Defensive frailties return to haunt Toon

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The defensive frailties which have cost Peterhead so often this season were again on show as they fell to defeat at home to ten-man Berwick Rangers on Saturday.

Berwick debutant Danny Handling netted a goal in either half, with Rory McAllister levelling the first strike from the penalty spot.

The visitors were reduced to ten men shortly after Handling had bagged his second as fellow new signing Jordon Foster was sent off for -ironically - handling the ball on the edge of the area.

Despite hitting the woodwork on three occasions, Peterhead could not find a leveller and were leapfrogged in the league table by their opponents.

Martin Bavidge returned to the starting eleven after missing out against Alloa last week due to work commitments, but Bryan Deasley was missing after injuring a foot in the midweek friendly against Aberdeen.

The Blue Toon started brightly, though, Bavidge showing what a big miss he had been as he cut inside his man and flashed a shot across the face of goal just six minutes in.

Graeme Sharp had a similar effort following Ryan Strachan’s excellent crossfield ball, but the former Montrose man pulled his shot wide of the near post.

There was a warning of what was to come for Peterhead as Handling picked up the ball in midfield and drove forward, the home defence parting in front of him. Paul Jarvie remained alert though, and pushed his effort wide.

But Handling found the net midway through the half.

Craig Tully was penalised for a high challenge on Kevin McDonald and Lee Currie picked out the on-loan Hibs man, unmarked, eight yards from goal. Handling took the ball first-time on the volley, and left Jarvie with no chance.

The 18 year-old was involved again just moments later as his pass sent Stuart Noble though on goal, but his effort was wide of the target.

Peterhead rallied and Tully saw a powerful header headed away for a corner before McAllister’s sharp volley was held by Berwick keeper Youssef Bejaoui.

But they had a massive let-off on the stroke of half-time as the impressive Handling picked off a loose Russell Duncan pass and strode forward. His run was ended by a strong challenge from Callum Macdonald.

Having initially played advantage and allowed Noble to get a shot away, referee Frank McDermott would pull the play back as Noble had been off-side - but Macdonald’s challenge was deemed to be inches outside the area, and the free kick came to nothing.

If that decision left the Wee Rangers feeling aggrieved, they would be further angered three minutes after the break as Davie Donald went down under the challenge of Ross Gray, and McDermott pointed to the spot.

McAllister stepped up and confidently fired low to Bejaoui’s right.

But star turn Handling put his side back in front after 56 minutes, plucking the ball from the air before turning inside Tully and firing low across Jarvie from 20 yards to find the far corner of the net.

Foster was penalised two minutes later for what was deemed a deliberate handball on the edge of the area. With McAllister in behind and ready to pounce, it was seen as denying a goalscoring opportunity and he was sent packing.

Try as they might, Peterhead just couldn’t find an equaliser, though Duncan was un;ucky to see the goalkeeper push his low shot onto the post after 66 minutes.

The same player saw another effort crash back off the crossbar, and with five minutes to go McAllister hooked a volley off the post. When your luck’s out, your luck is most definitely out.

The Blue Toon will travel to Glasgow on Saturday to face bogey side Queen’s Park, and although they may be out of the playoff picture, Jim McInally’s men have their pride to play for, as well as contracts for next season.

PETERHEAD: Jarvie, Donald, McBain (Wyness 80), Tully (Smith 59), Macdonald, Strachan, Sharp (S. Ross 59), Redman, McAllister, Bavidge, Duncan. Subs not used: Webster, Jellema (gk).

Attendance: 396