Tight at the top as Toon keep up play-off hopes

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Just how tight it is at the top of the Third Division was illustrated by the point taken by Peterhead in this mundane encounter.

The Blue Toon have scored just one goal in their last five games, none from open play, but they are still in a play-off position as the race to grab the three available spots is one that nobody seems to want to win.

With Rangers strolling to the title, the chasing pack are evenly matched and with Jim McInally set to have a stronger squad to choose from in the near future when suspensions will have been served, Peterhead may well still be in the mix come the end of the campaign.

Based on the majority of recent performances, that might seem hard to believe and this was another game where chances were few and far between and Graeme Smith in the home goal was to thank for even a point.

Berwick have games in hand over their hosts and if they play like they did in this encounter, they could easily move up the table after a performance made all the more laudable by the fact they had been out of action for the previous three weeks thanks to weather induced postponements.

With Ross Smith absent thanks to his dismissal in the midweek draw at Annan, McInally was forced to rejig his back line with Steven Noble and Ryan McCann playing in unfamiliar roles.

The game burst into life after just five minutes with a sensational strike from Rory McAllister.

The mercurial striker sent a sublime free kick into the postage stamp corner from at least 25 yards out to give Peterhead a dream start.

It was such a terrific strike that his teammates were still reliving it instead of concentrating and less than a minute later the visitors were level, Dylan Easton sending a slide rule pass through the centre of the Blue Toon defence for Darren Lavery to nip in ahead of Smith and nudge the ball over the advancing Keeper.

Rangers should have gone in front in the 14th minute when Lavery had a free header 6 yards out but it was a feeble effort and Smith gratefully plucked the ball out of the air.

At the other end McAllister had the chance of a hatrick of free kick goals, first curling a shot towards the near post forcing former loanee keeper Marc McCallum into a smart save then sending the poorest of the trio well wide to the left of goal.

As is so often the case, Peterhead started the second half brightly, Scott

McLaughlin shooting wide but for all the possession that followed, their demeanour was not one which led you to think that a winner was on the cards.

McAllister saw a shot cleared off the line with Andy Rodgers scuffing his effort wide in the scramble that ensued.

The striker, on loan from Stenhousemuir, looked short of match fitness and hopefully his sharpness will return when he has some more game time under his belt.

The sponsors Man-of-the-match, Dean Cowie pushed forward and forced an acrobatic save out of McCallum in the 70th minute but it was Berwick that ended the game the stronger and had it not been for a quality save from Smith in the dying moments to turn a piledriver from Fraser McLaren over the crossbar, even a much needed point would have been denied them.

Next up is a trip to face East Stirling minus Ryan Strachan and Scott Ross who will serve suspensions.

With rivals closing in fast with games in hand, a victory would be most welcome.

PETERHEAD: G. Smith, McCann, Noble, Cowie, Ross, McGuire

(Gilfillan 67), Cox (Deasley 88), Redman, McAllister, Rodgers (Bavidge 75), McLaughlin.

Subs (not used): Jarvie, Tully.

Attendance : 432