Montrose left Balmoor yesterday with all three points following a 1-0 success that came in bizarre circumstances and Peterhead will be hoping that come the end of the season, Pele’s quote of “the more difficult the victory, the greater the happiness in winning” rings true, as avoiding a relegation struggle is proving challenging.
The game’s decisive moment came midway through the second half when Andrew Steeves took a throw in from the left and as it bounced around the box the ball eluded goalkeeper Brett Long and defender Andy McDonald before ending up in the net.
The visiting Michael Gardyne was credited with getting a touch, and he was happy to claim a touch as if the ball had crossed the line directly from Steeves’ arms, then it would not have stood.
The Gable Endies lost Cammy Ballantyne and Gardyne to late dismissals and the extra space created allowed Grant Savoury to come close to an equaliser however come the final whistle the Blue Toon remained in eighth place.
Peterhead manager Jim McInally restored Flynn Duffy to a full back role in place of the unavailable Owen Cairns with Niah Payne returning to a starting slot after a head-knock with Jack Brown dropping down to a substitute role.
The hosts kicked off with a strong wind behind them and threatened danger after only five minutes when Hamish Ritchie whipped in a free-kick from the right wing that picked out Savoury however his flicked headed flashed wide.
Montrose’s first chance came on 19 minutes from a familiar face as Gardyne rolled a corner to the 18-yard line for Lyall Cameron, who was making his first start from the Links Park club, and he sent a shot swerving towards Long’s goal however it rose and cleared the bar.
In the following minute Rico Quitongo, who was playing in a right back role surged forward and picked out Russell McLean with a low pass. The big striker crashed to the ground however no penalty was awarded and McLean picked up a yellow card for simulation.
Just before the half-hour mark Mark Whatley fired a long ball forward that allowed Craig Johnston to break clear on the left-hand side of the home defence however the striker’s shot aiming for the far corner went wide of goal.
Peterhead responded with a twice-taken McDonald free-kick that went under the Montrose wall but did not have the pace to trouble Aaron Lennox too much in the visitors’ goal.
Before the break Gardyne and Ballantyne went into referee Stuart’s book for fouls.
Peterhead made a bright start to the second half with skipper Scott Brown dragging them forward against the wind before sliding a shot towards Lennox’s goal from 20 yards however the shot-stopper got down low to push his drive out for a corner.
Payne forced another corner shortly afterwards before Whatley tried his luck at the other end of the park with a shot however Long was not troubled.
On 65 minutes Peterhead brought on the fit-again Ryan Duncan in a positive move to try and win the game however just three minutes later Montrose scored the goal that was to prove decisive.
The hosts looked to hit back quickly and captain Brown had a fierce drive charged down before Duncan headed down to McLean who spun on the spot and shot however his effort went over.
Ten minutes from time Ballantyne halted a dangerous Savoury run with a high tackle to pick up his second yellow card with Savoury sending the resultant 25 yard free-kick into the defensive wall.
Three minutes later it was Gardyne’s turn to foul Savoury for a second time and pick up a second yellow card to leave the visitors with just nine.
As space began to open up Duncan released Quitongo and his cross picked out Ritchie who sent an acrobatic overhead kick over the bar.
Gary Fraser was brought on to try and help unlock the visiting defence and it looked like Peterhead had deservedly drawn level in injury time when Quitongo whipped in a cross from the left and Savoury did everything right in terms of nodding the ball into the turf and towards goal.
However to sum up that it was not going to be Peterhead’s day Lennox leapt to his left and clawed away the header as it bounced up and on its way into goal.
The last kick of the game fell to Scott Brown at the edge of the Montrose box however there was to be no heroic equaliser as his shot zipped wide.
There can be no faulting the effort put in by the home side against the promotion seeking visitors however when ‘your opponents score from their only effort on your goal, and it is a throw in’ to quote manager McInally, then you know that achieving a win is a high mountain to climb.
In a season that has already seen a goalkeeper score a ‘one in a million goal’ against Peterhead it was a sore way to lose a game.
The majority of fans were once again supportive of everyone in the Balmoor camp, and whilst others look to be bellows of misery and pour negativity on self-inflicted wounds, everyone connected with the playing and managerial staff will try and secure ‘the happiness in winning’ next Saturday at Alloa.
Peterhead – Long, Duffy (Fraser 86), Quitongo, McDonald, Want, McCarthy, Scott Brown, Savoury, Ritchie, McLean, Payne (Duncan 65)
Unused substitutes – Cook, Jordon Brown, Jack Brown, Cullen (G/k)