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Peterhead 3 Annan Athletic 1

Thu 06 Mar 2014

Peterhead strengthened their position at the top of League Two, as goals from Ryan Strachan, Rory McAllister and captain Steven Noble helped them to a well-deserved victory over nearest challengers Annan Athletic.

This match had already seemed likely to play a part in the title race on its original date of February 1, but with the first attempt to play the match having been abandoned after 20 minutes, the rearranged fixture had taken on added significance.

The Black and Golds have usurped Clyde to become the side most likely to catch Jim McInally’s league leaders, but missed the change to close a gap that had been as wide as 10 points less than a fortnight ago, to just two.

Both sides had recorded 4-0 wins at the weekend, Peterhead over East Stirlingshire in a match that sadly grabbed the headlines for all the wrong reasons, while Annan saw off a resurgent Berwick Rangers.

Following the events of Saturday, both sides reinforced their support for the Show Racism The Red Card campaign, warming up in t-shirts promoting the campaign, and holding aloft SRtRC banners prior to kick-off.

But thankfully all the headlines would be written on the pitch, as the Blue Toon blew away their opponents.

It was a more familiar lineup than at the weekend, with Scott Ross and Ross Smith returning to their regular defensive slots. Ryan McCann was included on the bench having missed out on Saturday ahead of his wedding on Sunday.

And although Annan were first to threaten, through Steven Black’s seventh minute shot, Peterhead would go on to dominate large periods of the match.

They took the lead just two minutes later as a move rehearsed on the training ground paid dividends.

Noble picked out Strachan on the edge of the area from a right-wing corner, and the former Aberdeen and Celtic man drilled a shot from 18 yards, just inside Kenny Arthur’s right-hand upright.

Ryan Strachan opens the scoring

Another Noble corner, this time more conventional in its delivery, found Ross at the back post, but with Arthur having been drawn off his line by the delivery, the centre-back couldn’t join Strachan on the scoresheet.

But the second goal came after just 25 minutes, and on its own was worthy of the admission fee. Bryan Gilfillan lifted a ball into the path of McAllister, and he sent an exquisite chip over the goalkeeper from all of 25 yards.

It was another to add to the scrapbook for the Blue Toon’s top scorer, but there was more to come from Peterhead, and Andy Rodgers almost outdid his strike partner with an overhead kick, but it drifted wide of the target.

McAllister should perhaps have made the points safe before the interval when he met Rodgers’ cross from the left after a skewed Arthur clearance, but his effort was well off target.

And a seed of doubt may have come into Blue Toon minds when just a minute later, Annan were gifted a goal back. Former Rangers kid Andy Mitchell crossed from the left, and his delivery was turned home by the unfortunate Ross.

That boosted the visitors and Kenny MacKay, a gem of a player plucked from the juniors by manager Jim Chapman, threatened a leveller soon after, but Graeme Smith was more than a match for his low strike.

That said, the game could have been all over by the interval. McAllister, it seemed, was on a one-man mission to earn the points, but passed up three opportunities in the dying stages of the first 45 minutes.

And they came out the traps well in the second period, too. Dean Cowie had already hit over the bar when, just three minutes after the restart, Noble embarked on a sublime run from his own half,. trading passes with McAllister before being brought down by the challenge of Peter Watson.

It looked every inch a deserved penalty kick, but referee Mat Northcroft thought otherwise, booking the Blue Toon captain for what he saw as a dive.

Not to be denied, Noble found the net two minutes later. It was from his pass, again inside his own half, that McAllister's turn left Watson sprawling on the turf. The striker raced away down the left before, in a neat reverse from their usual roles, cutting the ball back for Noble to side-foot home from six yards.

Celebrations after Steven Noble's goal

It was a rare goal for the former Stranraer man, but the resultant ‘piley-on’ showed  what it meant to the skipper and his team-mates.

Still the chances came for Peterhead, and with a quarter-hour remaining, they could have been out of sight. First McAllister laid off for Gilfillan, who saw his shot deflected away for a corner. Then Gilfillan crossed for the striker, who headed over the bar.

The visitors could have grabbed a late lifeline had Mackay had a bit more luck, his angled shot leaving Smith beaten, but coming back off the upright.

PETERHEAD: Graeme Smith, Graeme Sharp, Steven Noble, Ross Smith, Scott Ross, Dean Cowie, Andy Rodgers (Ryan McCann, 88), Jamie Redman, Rory McAllister (Fraser McLaren, 83), Bryan Gilfillan (Jordon Brown, 86), Ryan Strachan. Subs not used: Dean Richardson, Conner McGlinchey, Tony Low, Paul Jarvie (gk).

Booked: Gilfillan, Noble.

ANNAN ATHLETIC: Kenny Arthur, Steven Sloan, Martin McNiff, Peter Watson, Steven Black, Chris Jardine (Dan Orsi, 77), Iain Chisholm, Andy Mitchell, Kenny Mackay, Scott Davidson (Keiron Brannan , 77), Ally Love (Blair Henderson, 59). Subs not used: Peter Bradley, Matty Flynn, Jordan Moffat, Alex Mitchell (gk).

Booked: Jardine.

Attendance: 607