Having travelled to some of the furthest away grounds, I decided to go for something a bit different today.
Stranraer were playing just an hour away, and while that may be the furthest trip they will face this season, for me it is the closest they will play.
Peterhead is one of a few towns that I will visit this season without a railway line serving it, which meant a bus journey.
Buses, much like trains, are prone to delays.
Apparently trying to leave Aberdeen by road on the day they play Celtic is a bad idea. That’s what the woman that dared to ask the driver waiting for his bus was told, at least.
Around twenty minutes later than scheduled, the bus arrived and set off in the direction of Peterhead. If nothing else the journey gave a change of scenery from the train line south of Aberdeen that I have travelled on to every other game this season.
It was a pleasant surprise to see the sun out and to find myself too warm on the bus, rather than too cold as is often the case at this time of year.
The bus stops at various points along the way. Small towns and villages and stops that don’t actually look like stops.
Just over an hour later, the bus arrived at a quiet Peterhead Bus station.
As I walked to Balmoor I was thinking of my previous experiences at the ground. Having been there to support Stranraer, to me at least, it is a lonely ground.
Generally there will be somewhere in the region of ten away supporters that are clearly marked by scarves and the like, plus a few others recognisable by face or name.
Goals will be celebrated with a tiny clap or a cheer that barely travels in the freezing, howling wind.
It’s not far from the town centre to the ground, and it’s a very easy ground to find.
Outside the stadium I’m offered something different from the standard programme.
A club magazine covering club news, with features and stories from the community. It’s a great idea and something a bit different. It covers a full month of fixtures and I don’t know how regularly they are printed. I’m not sure if there is a separate, match specific programme available but either way I see no reason why clubs shouldn’t be covering multiple games in one publication, whichever form that takes.
This match has mid table slog written all over it, with Stranraer in sixth and Peterhead in eighth before kickoff. The early season signs suggest that these clubs are likely to finish somewhere in the middle of the league, with both looking to push on for a spot in the promotion playoff.
The Blue Toon have players that are very strong for the level they play at, on paper at least.
For example striker Rory McAllister has long been courted by bigger clubs and Nicky Riley and Stefan McCluskey add significantly to their attacking threat.
The ground is made up of two stands running alongside the pitch. They are neat and modern looking stands, with large areas set aside for hospitality and the press.
The spaces behind the goals accommodate those who wish to stand, and (major kudos from me) the home fans move sides depending on which way their team is shooting. Quintessentially lower league.
It also has to be said, if there was a prize for ‘Best Scottish Football Toilets’ – and after the 42 there may well be, then Peterhead’s main stand effort would be in the lead. Their faux marble effect wouldn’t look out of place in a restaurant and makes a change from the leaking brick structures fans are probably used to.
Looking round, it’s hard not to notice the level of sponsorship that the club are able to attract, from a variety of companies.
The oil and fishing industries will employ a lot of people in the town, and they seem to get behind their local teams too. The abundance of willing sponsors is an advantage teams in that part of the country have that teams elsewhere in the country probably don’t.
Peterhead started the match well, creating three good chances in the first fifteen minutes. Stranraer had their goalkeeper to thank for keeping them in the match, and on another day they could easily have conceded on each of the three occasions. McCluskey and McAllister in particular were on top form.
Stranraer slowly dragged themselves back in to the game, and probably had the better of the first half, but it finished 0-0.
The second half started in a similar pattern with both sides creating chances and both goalkeepers on top form.
The match swung in the 53rd minute when Stranraer’s creator-in-chief Willie Gibson was sent off. While a mistimed tackle might be seen as almost acceptable for a red card, Gibson’s two yellows came from dissent and kicking the ball away.
To those of us in the stand it seemed like a fairly straightforward decision and a definite red card. However Gibson’s protests at the time, and after the match suggest he didn’t agree.
Shortly after, when Stranraer had changed their formation, a long through ball found its way to Rory McAllister. The big striker confidently rounded Belford and passed the ball home.
The home side continued to look confident, despite Stranraer’s best efforts to put them under pressure.
However, with minutes remaining it was the Blue Toon that took the lead. Stranraer, having pushed men forward to try and clinch an equaliser, were caught out by a quick counter attack.
Midfielder Scott Brown got the ball at the half way line and outpaced two players and provided a great finish, perfectly in to the bottom corner of the goal.
The home fans celebrated their win and a chance to leapfrog their opponents in the league. The away side would be disappointed that what looked like a loss of discipline reduced their chances of winning the match quite significantly.
Peterhead 2 Stranraer 0