Peterhead 2 Rangers 2 – Scottish Third Division – 11th August 2012
The eyes of Scotland were focussed on Balmoor, as Rangers travelled north for their first game in the bottom tier of Scottish football.
There was a sense of intrigue. Ally McCoist had managed to put together a team that looked strong enough to win the league without any problems. The away team sheet from that day featured names like Kirk Broadfoot, Ian Black and Carlos Bocanegra.
Steven Noble, then preparing for his first league game with the club remembers the buildup. “It was one of they sort of surreal games. I’ve signed with Peterhead on the pretence that we were going to walk the league really, and obviously everything that happened with Rangers changed the whole situation.”
“I have a better understanding now of how manic the place was. The place was crazy, obviously, with everybody desperate to see Rangers first game in the lower leagues. The place was just chaos. We’d thrown up a couple of temporary stands to increase the amount getting through the gate.”
These may not have been world class superstars, but the part-timers of Peterhead appeared to be up against it going in to this match. Paul Jarvie in goals faced a difficult challenge in keeping the likes of Barrie McKay and Francisco Sandaza at bay. Rory McAllister would be unlikely to have faced off against a USA international defender, but that was what they were up against.
Noble wasn’t intimidated: “It was a bit of an unknown. leading up to the game I was thinking this is going to be a tough game. I’ve played against SPL teams with Stranraer.
I remember standing in the tunnel and I remember looking, and Bocanegra and Goian, they were the two that I sort of noticed standing there, and you could just see they did not want to be there. I was standing next to Goian and he just looked so uninterested, which showed.”
It was the Gers that took the lead when McKay opened the scoring midway through the first half. At that point, the viewing public watching on Sky must have started to switch off. It was going to be an easy day for Rangers, as expected.
However, the aforementioned McAllister had other ideas. The Blue Toon striker pulled off a feat of skill that could easily have been carried out by one of the away side’s big earners. His Cruyff turn in the box sent Bocanegra, with all of his 110 international caps, sliding in the wrong direction. McAllister cut in on his left foot and curled the ball past Neil Alexander in the Rangers goal.
Even in his first game for the club, Noble wasn’t surprised by McAllister’s goal. “I knew what he was capable of. Rory’s got that in his locker. Everybody that’s played with or played against Rory knows that he’s got that in his locker. He can turn on a bit of magic regardless of the competition he’s playing against.”
As news spread, one can only imagine that Sky had a sudden surge of viewers. Maybe a shock was on the cards after all.
With ten minutes to play, the hosts had a corner. Scott McLaughlin, lurking at the edge of the box, found the ball bouncing in his direction. He caught the ball sweetly on the half volley and left Alexander with no chance. Incredible celebrations followed as the Blue Toon players and fans realised they were minutes away from a famous victory.
In the end, Rangers would level, with Andy Little sneaking the ball over the line at the death.
Few people had given Peterhead a chance, but they had given Rangers a rough introduction to life in the lower leagues.