Fraserburgh fell to a defeat in their first game of the pre-season, a 2-0 loss to their oldest and nearest rivals, Peterhead Football Club.
First-half goals from Steven Noble and Rory McAllister had confirmed the Graeme Sharp testimonial defeat.
Fraserburgh had brought with them to the Balmoor a young side keen to impress and show match fitness in front of a near 800 fan crowd. With fog rolling in and the wind picking up, however, the Blue Toon’s earlier start to the pre-season had clearly shown dividends with their legs faster to get into the game and slower to tire at either end of the two halves.
The physical affair started as it meant to go on, too, with Marc Dickson making a crunching tackle almost immediately after the whistle to stop a Peterhead charge into the Burgh half. However, perhaps too regularly, the League One side continued to find Burgh players out of position.
Andy Rogers was the first to threaten the visitors with what could have been a nightmarish start to the game. Finding Scott Cowe, taking number one duties for the proceedings in the absence of stopper Paul Leask, off his line and advancing, Rogers rounded the ‘keeper only to send a shot wide of an empty goal.
10 minutes into the game, Sharp, who had chosen the opposition for the day, proved to be difference maker between the two Aberdeenshire sides, the Broch-born full-back floating in a delectable ball for Noble to head over Cowe who found little support on his line from his central pairing.
The Burgh tried to immediately find a way back into the game, Scott Barbour and his strike partner, PA Bruce, linking up with passes through the Blue Toon’s midfield and defence before the former let loose with a low effort from the right. But while it beat the ‘keeper, Barbour’s shot also beat the goal mouth, turning just past the right post to keep the Toon ahead.
A period of end-to-end gameplay followed, with either side snatching at their chances, Fraser McLaren notably wasting an opportunity to put his side further ahead when he fired over the bar when an effort either side of Cowe would have surely provided goal. A travelling Burgh support, however, in good moods throughout the day, regaled the striker with shouts of ‘Peterhead’ for his miss.
The Blue Toon had gone into the game as favourites for bossing possession at the Balmoor, but were occasionally outclassed by their Highland League opponents’ better use of the ball across the floor. Peterhead, instead, made the most of the visitors’ mistakes.
And it was a horror back-pass by Russell McBride that saw the Toon end the half 2-0 to the good, the Burgh captain attempting to find Cowe’s hands with a looping header back towards the goal. It, however, found first-half substitute McAllister, who had come on for McLaren at 36 minutes, who promptly dispatched the ball low and into the bottom left.
Still refusing to let go of the game, the last effort of the half saw Grant Noble pick up a Bruce rebound to try and steal a goal before the whistle. Unfortunately, the Toon were showing why they had bossed their division in the last season and were up to the challenge of clearing it off the line.
The second-half saw both sides field fringe players as rafts of substitutions began to break up the pace of the game. A notable change saw Mark Cowie, brother to Ryan and Peterhead’s Dean, return to the Burgh fray, the midfielder having left the game midway through last season.
Chances, meanwhile, were at a premium.
Barbour continued to threaten with shots outside of the box, regularly battling his marker, Jamie Stevenson, to loose balls, but neither side looked capable of adding to the goal tally.
Sharp’s testimonial, as a result, ended 2-0 to the applause of both sets of supporters. The game had provided the Peterhead man with the celebration he undoubtedly deserved, and the Burgh with a much needed test of fitness before heading into a long Highland League season.