Jim McInally was disappointed his Peterhead side couldn’t keep their hopes of Betfred Cup progression alive after a 2-0 loss to Stirling Albion.
The League Two teams met at Balmoor with Albion playing for pride, while the Blue Toon knew they’d have to win and then beat Premiership Dundee on Wednesday.
However, with McInally’s men, who have yet to score this term, pushing for victory, they were sucker-punched by goals from Peter MacDonald and Martin Stewart in both halves.
McInally, whose team have two points from three games in Group D, said: “It’s disappointing that we can’t qualify, even though it was a long shot.
“We’ve done quite well the last couple of years.
“Watching the game it was apparent we were out on our feet.
“When we didn’t score early doors when we had really good chances, you think: ‘They could come back to haunt us’.
“And that’s what happened, they picked us off.”
After just a minute, Ross Kavanagh could have opened the scoring for Peterhead after the ball ran past Albion centre-back Jason Marr. However, the midfielder pulled his right-footed shot wide.
On eight minutes the visitors opened the scoring, Stewart exchanging passes with MacDonald before the latter slotted into the left bottom corner past Fleming from 10 yards.
Right midfielder Scott Brown was then forced off with a hamstring injury, with Aaron Norris on.
However, right on the stroke of half-time skipper Rory McAllister volleyed a gilt-edged chance to equalise across goal after the ball dropped from a Willie Gibson free-kick.
After the break, Fleming made a fine, low, left-handed stop to prevent Stewart from firing into the bottom right corner.
Stewart finally got his goal from a corner on 71 minutes, side-footing in Jordan Allan’s left-footed corner from close range to seal it.
after the game, McInally said his young centre-backs, Jason Brown and Cameron Eadie, had been taught a lesson by Stewart and MacDonald.
And he said his team would need to improve in a few areas to avoid a big defeat against Dundee in Peterhead.
He said: “They gave our two young boys a wee bit of a lesson in strength and movement.
“On other occasions when the ball came into the box we didn’t win enough headers.
“These things were all prominent in the game.
“I know we’ve missed a lot of chances but so did they.
“They seemed to play with a freedom. They couldn’t qualify so they came and played, and we just looked like a team who were trying to chase something that wasn’t there.”
McInally said his team need to use the game against Neil McCann’s Dees as a springboard ahead of the first League Two game against Queen’s Park, with promotion the aim after losing in the play-off final last term.
He added: “I’m trying to put it down to some of them still playing catch up (with match fitness). We need to dust ourselves down, because if we play like that on Wednesday we could get a hiding and we need to make sure that doesn’t happen obviously.”
One positive for Peterhead was veteran striker Derek Lyle coming on for McAllister to make his debut after injury.
Lyle looked lively and fellow new boy Paddy Boyle could come in for Wednesday, with Mick Dunlop set for a possible debut in the next week.