Peterhead manager Jim McInally has labelled tonight’s game with Annan Athletic as the first of two “crucial” clashes in the League Two title race.
The Blue Toon travel to Galabank six points behind leaders Montrose, with their sights set on the automatic promotion place occupied by the Gable Endies.
McInally’s men have two games in hand on Montrose, though, so could draw level or even ahead on points if they win tonight, Saturday and next Tuesday.
He said: “It’s a game in hand and we’ve always said these are going to be crucial.
“With what happened to us on Saturday (a 1-1 draw with Berwick Rangers at Balmoor), with injuries and suspensions, to not be any further behind (Montrose) was a bonus and now we have to try to close that gap tonight.”
Peterhead’s form has waned slightly of late, with the Blue Toon having not won in their last three outings, one of which was against Montrose and the other two – against Edinburgh City and Berwick Rangers – meetings with sides in the bottom half.
McInally has been hit by a wave of suspensions and injuries to senior players, although this is starting to ease.
He also expressed his pleasure at the performances of the Blue Toon’s young players Russell McLean, Aidan McIlduff, Jason Brown, Mason Robertson, Scott Brown, Aaron Norris and Scott Adams, who are all still in their teens or early 20s.
Peterhead can take confidence from having beaten Annan three times already this term, twice in the league and once in the Irn-Bru Cup.
McInally said: “We’ve beaten them three times this season – we beat them in the cup.
“The players will be confident, but it’ll be a tough game because it’s an astro-turf pitch.
“We scraped through the first time with a goal from Jamie Stevenson.
“I always think back-to-back games for part-time teams are really tough.
“At least we’ll be able to bring Jamie Stevenson and Willie Gibson back, so we can freshen it up a wee bit, which is something that’s important.
“Simon (Ferry, who doesn’t play on artificial surfaces) will drop out, but we’ve got Willie back.”
Annan are currently without a win in five games and sit sixth in the League Two standings, but McInally doesn’t think Peterhead should be resigned to finishing second if they fail to beat them tonight.
He said: “There’s a long way to go and a lot of football to be played – we’ve still got a third of the season to go.”