Jim McInally insisted the League Two title race was far from over after Peterhead’s 2-1 defeat to Stenhousemuir handed rivals Montrose the advantage in the championship chase.
The Blue Toon’s defeat at Balmoor, combined with the Gable Endies’ 2-1 win over Annan, means the sides are tied on 58 points. McInally’s men are ahead on goal difference, but Montrose have eight games left to Peterhead’s seven.
The pair meet on Saturday at Links Park.
McInally was disappointed with his side’s display against Stenny and said: “There are seven cup finals left.
“Stenny (fourth) are going to keep picking up points and Stirling Albion (third) are going to keep picking up points.
“There’s a long way to go still. And thankfully our midweek games are out of the road now and all these teams need to go and play.
“We were outplayed and sadly we were out-fought, especially in the first half. They were certainly better than us by a country mile.
“We looked tired and we looked as though we were waiting for somebody to do something. But all our talisman players were all poor at the one time.
“Our defending was shocking to say the least and it’s hard to win a game of football.
“They played with a freedom we didn’t play with. We were really tense, poor and nervy.
“From the very first kick of the ball we were really poor – it’s hard to legislate for that.
“Everything disappoints me about it, except the scoreline because I thought it could have been more.
“I’ve said to the players that they quickly need to forget about it and move on to Saturday.
“It’s a game they should turn up and enjoy, but they can’t be that easily swept aside or they’ll be in trouble again.”
The hosts created the first opening on five minutes when a nice passing move culminated in returning striker Rory McAllister having a shot from 20 yards tipped wide.
Up the other end Mark McGuigan was denied by goalie Greg Fleming when he was through on goal.
But McGUIGAN opened the scoring on 17 minutes when Harry Paton’s long ball sent him in behind the Blue Toon defence and he rounded Fleming before finishing.
And just after the half hour Ross Meechan’s long throw-in was misjudged by Mason Robertson and it allowed Colin McMENAMIN to lash home from 12 yards at the back post.
The Blue Toon toiled without creating much and McInally sent on subs Karim Belmokhtar, Chris Johnston and Jordon Brown in an attempt to turn the game.
The Warriors were still comfortable but with 10 minutes left Peterhead had a lifeline when Ross Dunlop fouled McALLISTER on the edge of the area and he curled the free-kick into the top corner. However, despite late pressure, they were unable to force home an equaliser.