Peterhead manager Jim McInally said last night was “a step too far” after his side lost their final Betfred Cup Group D game against Raith Rovers 3-1.
Victory at Stark’s Park could have seen the part-timers go through on nine points, but they ran out of steam after a campaign which has seen them beat Cove (2-1), as well as taking two points off Inverness and one off Dundee – both Championship contenders.
The Blue Toon conceded in the fourth minute to fellow League One side Raith – who are full-time –Kieron Bowie grabbing the opener, before Michael Miller and Lewis Allan added goals in the 22nd and 80th minutes.
Ben Armour scored a consolation for the visitors with two minutes remaining.
McInally said: “It was a tired performance. We certainly didn’t start the game well and they did.
“We gifted a goal with being slack and were chasing. Their second was a bit of a wonder goal into the top corner.
“We then had a really good spell for 15 or 20 minutes before half-time, where we really had them under a bit of pressure, then after half-time for about five minutes. We needed a goal in one of those spells and never got it.
“In the second half we did have a lot of the ball, but then in the last part we tired again. It was just a step too far I think.”
McInally thinks the way the fixtures have turned out in Group D has been a struggle for his part-time charges and they can be proud of their efforts.
He added: “We’ve drawn the short straw playing three full-time teams in seven days.
“Our boys have been playing Saturday against Dundee (0-0 draw at Dens Park), having to work really hard to play their part in the game. Then yesterday and today they’re at their work.
“Raith Rovers are in preparing for the game. It’s a big advantage.
“But, to be fair, they (Raith) played really well for half an hour in the first half. They passed it round us and we couldn’t get to them.
“I’m delighted with it (the Betfred Cup campaign). I said to the players not to look at the negative of last night.
“If you want excuses there’s plenty – full-time v part-time, the heat being 25 degrees – they get the benefit of the doubt and we now prepare for a big game against Falkirk on Saturday.”
Peterhead now have 10 days to get ready for the league season-opening Balmoor clash with the Bairns, which also marks the League Two champions’ return to the higher tier.
McInally said: “It’s something to really look forward to. We’re going to train at Forfar on Friday, let them off Saturday and Sunday, back up to Forfar on Tuesday and then train on Thursday again.”
Armour’s late goal was his first since joining the club in the summer. The 21-year-old had missed a chance to win the game at Dens on Saturday and McInally was pleased to see him get going with what was just his second senior goal.
He said: “I thought it was his first senior goal, but he tells me it’s his second.”