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Jim McInally left to rue penalty decisions as Peterhead’s Betfred Cup run ends

Peterhead's Andy McCarthy, left, in action against St Johnstone.
Peterhead's Andy McCarthy, left, in action against St Johnstone.

There was a sense of injustice at Balmoor after Peterhead’s League Cup campaign came to an end with defeat to St Johnstone.

The Blue Toon were hoping to cause a shock by progressing from Group C, despite it containing two Premiership teams.

A victory in 90 minutes, or on penalties, would have seen them top the section, while taking one point for drawing and losing the shoot-out may also have been good enough to progress as one of the four best runners-up.

But a brace of second half penalties – awarded by referee Euan Anderson and converted by Stevie May – dented the Buchan outfit’s chances.

The first in the 48th minute was particularly contentious with Jason Brown penalised for pulling at a corner. It was the sort of incident which occurs in every game at almost every set piece and goes unpunished, but not on this occasion.

Peterhead manager Jim McInally said: “I’m disappointed to go behind to two penalty kicks. We’d worked so hard to stay in the game.

“We were a wee bit of a victim, because I’ve watched Euan Anderson referee Celtic and Rangers games and I’ve seen a lot of pushing and pulling in the box and I don’t know if I’ve ever seen him giving a penalty for it.

“At the end of the day, if it’s a penalty for pulling in this game then it’s a penalty in every game because I watch it happening in every game. But it’s easier to give them in games that are less important to individuals, so I’ll watch in future and see what he thinks.

“Of course the first penalty decision changes the game and the other thing that changed was the wind died down.

“You’ve no room for error when you play Premiership teams because they’re pretty ruthless when it comes to taking opportunities.”

Jim McInally.

The second spot-kick arrived on the hour mark with May hitting the turf when attempting to turn away from Kieran Freeman.

McInally added: “For the second one, the boy (May) has been clever. It’s hard enough playing Premiership teams without conceding penalties, because I thought we matched them really well up until the first penalty.

“Then for 15 or 20 minutes we were a bit ragged, because obviously the boys were a bit disillusioned.

“But they came back and kept fighting until the end.

“We’ve got eight points out of a group that nobody would have given us a hope in, it’s just a pity that we couldn’t see it through.”

Playing against a stiff breeze in the first half, Peterhead defended well with Craig Conway’s whipped free-kick touched wide by Shaun Rooney the closest either side came.

The first Saints spot-kick came three minutes after the interval, but the part-time side responded positively and forced a flurry of corners with Scott Brown having a header scrambled off the line.

May’s second penalty conversion gave the visitors a cushion which they added to 13 minutes from time, with Callum Hendry setting up Chris Kane on the left side to beat Lenny Wilson at his near post.

The Blue Toon rallied and scored seconds later with a good move culminating in Lyall Cameron’s low cross being turned into his own net by Shaun Rooney.

Despite more late pressure, Peterhead couldn’t mount a comeback and midfielder Andrew McCarthy said: “We’ve done well (in the group), but you want to get through and all of us are disappointed.”

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