Jim McInally could not be too hard on his side despite watching them ship two late goals which extinguished their top-five ambitions.
The Blue Toon arrived at Bayview knowing they really needed to beat both East Fife and then Falkirk tomorrow night to make the top half of the split.
They battled well in Methil, leading East Fife until a late sending-off changed the game.
McInally concedes his side needs to be better at defending set-pieces, but still believes the squad has the appetite to now beat back those tucked in behind.
The Balmoor boss said: “We conceded too many corners and free-kicks and we’re not the biggest.
“You can see how young our back four and goalie are. We paid the price eventually.
“Josh Rae has had two brilliant saves from free-kicks and I felt as if it wasn’t open play that was our worry, it was set-plays. It’s hard because there were a lot of good players out on the park.
“We always knew it (top five) was a long shot anyway, but I’m quite happy with what we have.
“We know what we’re up against and we’ll embrace it. We have more than enough and you could see in the first half that we can be OK.”
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The encounter in Fife had everything – three goals, two red cards, numerous thundering challenges and stunning stops from Peterhead keeper Rae. His first came from Danny Denholm when he was at his best to deny the Fife forward from point-blank range.
Peterhead had settled well and took the lead shortly before the 25th-minute mark when Scott Brown’s drive was deflected into Hamish Ritchie’s path. Ritchie could not believe his luck as he picked his spot beyond Brett Long.
Peterhead had the lead, but did not seem content to sit back and defend it. They looked good going forward but, at the same time, fragile at the back.
East Fife were awarded another free-kick on 37 minutes. Ryan Wallace’s strike was heading for the top corner until Rae tipped it wide.
The Peterhead goalie was having a stormer and impressed again to deny Scott Agnew, again from a free-kick.
Ross Davidson became the next to be frustrated by Rae before the moment that shifted the dynamic of the match came on 68 minutes when Andrew McDonald saw red for a last-man challenge on Wallace.
East Fife wasted no time in making their man advantage count and were level soon when Denholm nodded home a Wallace corner.
Peterhead were now stretched and the home side grabbed the winner when Agnew floated a terrific finish into the top corner of the net before Craig Watson was ordered off in the closing minutes.