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Russell McLean: Facing Hearts first in League Cup can pay dividends later for Peterhead

Russell McLean, left, during the 2017 win over Hearts
Russell McLean, left, during the 2017 win over Hearts

Peterhead attacker Russell McLean reckons playing Premiership side Hearts in their opening League Cup game will benefit the Blue Toon for the season ahead.

The Balmoor men are in Group A of this season’s Premier Sports Cup alongside Caley Thistle, Cove Rangers, Stirling Albion and the Jambos.

While newly-promoted Hearts are the group favourites, McLean hopes facing them first will prove rewarding for the Blue Toon across the rest of their matches and beyond.

Ahead of Saturday’s match at Balmoor (3pm), McLean said: “We play the two higher-ranked teams in the first two games so we’ll get them out the road and see where we stand.

“We’re fortunate we play Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday-Saturday. If we played Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday then had to play Hearts the next Tuesday we’d probably be knackered and it could be a disaster.

“But if we want to progress we’re going to need to try to get something out of either of the two games or both.

“If we do that then we can look at going to beat Cove and Stirling, which we should be looking to do, so anything from the first two would be a bonus.”

Heart-breakers

McLean is no stranger to causing a League Cup upset.

In his first spell at Peterhead, he was in the side which shocked the Jambos 2-1 at Balmoor in July 2017.

Then-Hearts attacker Kyle Lafferty levelled after Jason Brown had opened the scoring that night, with Rory McAllister netting a last-gasp penalty winner in the 90th minute.

“I remember Balmoor being almost full and thinking about 15 minutes into the game that we were battering them,” recalled McLean, who rejoined Peterhead this summer after spells at Montrose and Forfar Athletic.

Goalscorers Jason Brown, left, and Rory McAllister celebrate against the Jambos

“Without getting carried away, we did pass them off the pitch for large parts of the game and never really looked like getting beat.

“We were pretty comfortable and played really well, hopefully we can do the same again on Saturday.

“The average age of the team from when I was last here to now must be well down.

“But there’s enough experience in the team that we should be able to handle ourselves on Saturday.”

Fitness first

The Blue Toon have managed to play a couple of pre-season friendlies despite their match against Turriff United last weekend being called off due to a positive Covid test at the Haughs club.

Jim McInally’s men have, however, beaten Inverurie Locos 2-1, drew 1-1 with Forfar and defeated Broughty Athletic 4-3.

McLean netted the equalising goal against Forfar and reckons, while pre-season preparations have been far from ideal, the Balmoor men will be ready for competitive action.

He said: “Pre-season’s been good. It has been a bit strange for me because I had to wait a bit longer to sign as I was making my mind up on what I was going to do.

“So I was a bit later into pre-season but it’s been good – a lot of running, as you’d expect.

“Obviously we want to get out the (League Cup) group but first and foremost it’s about getting boys fit and playing together.”

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