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Peterhead season review: Room to grow towards brighter future for Blue Toon

Peterhead players celebrate their penalty shoot-out victory over East Kilbride
Peterhead players celebrate their penalty shoot-out victory over East Kilbride.

For much of this season you would have had difficulty convincing Peterhead fans there were reasons to be cheerful.

They flirted with the bottom-two places for longer than many would have liked before stringing together some late-season results.

Survival was the ultimate goal for manager Jim McInally. He accepted a youthful squad was always going to need time to gel and learn on the job in what is an unforgiving league.

The growing pains were evident for much of the campaign, with inexperience costing them in both boxes at times. Remarkably, 11 of their 16 league defeats this season were by the margin of just one goal, highlighting the fact they were always competitive within games.

The improvement in their style of play was hugely encouraging. The younger squad allowed McInally to play a more aggressive, high-tempo style of play, which was anchored by some key finds.

Grant Savoury may well be one of the best signings made by the Peterhead boss in recent years. After a year out of the game, Savoury came to Balmoor in October and has been moulded from a winger into an accomplished central midfielder.

Peterhead midfielder Grant Savoury shoots for goal against Montrose
Peterhead midfielder Grant Savoury.

His attacking instincts and ability to go past opponents have made him an eye-catching player and there are signs he is adding a goalscoring touch to his game. If he continues developing at this pace, a return to full-time football cannot be ruled out.

Ryan Duncan has been an impressive figure on his loan spell from Aberdeen. McInally showed faith in him after an injury-hit start to the season and he became one of their most dynamic players down the right flank.

Still only 18, he is sure to go back to Pittodrie a better player and even earned a call-up to the Scotland under-19 squad after his performances at Balmoor.

Hamish Ritchie has steadily improved in his first full season in the SPFL, Andy McCarthy has been as reliable as ever in the middle of the park and Brett Long has – for most of the season – been a consistent presence between the posts.

There are areas for improvement. Russell McLean has led the line this season but has been critical of himself for the chances he has missed. Niah Payne has been a regular in the side, either up front or out wide, but his return of just two league goals leaves a lot to be desired. A greater goalscoring presence for the Blue Toon is vital to their prospects of climbing the table next season.

Peterhead captain Scott Brown takes aim
Peterhead captain Scott Brown.

There is also the question of what the squad will look like next season. Loan players Duncan and Flynn Duffy will return to their parent clubs, while first-teamers Long, McCarthy, Andy McDonald, Payne, Quitongo and McLean are all out of contract.

A decision will have to be made on whether Owen Cairns will see his loan move from Fraserburgh made into a permanent one, while Simon Ferry will depart

The big question mark will be over the future of Scott Brown. The captain has never made any secret of his desire to return to full-time football and turned down a move to Ayr United in January.

He stated earlier this season he would re-assess his options at the end of his contract and while Peterhead will be desperate to keep such an influential player, they will not stand in his way if a chance to go full-time arises.

If he does move on, Peterhead will certainly not want to lose McCarthy as well. He is a captain in waiting should Brown depart and will only get better with experience. The former Partick Thistle man is another who could return to full-time football at some point in the future.

Peterhead boss Jim McInally.

McInally may have been preparing for some departures in midfield by the signing of Jack Brown. A tenacious, all-action midfielder, his transformation from a holding player at Inverness to an attacking force at Rothes earned him a move back to the SPFL.

He has shown glimpses of his ability so far and may step into a more prominent role should one or more of the other midfielders leave.

The building blocks for an entertaining, exciting team are there at Balmoor. But McInally needs to keep the core of this squad together.

Another substantial rebuild would not be conducive to progression. This was an already a new team this season, which was evolving as the months went on with additions here and there.

If the players are bought into this project for the long-term – there is no reason to suggest they are not – then Peterhead could be moving towards a brighter future.

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