London Road hosted an evening league match for the first time this campaign last night; could the floodlights help Posh as they stared down the barrel at three consecutive defeats? Fleetwood Town provided the opposition in what had the potential to be a fascinating encounter. James Bloodworth decided to forsake The Great British Bake Off’s semi-final and travel to Peterborough and see how this one ended.
Steve Evans recognised the need for a shake up of his starting eleven, with Jamie Walker, Marcus Maddison, Ivan Toney and Louis Reed slotting into the side that lined up with a 4-2-3-1. It was a starting lineup not dissimilar to the one that got completely humiliated by Barnsley a few weeks ago; so the omens were all good then. It was a blustery old night in Cambridgeshire (to highlight how so: assistant manager Paul Raynor ditched his trusty shorts for trousers to combat the conditions) that would have a noticeable effect as play went on.
Much like the Accrington shambles 3 days prior, not much happened in the opening 15 minutes. Kyle Dempsey’s wild effort flew into the London Road End as the visitors pushed for an opener. Fleetwood had a feel of a really disappointing “PREMIER LEAGUE ALL STARS TEAM” who turn up to play a charity match at your local non-league ground; Dean Marney and Ryan Taylor (combined age: approx. 105 years old) anchored the midfield whilst former Welsh international Ched Evans spearheaded the attack. Joey Barton’s recruitment policy is clearly to sign anyone who has played with him and doesn’t consider the one-time England man a totally insufferable tosser.
The decrepit Fleetwood midfield was countered by the fine lateral movement of Alex Woodyard and the faultless Louis Reed. The Yorkshireman was a breath of fresh air, with his guile and style
adding another dimension to what has been a very flat Posh attack in recent weeks. He frequently dropped back into the defence to act as a quarterback, controversially looking up, thinking and taking his time before playing a pass. When further forward, he was always available for a pass in spite of any Fleetwood pressing, and invariably recycled possession in a meaningful way. Reed’s passing crafted the first real opening Posh had, as Dembele received a ball on the edge of the area, danced inside and curled a shot wide of goalkeeper Alex Cairns’ post, in what felt like the Ivorian looking to be fouled and earn a penalty. The Cod Army had a notable chance too; Ryan Taylor whipped in a free kick from the touchline reminiscent of a delivery from his Newcastle United days, but somehow Craig Morgan couldn’t connect with enough purchase to haunt his former club.
Colin Daniel looked unusually competent throughout the evening, as he combined well with Siriki Dembele on several occasions and looked reasonably solid defensively. Maybe he is a left back after all? On one of Daniel’s stampedes forwards, he collided with veteran midfielder Marney, as both men slid for the same ball. A free kick wasn’t given by the generally excellent referee Ollie Yates, although the impact by Daniel was enough to force the former Hull and Burnley man from the field following two bouts of treatment. Harrison Biggins replaced Marney in virtually the last act of a stop-start affair that was in truth, a bit dull.
Half time came and went, and it was Posh who started the second period the brightest. Marcus Maddison was starting only his fifth league match of the season, and went a long to showing why he’s no longer the first name on the team sheet, in spite of his incredible raw talent: he was simply on the wrong wavelength to his teammates throughout the match, constantly making poor decisions (such as, annoyingly, chipping crosses into the box that looked quite nice, but were so easily defended). Posh’s first chance of the second half came through a Maddison led breakaway, but yet again, the Geordie overcomplicated matters and couldn’t play a basic pass to fellow frustrating winger Siriki Dembele. You began to feel that it may not be our night.
The Cod Army were perhaps fortunate to have 11 players on the pitch when Ryan Taylor flew into a high tackle on Siriki Dembele, but the referee was lenient, producing a yellow card for what was a borderline red card tackle. Moments later, Fleetwood were definitely disadvantaged. Maddison finally put in a decent looking cross, which Craig Morgan had to turn behind for a corner. Louis Reed clearly didn’t get the memo that all of our corners should be floated to the far post where they are easily defended, and fizzed in a fantastic delivery right across the 6 yard box, which was met by Rhys Bennett’s forehead. It flew into the bottom corner, as the former Mansfield man scored his second Posh goal, having netted against Blackpool last month. The centre back clearly has a thing for scoring against teams on the Fylde coast, so it is a real shame that Morecambe are no longer in our league.
Ivan Toney had a mixed evening. When he didn’t have the ball, he put in a real shift; when he received it with his back to goal, his link up play was generally fine. When he had a chance to trouble the Fleetwood goal, he generally didn’t. Moments after Bennett’s goal, Toney spotted Alex Cairns off his line, but his 40 yard chip just didn’t have enough purchase to double the Posh lead. Moments later, the former Newcastle man led a Posh breakaway, and after excellently cutting the ball onto his left foot past Ashley Eastham, skewed a shot comically wide of the far post. Toney was unfortunate to see his close range shot blocked in the 6 yard box, just seconds after Ched Evans had a shot blocked down the other end. Incredibly, a football match was in danger of breaking out at The ABAX.
Fleetwood had a plethora of chances to get onto the score sheet. Colin Daniel, whilst generally excellent, lost his man Wes Burns who attacked at pace and tested Chapman with a high shot. Substitute Chris Long fired a low shot inches wide of the post, whilst Ashley Hunter fired a volley into the ground, and subsequently over the bar. Joe Ward was generally excellent-out of position at right back- although on one occasion, he was outmuscled out side by Kyle Dempsey, whose dangerous looking cross was held by Chapman, on one of the rare instances of his Posh career that he came off of his line. The more Fleetwood pressed, the more Posh resisted, and the more Fleetwood manager Joey Barton got frustrated, as his high pitched Scouse whinging intensified.
Posh looked to consolidate the lead by bringing on usual right back Jason Naismith and pushing Ward onto a more familiar right wing role. Naismith had the air of the 3rd XV rugby player that your university football team drafted in because the regular substitutes were all hungover, as he trundled on in place of the out-of-sorts Marcus Maddison. Ched Evans is an experienced shithouse of a footballer, and used it to his advantage all night against Rhys Bennett and Ryan Tafazolli, although the Posh defence just about coped. On the one occasion they didn’t, goalscorer Bennett went all under 12s football and allowed the ball to bounce in front of him, allowing Evans to get one on one with Chapman… Before Louis Reed came out of nowhere to execute a perfect slide tackle, displaying Northern grit to go with the silky skill. This would be Reed’s last act of the match, as the heroic tackle left him in pain, and his place was taken by celtic battering ram Mark O’Hara.
The 80th minute rolled around, and Posh were far from home and dry. Ashley Hunter’s long range shot was just about fumbled behind by Aaron Chapman, before Chris Long had yet another shot fly wide of the target. Jamie Walker was excellent as an attacking midfielder last night, and he was unfortunate that a delightful ball over to Dembele was not controlled by the ex-Grimsby winger, as the search for the elusive second goal continued. We looked to have doubled our lead though moments later, as Ivan Toney connected with an excellent free kick to volley past Cairns, but he was denied by a raised offside flag. Paul Raynor and Steve Evans were allegedly shown the incident by a member of Posh staff, and shock horror, felt that he wasn’t offside. As opposed to focusing on factors they could control, they spent the next few minutes shouting at a man they couldn’t control over a past decision he had no ability to change. Siriki Dembele had a frustrating evening, and he was withdrawn for George Cooper as 6 minutes of injury time flashed up on the fourth official’s board, to the disgust of Evans.
Posh were seemingly in panic mode. As opposed to keeping possession, they looked to twat the ball as far away as possible at every given opportunity, as the feeling that Fleetwood were going to score intensified. Throughout injury time, the only person in the visitor’s half was the Fleetwood goalkeeper, as Posh parked the bus like a plucky League 2 side trying to preserve a famous away draw in The FA Cup against Burnley. You got the impression that Steve Evans’ next idea of Ivan Toney keeping the ball in the corner for about 4 minutes probably wasn’t going to be wholly viable. Jason Naismith was cautioned for time wasting as the full time whistle drew nearer, but this was a rookie mistake by the referee; Naismith does indeed move at glacial pace whether we’re searching for an equaliser or holding on for a narrow victory. A few Fleetwood long balls later, and the free pips of the whistle came. Posh had held on to claim their first clean sheet at London Road since April, when we beat… Fleetwood Town. More importantly, it was a first win at home since August, as they remained in second ahead of a trip to Burton.
So, by no means a classic, but 3 points is 3 points. Fleetwood will feel hard done by not to have stolen a point, but I’m sure they’ll cope. One of the biggest positives has to be the emergence of my stand out performer Louis Reed, who ought to have a nailed on spot in the team, assuming his injury last night is only minor. Alex Woodyard picked up the sponsor’s man of the match award, and he was just as impressive as his partner in a more defensive capacity. It was refreshing to see Posh not collapse under pressure and at times play nice football. It remains to be seen whether Evans has repaired his cracked home team with wallpaper or plaster, mind.
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