It’s a funny old time to be a Posh fan. Sat handsomely in the table and still in two cup competitions (for what they’re worth), yet there is a general apathy from some quarters of the fanbase. Today, Posh faced relegation threatened Oxford United as they looked for back to back league victories at London Road for only the second time this season. James Bloodworth went along to see what happened.
Following a poignant minute’s silence in honour of the late, great Peter Boizot, Posh were straight out of the blocks, *FORESHADOWING ALERT* using the same side that threw away a lead late on against Bradford 7 days earlier. And they were quick out of the blocks: Siriki Dembele had a whipped shot at goal blocked, before Ivan Toney was judged to have fouled Josh Ruffels whilst chasing a long ball. We were off the hook moments later, when a carbon copy of the Toney chase this time went in Posh’s favour, as Jamie Mackie fouled Joe Ward in the eyes of Charles Breakspear, who whilst not great, was nowhere near as bad as Steve Evans and Karl Robinson will have you believe.
Posh strung together ample incisive attacks in a pulsating first 10 minutes (helped by Oxford’s hopeless centre back Curtis Nelson), and took a much deserved lead when Rhys Bennett’s scuffed ball forwards was flicked on by Matt Godden, whose strike partner Ivan Toney lashed in a left footed half-volley to extend his rich vein of form. Straight from kick off, Posh smelt blood, and a full blooded press by the excellent Toney forced Nelson into a slip, which allowed Godden to test Eastwood, earning a Posh corner. Louis Reed’s deep delivery fell to Colin Daniel, who saw his shot SOMEHOW blocked on the line. It was probably the best period of football London Road has seen this season, and whinging Liverpudlian (I know such a thing is hard to imagine) Robinson was forced to reshuffle his side, shifting to a back 3. This tactical switch was punctuated by a full on blazing row between assistant managers Paul Raynor and Shaun Derry, and their gaffers Evans and Robinson, in what must be one of the most angry touchlines in the history of football.
And then, it went flat. I don’t know why, but it did. It was noticeable. Posh were disorganised. Three out of the back four pushed up, leaving the fourth man (inevitably, Colin Daniel) well behind play, ensuring the entire Oxford team were onside. Ryan Tafazolli failed to trap a single ball, instead scooping it out of play without fail. When it came to defending set pieces, the home side employed the bizarre tactic of 3 defenders marking zonally, and their teammates marking tight to their man; it was miraculous that we weren’t punished for it. To summarise the general disorganisation, there was one occasion when goalkeeper Aaron Chapman caught the ball with ease, and was unsure if he should take his time, or launch a quick counter; to help him, his coach Mark Tyler was telling him to calm down and hold the ball, while Steve Evans was shouting and swearing at him to kick it out quickly…
Soon, the inevitable happened. Rhys Bennett must be the most passive defender I have ever seen on a football pitch; quite how he remains a fixture in this side with Premier League veteran Seb Bassong breathing down his neck is a mystery. Bennett displayed his ineffectual qualities once again, as he failed to tackle or stop Marcus Browne’s cross, allowing James Henry to slip in an equaliser. The ABAX stadium collectively groaned as Posh appeared to have thrown away another lead. Fortunately, none had noticed the assistant referee’s raised flag for offside. It was a dubious decision, to say the least, but Posh were clinging on to a 1-0 lead.
Gavin Whyte stung the palms of Aaron Chapman, before a flurry of yellow cards were shown to Browne, Tafazolli and Jamie Mackie for, quite frankly, sheer idiocy. In spite of a fine opening chunk of the match, the inevitable sucker punch hit Posh. Joe Ward hopelessly misjudged a cross, allowed the ball to find Marcus Browne inside the area. A common-depressing-theme for Posh’s opponents this season is an ability to have as many touches as they fancy inside the Peterborough United penalty area. Karl Robinson’s team were no exception; Marcus Browne had his back to goal and ample time to trap and tee up the ball, before rolling it back to James Henry to belt past Chapman. 1-1, for fuck’s sake.
Going from your best performance of your season to clinging on to a draw at half time is perhaps THE most Peterborough United thing to possibly happen, and sure enough, it happened against The U’s. Whyte again tested Chapman, as Posh were well and truly rattled. Alex Woodyard summed up the complacency that manifested itself on the stroke of half time, as he felt he’d been fouled, hit the deck and pulled the ball into his chest. He gave away a foul and yellow card for handball, the tit. Breakspear mercifully blew for halftime, and in embarrassing scenes, Steve Evans lambasted Louis Reed in front of the 7,000 strong crowd for ‘not fucking running’, before he started a minor argument with a member of the crowd, and his assistant manager Paul Raynor shouted something that started with ‘f’ and ended in ‘uck off’ at a fan.
The interval came and went, and I’d like to say those 20 minutes reinvigorated Posh, but that would be complete bollocks. In fact, the lack of quality on the London Road turf can only be described as stunning. Actually, there was a lack of ball on the London Road turf, as clearances flew up in the air, and individual games of head tennis broke out. I felt like I was trapped in some Clockwork Orange style forced viewing of the (quite frankly, excellent) twitter account Crap 90s Football; it does what it says on the tin, finding and tweeting dodgy footage of terrible play in destitute stadiums from 1990 to 1999. (NB. A classic of the genre is this beautiful header by Mick Bodley, although those lofty heights of shit weren’t quite met yesterday afternoon). There is honestly nothing I can say about the 25 minutes after half time, so I think my unedited match notes probably do this passage of play justice.
Finally, in the 70th minute, as you can see above, there was something to write about. Unfortunately, it was 100 yards away from the goal we were attacking. Colin Daniel tackled James Henry in one of the more competent pieces of defending of his short Posh career. Frustratingly, it ran through to Jamie Mackie, who attempted to round the onrushing Aaron Chapman, but the former Accrington man was dominant, sliding at the Oxford attacker’s feet. The chance wasn’t quite gone, as Chapman bizarrely stayed well off his line, was beaten by a low cross, but was saved by some last ditch Ryan Tafazolli defending. Another well meant but poorly executed defensive move by Daniel presented Oxford with another chance, as the Posh left back tried to head the ball away from danger. Instead, the ball skimmed off of his forehead and allowed James Henry a clear run at goal, but Aaron Chapman kept the ex-Reading man out with a smart stop.
This flurry of ineptitude kicked Steve Evans into life, chucking on Jason Cummings and Mark O’Hara for Louis Reed and Matt Godden, as the home side looked to secure a sought after 3 points. And these switches looked to have provided the necessary momentum to take those points; Siriki Dembele had been quiet for large sections of the match, but he burst into life when chasing what looked like a lost cause, and dug out a fine cross for Jason Cummings. Simon Eastwood was miles out of position, and Cummings simply had to trap the ball, turn and roll it into a virtually empty net. I think somebody ought to pop down to London Road to check on The Cumdog at some point today, as the Scot is probably still there trying to get that same ball under control.
Dembele once again made a gut busting run and dug out a fine cross, which looked to be only a foot or so behind the supporting runners of Cummings, Toney and an oddly quiet Maddison. It was clear that if Posh were to get anything more than a point, the young winger Dembele would play a big part. And in the 75th minute, he did just that. Having taken down a bouncing ball in the centre circle, the Ivorian-born Scot raced away from the Oxford midfield and launched a dipping, swerving shot from over 25 yards. It was one of those that you knew was going in as soon as it left his boot, and it duly did. Posh 2, Oxford 1.
Karl Robinson made his sole substitution of the afternoon, throwing on classy Sheffield United loanee Ricky Holmes to once again try and find a way back for his side, as skipper John Mousinho was sacrificed. Mousinho’s withdrawal meant that Oxford lacked a sitting midfielder, which appeared to catch the Posh coaching staff in two minds: do we resume our default position of sitting deep and weathering the storm? Or push on to put the game to bed? In truth, it was kind of a mixture. Colin Daniel’s speculative shot deflected to Cummings, and he was unlucky to send a diving header wide of the post. Moments later, Cummings’ bad luck turned to… well, just, bad. A fine ball was floated onto the Scottish international’s chest; the control was excellent, and all that was needed was a simple, placed finish from about 12 yards out. So of course, he powered the ball wide. Would this come back to bite Posh?
We all can guess the answer to that. Following these missed opportunities, Posh dropped deeper and deeper. Shoddy defending by Tafazolli allowed Gavin Whyte past him from a wide area, before Colin Daniel inexplicably slid in. There wasn’t a single surprised face in London Road when Breakspear pointed to the penalty mark in the 88th minute. Henry faced Chapman, and kept hid cool, equalising for the annoyingly smug Scouser Robinson and his side. To cap off a highly frustrating afternoon, it absolutely pissed down as four minutes of added time were played out (it was a struggle to see any part of the pitch more than 50 yards from my seat through the downpour, which somehow improved the viewing experience). There were no chances of note after the second equaliser, as what ordinarily would have been a damp squid became a completely sodden one.
Another frustrating day at the office. More points droppd against lowly opponents, and more glum faces around The Abax. Surely we’ll consistently hold on for home victories one day? Have your say on the best place to talk all things Posh now.
James Bloodworth (James)