A largely disappointing 2018 for Peterborough United came to a close two days ago. Could the final year of the decade (shit, when/how did that happen?) be kick-started against Scunthorpe United? James went along to see.
In the most unsurprising news of the day, Posh named an identical lineup to the one that mullered Accrington the other day. Meanwhile, Stuart McCall’s Scunthorpe side looked to be stretched to the limits, with only 5 of a possible 7 substitutes named. It all looked so good for Posh; we looked comfortable for the first 90 seconds or so… and that was the end of the positives. A poor free kick from Marcus Maddison was pumped away for George Thomas to chase, and it needed some excellent work from Tyler Denton to ensure Scunthorpe didn’t have a clear run on goal inside 5 minutes, as the home sections of London Road began to twitch.
Thomas was involved again seconds later, when a sweetly struck shot whistled over the head of Conor O’Malley and dipped onto the crossbar, rebounded onto the line (or apparently over it, if your favourite colour is claret and the second line of your address confuses internet swear filters) and was scrambled away by Bennett. Incredibly, Leicester loanee Thomas was struck by further bad luck when he worked the channel, anticipated the total breakdown in communication between O’Malley, Rhys Bennett and Jason Naismith and slotted past the Posh goalkeeper. 1-0 Scunthorpe… or it would have been, had Ryan Tafazolli not stretched and blocked the effort. It really wasn’t very good.
Posh’s midfield looked to grab the game by the scruff of the neck, and they did just that in the fifth minute. Joe Ward wrestled possession back from Levi Sutton, and drilled a perfectly weighted through ball through the defence towards the London Road End. Of course, we were defending this goal, and the former Woking winger had, quite ridiculously, played Scunny’s Lee Novak in one-on-one with O’Malley. With no defender within 15 yards of the former Huddersfield striker, it was an easy finish to make it 1-0. New year, same old ineptitude.
We needed to break the Scunthorpe resolve quickly. Unfortunately, Marcus Maddison-the man most like the create something- was having an off day. On the rare occasion that any crosses evaded the first man, it wasn’t converted or necessarily met by a teammate: for instance, when Joe Ward ran to the far post and then bizarrely stopped, instead of stretching every sinew in his body to connect. Ward then turned would-be provider for Toney, when his in-swinging cross landed on Posh’s top scorer’s head, only to see it drift wide. When one of the most reliable goalscorers in League One doesn’t deliver, it’s a good sign that you might be bollocksed.
Scunny carried on holding their own, not creating chances, yet defending firmly. Posh were just so so sloppy in possession, and Jak Alnwick-the brother of our former goalkeeper Ben ‘Bonking’ Alnwick- had very little to do in the Iron goal. On the odd occasion that we did venture into the penalty area, Alnwick joined the 6900 spectators, bemused at the lack of quality on show; Naismith and the impressive Siriki Dembele both sent drilled crosses across the 6 yard box, neither of which received the single crucial touch. Toney and Ward both sent volleys from Maddison crosses wide of the target, before Ward swung a shot so far over the bar that it probably wouldn’t even have counted as a conversion in rugby. It was really shit, and half time came round to put us out of our misery. Some of our players looked hungover from the night before, and things needed to change.
Absolutely nothing changed at halftime.
Scunthorpe continued to build, slowly but surely. The excellent George Thomas nearly caught out Conor O’Malley with a cross-cum-shot towards the far post, but fortunately, the ball grazed the woodwork before trickling out of play. Now, one of the keys to Posh’s success at Accrington was the tactical shift involving Alex Woodyard; his high pressing suits a more advanced role when out of possession, but it somewhat falls down when he’s got the ball at his feet in an attacking situation, as was evidenced by the horrendous cross he put in after some excellent terrier like work to regain possession. Generally, the tip of the diamond lends itself to more creative individuals-think George Boyd, or Lee Tomlin- so to play a man with as much flair as a bag of B&Q budget cement isn’t always going to bear fruit. Woodyard’s lack of attacking prowess was exposed once more moments later, when an excellent run from Dembele concluded with a drilled cross. Woodyard was the only supporting player, and instead of trapping the ball and getting a shot away from 10 yards, he tried a quite ridiculous first time backheel. He ended up flat on his face, with the ball trickling out for a throw in.
Frustration among the crowd spilled onto the pitch, as Ivan Toney was cautioned for handbags with the Scunthorpe goalkeeper, and he was joined in the book by James Perch and one time Man United regular Cameron Borthwick-Jackson for needless misdemeanours, as the initially excellent referee Ollie Yates began to lose control. That frustration turned to full blown anger just minutes later; Louis Reed cut out a cross, dallied on the ball inside his own six yard box and just about clung onto possession after pressure by Kyle Wootton. Most players would appreciate this incredible let off and pump the ball clear, but bizarrely, Reed elected not to do so. Lee Novak closed the former Blades midfielder down and lashed a low shot past O’Malley. Scunthorpe led 2-0.
Jak Alnwick was booked in the aftermath of that goal for his overly exuberant celebration in front of Posh fans. In truth, he could have been shown red and had nobody take his place, and I wouldn’t trust Posh to get a shot on target, let alone score. Reed and Ward were taken off in the aftermath of their mistakes, for Cooper and Godden. Rumour has it that those two substitutes are still wandering around PE2 trying to touch the ball.
The final half hour of this ‘football match’ was a particularly unedifying affair. Scunthorpe excellently slowed the tempo to a snail’s pace, as Posh grew ever more agitated with how their afternoon was going. The only defender who put in a non-negative display was Tyler Denton; Naismith was woeful in attack and defence, Rhys Bennett looks more focused on removing the shirt of the man he’s marking rather than actually defending, and Tafazolli failed to convince before hobbling off with an injury. This injury was a perfect opportunity to augment the forward line; Jason Cummings was lobbed on, as Posh shifted to a 3-1-3-1-2 formation, which in fairness, is not dissimilar to the system that Liverpool won the league with in 1922.
Cummings didn’t make an impact, meaning our attack was more toothless than that time The British Gum Disease Foundation ordered a job lot of Toffee Pennies for the refreshments at one of their monthly meetings. It was just soooooooooo bad. Due to various injuries and stoppages, 6 minutes of additional time were announced by the fourth official. Usually, when 2-0 down, such a sizeable addition is met with a roar of anticipation, in the hope that those 2 goals could somehow materialise. Yesterday, the groans were audible, as the Posh fans didn’t want to see the absolute charade their team had acted out for any longer than necessary. Even louder than the groans following the injury time announcement, were the boos at full time.
So after a quite remarkable away win days earlier, Posh managed to destroy the goodwill that display had generated. It wasn’t just fans who were unhappy: my reliable source tells me that Darragh MacAnthony stormed out with 20 minutes go go. We slipped out of the play offs for the first time this season, and if there are many more displays like that in 2019, we will not get back in them. It’s a big month coming up, and one way or another, we will probably look rather different on 1st February.
Honestly guys, that was immeasurably bad. If you disagree, or want to voice your opinion on anything Posh related, head to our world-famous forum now.