Peterborough crashed to their third league defeat running, losing 1-0 at the hands of Darren Ferguson’s Preston.
All the hype before the game surrounded Darren Ferguson’s return to the team where he made a name for himself, all the more fired up by Darragh MacAnthony’s statement (http://www.theposh.com/page/NewsDetail/0,,10427~1943993,00.html). Darren enjoyed two highly successful years at London Road but if he was expecting a hero’s welcome he was to be mistaken especially after the recent comment by the Posh chairman.
Cooper, Ferguson’s replacement, brought Whelpdale in to replace Craig Mackail-Smith who was suffering from illness. The good news for Peterborough was that George Boyd was fit to start, further increasing his record for most consecutive starts in a Posh shirt.
Darren Ferguson’s Preston squad was also bolstered by the news that Danny Welbeck had joined from Manchester United and was available to start, further adding to the confusion surrounding Darren Ferguson was that, allegedly, Peterborough had tried to sign the Man United youngster to be told that Sir Alex Ferguson wouldn’t loan Welbeck out to a Championship club.
However after all the build up, everything about the game was rather subdued. Ferguson, mobbed by cameras on his way out to the visitors dug-out, saw Preston have the best chance of the early build up but Bennett managed to hook the ball away before Michael Hart, running from deep, was able to get a shot in from close-range.
Chris Whelpdale blazed a long range shot over the bar after cutting inside from the right flank, and then had a very similar opportunity moments later which he directed, left-footed, towards the goal but it had the same outcome with the ball travelling over Andy Lonergan’s cross-bar.
Transfer listed Aaron McLean wasted the best opportunity of the match for the hosts; heading a brilliant George Boyd cross straight into the hands of Lonergan in the Preston goal. Boyd himself went close, after a great bit of skill on the edge of the area but sent his curling effort just wide of the Preston goal.
Josh Simpson was next up to try his luck from distance for Peterborough but his shot was saved well by Lonergan who turned the ball behind for a Peterborough corner. The resulting set-piece was tame by Livermore and was an easy catch for Lonergan who was becoming the busier of the two goal-keepers.
In the 34th minute Neil Mellor gave Darren Ferguson’s new team the lead, after Gilbert’s poor pass was put straight onto the run of Wallace who played in the former Liverpool man to run and fire a shot into the top left hand corner of Lewis’ goal. Ferguson’s celebrations were muted, a quick clench of the fist however Kevin Russell could not contain his emotion sprinting off down the touchline in jubilation. It seemed a little disrespectful to the club that had given him his chance in professional football.
Simpson once again had a shot from distance but his dipping effort flew over the top of the Preston goal, like many in the first half that had seen Posh waste numerous opportunities from the edge of the Preston area.
After a quiet first half, the second period continued in the same manner and it wasn’t until ten minutes into the second half that the first moment of note came. After a good bit of work from Callum Davidson, who was stretchered off later in the match, Richard Chaplow’s header was expertly saved by Joe Lewis who had little to do so far in the match.
Neil Mellor almost had his second of the game but after his first shot was only parried by Lewis; his second was cleared off the line by Ryan Bennett. The former Liverpool man looked threatening all game cutting in from the right hand side to act as a third striker.
Cooper brought on Izale McLeod to replace Reuben Reid and switched Boyd into the ‘hole’ behind the strikers, reverting to a ‘diamond’ style formation as Posh looked to get back onto level terms.
George Boyd provided the first Peterborough moment in the second half as he fired an ambitious shot at Lonergan’s goal, on the slid, from a good thirty five yards, but the Preston goalkeeper was equal to the challenge diving low down to his left and collecting the ball before a Posh striker could get onto the rebound.
McLeod’s turn of pace saw him break through the Preston defence but he crossed from a tight angle and the ball was scrambled away, two minutes later the same chance arose but, like an action reply of the first, the cross from a tight angle was scrambled away from Mawene in the Preston defence.
Peterborough continued to put pressure on Preston’s goal in the five minutes stoppage time which was indicated by the referee but Preston dealt with any threat without Posh creating a clear-cut chance for themselves.
Peterborough’s slim chance of survival has almost vanished now as relegation looks a certainty. The statement before the game, by chairman MacAnthony was full of pride and passion but the performance was anything but as Posh just don’t seem to have the class to make it at this level. Only Lee and Livermore, both brought up through the Tottenham academy, seemed to consistently want the ball and drive Posh forward as others lacked the effort that is needed to win any fixture.
PETERBOROUGH: 1) Lewis, 2) Gilbert, 29) Bennett, 6) Lee, 30) Griffiths, 18) Whelpdale (Frecklington), 33) Simpson, 36) Livermore, 9) McLean (Wright), 10) Boyd, 35) Reid (McLeod).
PRESTON: 1) Lonergan, 2) Hart, 5) Mawene, 12) St.Ledger, 3) Davidson (Carter), 19) Jones, 4) Chaplow, 25) Wallace, 33) Mellor (Parkin), 18) Welbeck (Collins), 9) Brown.