A spirited second half performance was not enough to stop Posh from losing, 1-0, to a lacklustre Middlesbrough side.
Jim Gannon started with a 4-4-1-1 formation, with Mackail-Smith being the unfortunate man to find a place on the bench; Gannon also subbed the former Dagenham man off at Cardiff in mid-week, with Aaron McLean replacing his regular striker partner. George Boyd looked to provide the link between the midfield and the lonely McLean. Tommy Rowe started once again, under Gannon, his former boss.
Gordon Strachan handed Lee Miller a debut replacing Chris Killen up-front. David Wheater also returned to the heart of the Middlesbrough defence after missing out in ‘Boro’s’ last fixture against Barnsley. Wheater was the only player that started both games between the two sides.
The first moment of note came early on as a low stinging drive from Josh Walker was turned round the post by Peterborough United goal-keeper Joe Lewis.
The Posh were once again caught napping, Jonathon Franks excellent run saw him use his pace to get beyond Peterborough full-back Charlie Lee and open some space towards the by-line, the youngster then cut the ball back to the on-rushing Barry Robson who was left un-marked, running from deep, and the Scot duly despatched scoring his first goal for Middlesbrough after moving from Celtic.
The goal still didn’t wake the Peterborough defence up and they were once again caught napping after a long-ball found Lee Miller but his shot, from a tight angle, was deflected over the cross-bar from Ryan Bennett.
Peterborough were looking wasteful in possession and struggling to settle in the early stages and Scott McDonald, another new arrival, tested his luck from distance, after a quick counter attack but his shot flew over the Peterborough United goal.
Scott McDonald had another chance later on in the half, after Posh seem to find their feet in the game and retained the ball better than they had in the opening stages, where the passing was largely wasted, but his headed attempt went wide of the mark after a cross to the back-post evaded his marker Bennett in the air.
Barry Robson picked up the first booking of the game after he raised his foot very high resulting in a kung-fu like kick to Tommy Rowe’s head, this left the ex Stockport winger needing treatment from Peterborough physio Keith Oakes.
Posh first real chance fell to Ryan Bennett after a short corner ended up finding its way to the back-post but he headed his header down and into the ground, when it looked as if it would have been better if he had headed the ball back across goal, and it was easy to claim for Danny Coyne.
Coyne was called into action once again when Lee Frecklington, who had a poor first half, hit a curling shot from the edge of the area but the ‘keeper got across well to make a smart save on the stroke of half-time.
Posh started the second half brightly and passed the ball around well, without creating much, this forced manager Jim Gannon into making the games first changes bringing on Rueben Reid and Josh Simpson to replace Charlie Lee and Tom Williams as the ‘gaffer’ looked to give his side more attacking intent to go with their possession.
As the game opened up Franks saw more space down the right-hand side, where is also had the lively Bennett supporting him, and Franks’ shot was saved well by goalkeeper Lewis at full stretch.
Middlesbrough’s substitutes, Leroy Lita and Jeremie Aliadiere, had created more pace up-front as the home side looked to catch the visitors on the break as they committed more men forward to search for an elusive equaliser.
Rueben Reid was creating problems cutting inside from the right hand side, but his first cross was put behind McLean and Boyd who were ready to pounce in the area and the second was miss-controlled by George Boyd who had had a rare off-day in a Posh shirt.
Middlesbrough themselves had chances to seal the game on the counter attack but Bennett and Morgan did a good job at the back for Posh, dealing with any danger that was put on Posh.
The home side looked nervous as Peterborough continued to exert pressure on the Middlesbrough defence, that was a mix of youthful exuberance and more experienced players and the visiting support always felt that one more chance would come before the final whistle.
The chance eventually came in the final minute of injury time. Lee Frecklington’s free-kick, from 35 yards out, was floated into the Middlesbrough box and Craig Morgan stretched to keep the ball in, Morgan’s pass flashed across the box and Josh Simpson had a glorious opportunity for the away-side to snatch an impressive point, with half the side of the net gapping Simpson hesitated and didn’t make any meaningful contact with the ball, this created time for a wall of Middlesbrough defenders to stand on the line and David Wheater managed to deflect Simpson’s shot off the line.
The difference between the better sides in the division and Peterborough, who are now twelve points off safety, is not as vast as it may seem to the naked eye. It seems though that others are a lot more intelligent and clinical in-front of goal, Posh had enough chances to at least earn a hard-earned point at The Riverside stadium today but were wasteful when the opportunity did arise, a story that has been a common occurrence so far this season.
Another interesting statistic is that Posh have not seen a lead, away from home, since they played Leicester City at The Walkers Stadium. Other teams seem happy to fend off pressure that Posh are exerting and bide their time to create, the inevitable opportunity, something that Peterborough don’t seem to have the ability to do. This has seen The Posh slip further and further away from safety and the season, which was built up with much hype, has been a complete false dawn and looks to be petering away into insignificance with only the most optimistic of Peterborough fans not being resigned to relegation.
Middlesbrough: 21) Coyne, 27) Bennett, 19) McManus, 31) Wheater, 33) Naughton, 28) Franks, 17) Robson, 14) Flood, 22) Walker (Hoyte), 7) McDonald (Lita), 18) Miller (Aliadiere).
Peterborough: 1) Lewis, 3) Williams (Simpson), 4) Morgan, 29) Bennett, 6) Lee (Reid), 14) Rowe, 8.) Frecklington, 36) Livermore, 18) Whelpdale, 10) Boyd, 9) McLean (Mackail-Smith).