Two early goals killed the game as a spectacle as Posh put in a professional display to beat a struggling Dagenham and Redbridge side.
Darren Ferguson surprisingly opted to start David Ball ahead of Lee Tomlin up-front and also brought Mark Little and back into the starting line-up, making two changes from the team that had started against Bournemouth. Ferguson also confirmed that Joe Lewis remains his first choice goalkeeper as he kept the starting berth in goal, ahead of Paul Jones, despite an abject performance in the previous game. Familiar faces Peter Gain and Mark Arber were in the starting line-up for a Dagenham side who have surpassed many people’s expectations by simply competing this season.
The game burst to life immediately but it was the hosts who had the better of the opening few minutes. The physicality of John Akinde, a transfer target for Peterborough a few seasons ago, was causing problems and it meant that Dagenham were having a good spell of pressure. Their reward for this bright start almost came too. Mark Little was guilty of slack marking and West Ham loanee Oliver Lee capitalised with a piece of clever skill, flicking the ball up and turning past Little he scuffed his shot after creating a good opportunity for himself.
The pressure Dagenham were exerting was to be short-lived though. Posh quickly countered and were playing some good football – the rotation in the attacking positions has been key to Posh’s offensive play that has been so potent this season – and it wasn’t long before the home side’s defence cracked. Craig Mackail-Smith was released by Grant McCann and found himself one on one with Scott Doe in the Dagenham back four. It would have been forgivable had the division’s top goalscorer tried to go for goal himself but he slotted the ball into his strike-partner DAVID BALL who duly gave Posh the lead with a good left footed finish.
If Tony Roberts in ‘The Daggers’ goal had wanted to keep a clean-sheet on his 500th appearance for the club then he was up against the wrong team and that ambition had already been ended. It was already visible that the hosts were struggling to contain Posh on the attack and it wasn’t long before the lead was doubled. Inexplicably Dagenham allowed a loose ball to travel passed numerous members of their defence and it left DAVID BALL, who reacted the quickest, with a simple tap-in to double his and Posh’s goal tally for the evening. Ball has had few starts since joining Posh in January but he has already made an impact scoring 4 goals – 3 in 3 starts – and looks deadly when given a chance.
Three points would seemingly have been in the bag at this point for most teams at this level. A two goal lead, however, was surrender by Posh earlier in the week and this game was far from secure. Peterborough United have been susceptible to giving away leads on a number of occasions this season, even if the defence has tightened up since Ferguson’s return. Charlie Lee confirmed this, playing at centre back, when he miss-judged the flight of the ball and allowed Akinde a chance to shot but fortunately for the visitors the contact was not sufficient and the shot was dragged wide.
As the game progressed even with these doubts lingering in the back of Posh fans minds it was hard to see them throwing this lead away; Dagenham had barely posed a threat. Too often guilty of just looking to play the ball into the channels or looking for flick downs from Akinde, Posh were untroubled. Indeed, a long-range efforts from Danny Green and John Akinde was as close as the hosts came for the remainder of the half. At the other end Ball almost grabbed a hat-trick but his shot went just wide of the far post before George Boyd blazed a left-footed shot from just inside the area over and wide.
HAVING A BALL: David Ball capitalised on a rare start providing Posh with the two goals they needed to overcome Dagenham.
Ferguson’s side would have been happy with their first half display. Professional rather than entertaining the early goals appeared to have killed the game as a contest but it would still require another 45 minutes of the same standard of performance to ensure the three points.
The second half continued at the same pace the first had ended: slowly. In-fact, considering the game had so much riding on it, for both sides, it rather surprisingly felt like a pre-season friendly. It had descended into a rather stop-start game which meant neither side was able to find a rhythm. But Craig Mackail-Smith did almost produce the spectacular after rounding his marker with a good bit of skill but he could only find the side netting from a tight angle.
Chances were few and far between now. It had been a drab second half in terms of entertainment. Dagenham simply lacked the creativity or quality to break a solid Posh defence down and Peterborough didn’t seem too intent on increasing their advantage. The most worrying moment of the second half for the away supporters came when left-back Tom Kennedy had to be stretched off after being caught a little late. The seriousness of the injury is yet to be disclosed.
As the final whilst blew the action seemed to have stopped after the 8th minute. But few Posh fans would have complained about the result. It was a battling performance and an important three points.
Maybe it’s because we’ve been used to such entertaining football this season that this appeared so dull. Not that anyone is complaining. These are the sort of games that we need to be winning at this stage of the season and it is performances like this that have been missing for too much of this season. Too often we have tried to be too expansive away from home and suffered. This win was built on a solid back-four and our constant ability to score.
6 wins from 6 is now the target. It is possible but it’s going to be hard. Even if we do manage to achieve this it may not be enough – we are particularly reliant on Southampton slipping up now. However, ‘The Saints’ still have a number of games to play in quick succession so fatigue may creep in eventually with some tough fixtures coming up for them.
For us it doesn’t get much tougher than our game at the weekend. We face a Huddersfield side that are unbeaten in 2011 and it really is make or break. A loss there will condemn us to the lottery of the play-offs. A win and we leap-frog them and put ourselves back into contention. I honestly believe we have the ability to beat anyone in this division on our day but this is going to be a massive test. Nothing other than three points is good enough.
Up The Posh.