An enthralling game resulted in both teams grabbing a point in a 2-2 draw, with neither side able to hold onto a lead.
Gary Johnson doesn’t seem to like rotating his squad and this game was no different. ‘The Posh’ set up in a rather familiar manner, playing a 4-4-2 formation; with their being only two changes from last Saturday’s victory over Oldham. Nathaniel Mendez-Laing replaced Lee Tomlin on the right wing and the other change was enforced on the Peterborough United manager with Ryan Bennett picking up a knee injury last weekend; as a result Gabriel Zakuani made his first start of the season, partnering Kelvin Langmead at centre back.
Highly rated, Exeter City manager Paul Tisdale continued with the dangerous pairing of Daniel Nardiello and John O’Flynn up-front. Ryan Harley, who already has six goals to his name this season, was also amongst the starters playing in his usual central midfield position.
Posh’s first half form has been poor this season but they flew out of the blocks in Exeter with George Boyd firing a shot at Paul Jones who made a good save, tipping the ball behind for a corner. From the resulting set-piece Kelvin Langmead headed a deep cross back across goal but Gabriel Zakuani somehow managed to miss a glorious opportunity, from just 2 yards, out after being left un-marked by the ‘Grecian’s’ defence.
Grant McCann’s delivery from set-pieces has been impressive all season and it was from a corner that Posh troubled Exeter’s defence, in a similar manner that they had moments earlier, again Kelvin Langmead headed a deep corner back across goal but the ball trickled just wide of the far post with numerous Posh players close do getting a decisive touch to give the visitors the lead.
Grant McCann’s dead-ball delivery was outstanding.
Both teams were playing some lovely football and there was an intriguing battle between the two centre midfield pairings. James Wesolowski was harrying Exeter City players all over the pitch, a trait that has meant he has endeared himself to Posh fans already, with Liam Sercombe doing a similar job for the hosts. Grant McCann was instrumental, as normal, in Peterborough’s attacking moves and was stroking the ball about the St. James Park pitch, which was excellent, with ease.
Neither side were creating any chances of note in what was becoming an evenly contested match. Craig Mackail-Smith was booked for a late tackle, although it was more rash than cynical, and Daniel Nardiello’s chip was easily held by Joe Lewis in the Peterborough United goal.
Nathaniel Mendez-Laing had failed to impress Posh fans in the early stages of his Posh career, after signing on loan from Wolverhampton Wanderers in the summer, but his first half performance was of a much better quality than his other performances and it was from a superb run by the pacey wide-man that Peterborough United earnt another corner, although Mendez-Laing felt he was fouled as he entered the Exeter penalty area. The resulting set-piece was dealt with by the Exeter defence first time but when the ball fell to George Boyd he blazed a volley over the cross-bar when he should have tested Jones in the Exeter goal.
The away side did break the dead-lock though, after beginning to look the more likely to score, but it was through an own goal from Exeter centre back TROY ARCHIBALD-HENVILLE who headed past Jones, after the goal-keeper had came out to claim the cross from Mendez-Laing. To be fair to the Exeter player he was under pressure from Craig Mackail-Smith and had he not taken action the striker would have surely opened the scoring himself.
Archibald-Henville headed into his own net to give Posh the lead.
Exeter responded to the set-back well and the Peterborough United defence was being tested more than ever before in the match, especially as Posh’s passing had became sloppy, and the hosts had two, ambitious, penalty appeals turned down by the referee before Steve Tully’s cross almost drifted into the far corner of Lewis’ net but the Posh goalkeeper made a good save, tipping the ball over his own cross-bar for a corner.
The away side’s chances of holding their lead were dealt a blow when James Wesolowski appeared to pick up a knee injury and was forced to be withdrawn with Nana, who generally plays in either full-back position, going straight into the central midfield place that Wesolowski had vacated. However, Posh almost extended their lead to two goals on the stroke of half-time when Nathaniel Mendez-Laing used his strength to outmuscle an Exeter defender before heading just over after a good cross from Tommy Rowe.
The first half was encouraging for the away fans, who had travelled a long distance to watch the game, but it was hard not to feel that Peterborough should have been further in-front after they missed a succession of good chances. However, Posh’s second half form had been good up to this point of in the campaign and the visitors were hoping that they could continue this fine form into the second 45 minutes of this fixture.
Peterborough started the second in much the same manner as they often do after a Gary Johnson team-talk and Aaron McLean headed just wide of the mark after Paul Jones had fumbled a Grant McCann corner straight onto the strikers head. The chance was a good one but it came at McLean very quickly and the front-man appeared to know little about it. McLean came close again moments later, this time after some brilliant build-up play between George Boyd and Craig Mackail-Smith, the latter found the former Grays player in space but his thunderous shot cannoned back off the cross-bar and was cleared.
The hosts had not lost at St. James Park since February though and after dealing with the earlier pressure they were put under by ‘The Posh’ the backlash started. After some poor marking from a fairly innocuous throw-in by Nathaniel Mendez-Laing on the right hand side, John O’Flynn found himself in space and made a good run before the ball found DANIEL NARDIELLO, somewhat fortuitously, who lashed in the equaliser, leaving Joe Lewis with little chance.
Daniel Nardiello equalised for Exeter City.
This goal had given the ‘Grecians’ confidence and it showed. The fans were encouraging their team to grab the lead and the players were trying to oblige, playing some excellent, fast tempo, football in the process.
Former Peterborough United player, Richard Logan, who had just come off the bench, replacing John O’Flynn, glanced a header wide of Lewis’ goal with the Posh stopper scrambling across his goal-line. However, even with Exeter having the better of the play, Peterborough were still looking dangerous on the counter-attack and when the pace of Craig Mackail-Smith saw him open up some space behind the hosts defence it took a good save from Jones to deny him restoring the visitors lead with a well struck shot.
Both managers were now thinking about substitutions after a demanding game had left both squads beginning to look tired. Paul Tisdale bought Jamie Cureton on for Daniel Nardiello with Gary Johnson choosing to replace Nathaniel Mendez-Laing, who had been a continued threat, with Lee Tomlin. The substitutions were both attacking and showed the neither side were simply settling for a hard-earnt point.
Paul Tisdale’s replacement paid off just moments later. Veteran striker, JAMIE CURETON, was inexcusably given time in the Peterborough United penalty area and a player of Cureton’s quality simply slotted the ball past Joe Lewis from close range. This goal was a hammer blow to Peterborough United’s chances of winning a game that should have been wrapped up in the first half.
Jamie Cureton was cool in-front of goal to fire Exeter into the lead.
Dave Hibbert was introduced by Johnson, in an attacking switch that saw Posh line-up in an unorthodox formation which resembled a 4-1-5; Grant McCann was replaced after he picked up a toe injury.
The game was now unbelievably stretched and both sides were throwing men forward; Exeter not satisfied with a, slender, one goal advantage and Peterborough determined to score an equaliser to ensure they didn’t throw away all three points. It was due to the games openness, and Posh’s attacking system, that saw LEE TOMLIN in space on the edge of the area and his powerful shot took a deflection before nestling in the back of Paul Jones net to restore parity.
Lee Tomlin rescued a point for Peterborough with his first goal for the club.
Still neither side were satisfied with a point and both managers were urging their players forward to look for an elusive winner. Seth Nana’s well struck volley almost dipped into the back of net but landed on the top of the goal, with Paul Jones looking helpless.
The drama lasted right up until the final touch of the game though and when an Exeter corner was powerfully headed on target by Archibald-Henville a superb block from Tommy Rowe meant both sides shared a point in a wonderfully attacking game of football that was a great advert for the standard of League One.
In the end it was a good point for Posh and one that most realistic Peterborough United fans would have taken before kick-off with Exeter boasting such an impressive home record. It was a performance that, I believe, would have seen us take all three points against a lesser side but the ‘Grecians’ were very impressive on the day.
The only worry is that we are still conceding too many goals. We must learn, even with our attacking prowess, how to scrap out a 1-0 win as free-flowing, expansive, football is not always the best option at this level. Having said this, if we continue to perform to a quality like this we will win a lot more than we lose on our travels and had we of been a little more clinical in-front of goals we would have taken home three points from this match. Still, whatever happens, we are set for a very entertaining season.
Exeter City: P. Jones, B. Jones, Archibald-Henville, Duffy, Golbourne, Dunne, Harley, Sercombe, Tully, Nardiello, O’Flynn.
Attendance: 5,146 (319 Posh fans)
Peterborough United Player Ratings
Joe Lewis, 6 – Perhaps could have been a little more assertive, at times, from crosses. Had little chance with either goal though and it was an accomplished performance from the goalkeeper.
Chris Whelpdale, 6 – Was tired towards the end but still put in a lot of work. A decent game in a position he is not accustomed to.
Gabriel Zakuani, 6 – Typically solid all the way through the match. Perhaps dived in unnecessarily for both goals.
Kelvin Langmead, 7 – Rock solid performance from the centre back; entirely dominant in the air.
Tommy Rowe, 6 – At times sloppy in possession but an accomplished performance defensively. He is making the left-back position his own and will be a certain starter now.
Nathaniel Mendez-Laing, 7 – A threat throughout and created numerous chances himself. Could have done slightly more, however, with a first half header. Substituted for Lee Tomlin in the 70th minute (7).
Grant McCann, 7 – Created numerous chances from his dead ball deliveries and was good in possession. Unfortunately had to be substituted in the 75th minute, for Dave Hibbert (5), due to injury.
James Wesolowski, 6 – Was very busy until his injury which ever Posh fan will hope isn’t a long-term one. Nana (6) replaced him in the 38th minute and did well enough in a position which he isn’t used to.
George Boyd, 5 – A really quiet game from Boyd and he unfortunately didn’t produce his normal brilliance.
Craig Mackail-Smith, 7 – Tireless running throughout, didn’t have a really good chance all game though but tested the ‘keeper when required.
Aaron McLean, 6 – Really good movement and strength shown by a player who is back to his best. However, he was a little wasteful in-front of goal.