A superb second half performance saw Peterborough United turn around a two goal deficit to inflict a 4-2 defeat on promotion candidates, Huddersfield.
Gary Johnson, perhaps surprisingly, made just one change from the side that was heavily beaten by Bournemouth last weekend with Arron Davies handed his first start in a Posh shirt, replacing Nathaniel Mendez-Laing on the right wing, as ‘The Posh’ looked to bounce back immediately.
Lee Clark, in the Huddersfield dug-out, continued with his regular strike duo of Jordan Rhodes and Joe Garner but did make two changes to the team that were held to a draw with Tranmere. Debutant Graham Carey came in at left-back to replace the suspended Gary Naysmith, who received a red-card in the closing stages Huddersfield’s fixture last weekend, and Damien Johnson was handed a place in the starting eleven ahead of Gary Roberts.
The pre-match build up had been focused around the attacking strengths of both sides and it was Huddersfield striker Jordan Rhodes who was first to show his talent meeting Scott Arfield’s teasing cross but heading just wide of Joe Lewis’ goal. This early chance did nothing to calm the nerves around London Road where many fans were fearful of another high-scoring defeat; such is the threat ‘The Terriers’ pose with their offensive players.
A Grant McCann free-kick, from near the corner flag, caused the Huddersfield defence problems with Aaron McLean coming close but his headed shot was too powerful and, after bouncing of the London Road surface, went safely clear of Alex Smithies cross-bar. ‘The Terriers’ continued to look vulnerable to Peterborough United set-pieces moments later with another McCann delivery, this time from a much deeper position, troubling the Huddersfield defence but Kelvin Langmead, who found himself in space at the back-post, scuffed his chance wide.
The visitors were cursing their luck moments later after a thunder-bolt from long-range by Anthony Pilkington was brilliantly tipped onto the cross-bar by Joe Lewis before bouncing away for a Huddersfield corner.
After a fairly stop-start opening to the game, with both sides giving possession away cheaply, Posh created a good chance for themselves after Craig Mackail-Smith managed to put in a delicate chip to the head of Arron Davies, who had made a clever run off the right-wing into a more central position, but his close-range header was saved well by Huddersfield goal-keeper Alex Smithies at his near post.
Clear-cut-chances for both sides were proving hard to come by and the first goal of the match came from a fairly inconspicuous set-piece. Carey floated in a delicate corner from the right hand side and it was met by the unmarked JORDAN RHODES, who couldn’t believe his luck, and the striker dispatched with an emphatic header from eight yards out which left Lewis with no chance. This soft goal raised further question marks of the Peterborough United defence, who were already under scrutiny after looking suspect in previous performances.
Carey was then booked for a late challenge on Arron Davies on by the left-hand touchline. The nature of the tackle could have warranted a yellow-card by itself but referee Mr. Williamson seemed to indicate the booking was for persistent fouling from the youngster, who had been heavily involved in his first appearance after joining on loan from Celtic.
Another Grant McCann free-kick was the source of problems for Huddersfield Town with the Northern Irish international’s delivery, which was looking impressive, leading to Ryan Bennett, who had drifted clear at the far past, heading past Smithies after a deft, headed, touch from his centre back partner Kelvin Langmead, but it was disallowed quickly after Bennett’s run had been judged to have been from an offside position.
Peterborough were trying to find their way back into the match after finding themselves behind but this attacking intent lead to Huddersfield extending their lead further. After Boyd was tackled well inside the Huddersfield area ‘The Terriers’ broke quickly and Gudjonsson was brought down on the edge of the area by James Wesolowski as the visitors had men over on the far side. GRAHAM CAREY curled the free-kick beyond Joe Lewis, who was left with little chance such of the accuracy of the free-kick, and into the corner of the goal.
The second goal had really knocked the stuffing out of the home crowd, who were taking their frustrations out on the referee after he was regularly stopping the game for Huddersfield players, who appeared to be making the most of injuries to slow the game down after achieving the lead they needed. A George Boyd shot was deflected wide of Smithie’s goal to give the home crowd some hope that they could pull of an unlikely comeback against a team that were yet to concede in the 2010-2011 season.
Almost out of nowhere Peterborough United did reduce the deficit on the stroke of half time. GEORGE BOYD found space, after drifting inside, and with a ball slotted through to him from Mark Little, hit a rather timid shot towards Alex Smithies who somehow fumbled it into the back of his own net. The highly-rated Smithies would of been feeling rather embarrassed with his error and would of been thankful for the half-time whistle saving him from the ironic chants of “England’s number one” from the Posh faithful.
Even with the goal just before the break the feeling at the half-time interval was one of frustration from the home fans. Another abject defensive performance meant that Posh were seemingly hoping for a draw, at best, as they were up against a solid defensive side in Huddersfield. Gary Johnson appeared to be sharing this frustration and left-back Seth Nana was withdrawn at half-time to be replaced by Tommy Rowe to add some solidarity to the Peterborough United back-line.
Peterborough started the brighter of the two sides in the second half, pumped up after a half-time team-talk from Johnson, and Boyd almost lashed home his second after a superb cross from Davies, on the right of the midfield, found him un-marked on the far side of the Huddersfield box but his half-volley flew just wide of Smithies up-right.
Moments later Carey was very lucky to stay on the pitch after he brought down Mark Little, who had rounded him and was in a dangerous crossing position, but the debutant was given a final warning by the referee instead. Posh took matters into their own hands and gave out a punishment of their own with the resulting free-kick leading to the equalising goal. Grant McCann’s set-pieces had proved a threat throughout and it was of no surprise that one would lead to a goal, this time AARON MCLEAN took a touch inside the six-yard box, swivelled, and fired a strike beyond Smithies who was left with no chance.
The home crowd were firmly behind their side now and were creating quite an atmosphere inside the stadium in the hope Peterborough could go on and take the lead. ‘The Posh’ did just that moments later when Mackail-Smith showed his pace running past Jamie McCombe and firing a shot at Alex Smithies that rebounded off both defender and striker before rolling into the net for CRAIG MACKAIL-SMITH to claim his first league goal of the season. It appeared a lucky goal in truth but if the ball hadn’t of ended up in the back of the net McCombe would of most likely of been sent-off for dragging the former Dagenham striker back as he bore down on goal.
The home side were well on top now as Huddersfield looked bamboozled by this sudden resurgence and Ryan Bennett hit a volley over the bar, again from a McCann free-kick, before a good run and shot from James Wesolowski went just over Smithies cross-bar as Peterborough looked to reinforce their advantage.
Louis Carey, who was walking a tight-rope, was substituted by Lee Clark and replaced by winger Gareth Roberts with Scott Arfield shifting to left back for Huddersfield. Jordan Rhodes was also withdrawn, this time a straight swap, for Lee Novak as ‘The Terriers’ looked to re-shuffle and start a comeback of their own. Clarke’s replacements almost worked immediately but Novak volleyed a chance wide after a long-throw from Lee Peltier ended up at his feet.
It was the hosts who increased their advantage however after AARON MCLEAN capitalised on an error from centre back Peter Clarke, who failed to head a long ball, under pressure from the Posh striker, and McLean dispatched his second of the match with a very composed finish. This goal meant Peterborough could take a more defensive approach as they looked to see out the match and seal an impressive victory.
Huddersfield, boosted by the introduction of Lee Croft, were looking to hit straight back and a series of chances fell their way in the closing stages. First Joe Garner fired a volley over the bar then, after some lovely passing, Scott Arfield placed his shot past Lewis post and Lee Novak couldn’t squeeze an over-head kick into the back of the Peterborough United net after Kelvin Langmead header clear over his own bar.
Gary Johnson replaced both James Wesolowski, who was now on a booking, and Aaron McLean, with both players receiving standing ovations for their efforts, for Charlie Lee and Dave Hibbert as ‘The Posh’ introduced some fresh-legs to inject some more energy into the Posh defence as the game entered the final few minutes.
The action wasn’t over though and, after Dave Hibbert went very close for Peterborough, the visitors almost had a life-line but, substitute, Gareth Robert’s wonderful run wasn’t rewarded with a goal with the ball coming back of Lewis’ far post before being cleared by Tommy Rowe, who had looked assured since his introduction.
The final whistle was met with a mixture of jubilation and relief from the home fans. The fact that this Posh team had beaten a very good Huddersfield team, putting in a very good performance with it, confirmed that Peterborough were rightly considered as promotion candidates, an opinion that had been under some scrutiny after a hammering to Bournemouth.
In the end it was a game that lived up to its billing; both sides went for the win, both sides looked very dangerous in an attacking sense and it created a very entertaining spectacle; in-fact there could have been even more goals for either side with both teams missing chances.
A good win still doesn’t hide the fact that we must improve defensively though as we are gifting far too many chances to opposition sides and if this doesn’t improve we could be relying on our attacking talents, who bailed us out today, to continue to maintain a level of performance every week that is as impressive as this one. A poor attacking display and Bournemouth may not be just a blip; if we don’t improve defensively we may be on the end of a few hammerings this season.
Am I sounding a little depressed here? I don’t mean to, I’m elated that we beat a good Huddersfield side who will surely be around the promotion spots this season, the place that I also expect us to occupy come May 2011. Plymouth now brings another challenge, in the form of an away game, where hopefully we will improve on our travels to bring home another three points. If we can sort out this away form I have no doubt we will be in the Championship come August 2011, you can hold me to that if we don’t make the automatic spots at the end of the season.
Huddersfield: 1) Smithies, 2) Peltier, 5) Clarke, 18) McCombe, 36) Carey (Roberts – 61 minutes), 11) Pilkington (Croft – 69 minutes), 4) Gudjonsson, 14) Johnson, 16) Arfield, 10) Garner, 17) Rhodes (Novak – 65 minutes)
Peterborough United Player Ratings
Joe Lewis, 7 – One or two very good saves. Little chance with either of Huddersfield’s goals.
Mark Little, 7 – Much better from Little who looked good going forward, as normal, and in his defensive duties.
Kelvin Langmead, 6 – Despite being dominant in the air he sometimes looks a little suspect with the ball at his feet, Rhodes and Garner exploited this on a handful of occasions today.
Ryan Bennett, 6 – He is by no means the finished article but he is certainly improving with a run of first team football. Has the potential to be a very accomplished centre back but must stop making silly errors and keep mentally switched on throughout the entire match.
Seth Nana, 4 – Woeful performance before being substituted for Tommy Rowe at half time. Expect Rowe to start against Cardiff on Tuesday night.
Arron Davies, 7 – I can’t remember him giving possession away and his runs off the ball are very intelligent. Looks a lot better than Mendez-Laing.
James Wesolowski, 7 – Was a big influence in the midfield and is, fitting with today’s visitors nickname, a real terrier. Never gives up, continues to close down and loves a tackle. (Substituted for Charlie Lee – 84 minutes)
Grant McCann, 7 – This man does know how to take a set-piece; his delivery today was spot on and caused Huddersfield lots of problems. Slightly wasteful in the first half but much improved in the second.
George Boyd, 7 – A little lucky with his goal but Boyd is a class above at this level. His marauding runs and skill mean he is a real threat. Not quite vintage ‘Boydie’ today but a very strong performance.
Craig Mackail-Smith, 7 – His confidence grew after his goal and you could see it in the things he was trying to pull off. Before the goal he wasn’t quite himself but after he was excellent.
Aaron McLean, 8 – He is back to his best. Two lethal finishes today and four goals in four games mean he is back on form. Hopefully he will withdraw his transfer request soon!