Posh showed their strength of character, coming from behind to beat Tranmere 2-1 in a particularly scrappy game.
Darren Ferguson’s men lined up in the same diamond formation that he has applied regularly since his return to management. Usual impact-sub Nathaniel Mendez-Laing was given a place in the starting line-up although in an untraditional position; joining Craig Mackail-Smith upfront. Grant McCann was also brought back into the starting XI, replacing Tommy Rowe as Ferguson made two changes to the team that had started against Yeovil on Tuesday night. Meanwhile Chris Whelpdale was left out of the entire 18, seemingly for form reasons rather than injury. Les Parry’s resurgent Tranmere Rovers side, coming into the game on the back of a five game unbeaten run, rather unsurprisingly named an un-changed line-up.
From the outset it was clear that Posh’s slick, passing game was not going to be particularly effective on an awful London Road pitch. It played into the hands of the visitors more direct style and, although hardly ideal, it would be the more physical away side who would prefer a scrappy game. As a result Tranmere had the better of the early stages. Posh were trying to build from the back but the ball was sticking in the mud and it was meaning chances were limited. Neither side were looking much of an attacking threat in the early stages but Lateef Elford-Alliyu, on loan from West Brom, had twice shown his pace bursting beyond Mark Little to create two opportunities for his side; smashing the first over the bar and finding Joe Lewis equal to the second.
As the game became increasingly bogged down in the middle, partly due to the pitch and partly due to the fact that both teams had packed the central areas with bodies as a result of the formations deployed, it was Tranmere who were looking the most threatening utilising the pace they had from both wings on regular occasions. Enoch Showumni was also proving a potent threat to the Posh defence, relishing the tough conditions and using his physical ability to maximum effect.
The game had been starved of any goal-mouth action for the first twenty minutes but when Charlie Lee’s ambitious shot was flicked goalwards from Craig Mackail-Smith it seemed that the hosts would take the lead; however, veteran goalkeeper Tony Warner produced a magnificent save to turn the ball away for a corner. It had been the first time Posh’s much revered attacking talent had threatened the Tranmere goal so far and as a result London Road was particularly subdued.
If the hosts were expected to kick on after this effort it had the opposite effect as Tranmere began to assert their authority on the match. A clever pass, splitting the Peterborough United defence, from John Welsh was latched onto by Lucas Akins, coming inside of the right flank, meant the winger was clean through on goal but Joe Lewis reacted well as he quickly came off his line to put Akins under pressure and made a good save with his legs.
The game had become very frustrating now and the Posh crowd were beginning to become agitated, as were the players. Continuing to play passing football Posh had looked nervy on numerous occasions and, as they struggled to get the ball out from under their feet, Tranmere had capitalised on this sloppiness. Therefore it should have came as no surprise that another Posh error would prove to be costly. As Grant McCann and Ryan Bennett tried a one-two inside their own-half Bennett dallied in possession, after collecting the return pass, and Enoch Showumni stole the ball off him before charging through, unopposed, and slotting the ball back from ANDY WELSH to put into an open goal. It had been an inexplicable error from Bennett who had plenty of time to choose his pass before making the error. However, it had not been the first time that Posh had been architects of their own down-fall this season and the fact that this worrying trait had occurred again is something that must concern the management team at London Road.
Posh had not struggled for goals all season, it was keeping them out that had been the problem, but so far their attacking threat had been non-existent. Craig Mackail-Smith did well before pulling the ball back to George Boyd but the former Stevenage man dragged his shot wide in the last chance of the first half for the hosts. In-fact had Tranmere been more clinical they may have extended their lead before the break but Enoch Showumni wasted a decent opportunity.
As the first half came to a close it had been the worst half of football seen at London Road since the start of the season. The visitors would have been very happy with their display, stifling the Posh attack, but Peterborough’s performance had been terrible. Not helped by the pitch nothing had worked for Darren Ferguson’s men so far and a drastic improvement was needed from them if they were to get anything out of the game.
Posh flew out of the traps in the second half and Tranmere became penned back in their own half but there had still been relatively few chances so far as the game wore on. However, that changed when a clever bit of passing from Posh created an opportunity for GRANT MCCANN who duly dispatched the ball into the far corner of Tony Warner’s net. It was a composed finish and the sort of coolness that was needed as opportunities had been few and far between. After the goal London Road was to be left frustrated though. George Boyd went to collect the ball and as he bent down to grab it Tony Warner appeared to take exception grabbing hold of Boyd’s hair for a sustained period of time. He then proceeded to throw the ball at Boyd as Posh fans screamed for the goalkeeper to be penalised. Somehow though all four officials managed to miss the incident and it meant that Warner, who could easily have seen red, went unpunished.
Captain Fantastic: Grant McCann provided Posh with a goal and an assist.
Posh fans would have hoped the goal would provide their team with the momentum to grab a second but Tranmere were looking the more likely team to score. As Posh struggled to clear the ball they were having to defend against a succession of crosses, something that Peterborough have struggled to cope with so far this season, and this weakness was evident once again as Elford-Alliyu was given too much room in the box but he blazed his shot over the bar.
Both managers made their first changes of the match as the poor surface meant that players were starting to look a little fatigued. Ferguson brought on David Ball as he looked for another attacking option to give his side the lead. The former Manchester City man replaced Mendez-Laing after he hadn’t managed to have the desired impact after being handed a rare start. Les Parry replaced Lucas Akins with Zoumana Bakayogo although the substitution didn’t appear to be welcomed by all of his team as Michael Kay could be seen shaking his head, seemingly at Parry’s choice of substitute.
As Posh looked to put themselves in-front they committed too many bodies forward from a corner and left Mark Little exposed at the back, leaving him one-on-one against the pacey Elford-Alliyu upfront, and although it seemed that Little could make a simple pass he made a similar error to the one Bennett had made in the first half and Tranmere were allowed to make a swift counter attack. As Elford-Alliyu made it into the box he cut the ball back to the onrushing Bakayogo, who had the chance to score with his first touch, but the smashed the ball over the Moyes End Terrace roof.
Chances remained sparse and Posh were beginning to get desperate now in their hope for a much needed winner. Peterborough did manage to gain a corner and as Posh brought men forward to try to capitalise on a Grant McCann corner they weren’t needed as ENOCH SHOWUMNI inadvertently headed the ball back into his own net.
Posh now were happy to see the rest of the game out and Tranmere didn’t seem to have the attacking prowess to break Peterborough down. The final chance of the game fell to substitute Andy Robinson but his half-volley went just over Lewis’ cross-bar to the relief of Peterborough fans and players alike.
This was an important three points for us, especially as results elsewhere went in our favour. We can now go two points off the automatic promotion places if we win our game in hand, although Southampton remain in a good position, and we are now firmly in the chase for promotion, the initial aim at the start of the season. Had Gary Johnson still been here I do not believe we would be so well positioned in the table and I cannot credit Ferguson enough for the impact that he has made since arriving.
After beating Yeovil on Tuesday night and Tranmere today, in scrappy circumstances, it has proved we have developed the ability to win ugly. Today we had to really dig deep to grind out an important victory and the same could be said about Tuesday night. It is something that we have desperately needed to add to our game this season, having thrown away points against teams that have came for a point – although Tranmere could not be accused of this today – and it was important that we overcame this problem.
13 wins from 16 games is now the target and although that is a tough ask it is possible. We have a relatively easy run-in and as earlier stated the improvement under Ferguson has been remarkable. Southampton and Brighton may be the teams to catch but with Bournemouth, Oldham and Huddersfield still to play our chances of promotion are in our own hands. Can we do it? I honestly believe we can.
Up The Posh.
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