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A Very Important Victory – Peterborough United 2-1 Rochdale

An improved performance saw Posh pick up a relatively comfortable three points over Rochdale.

Gary Johnson started with a fairly attack minded line-up with George Boyd and Lee Tomlin continuing to be the two most likely starters on either wing. Tommy Rowe retained his place at left back with Adam Clayton also starting in central midfield after impressing on his first league start for Posh against Leyton Orient.

Rochdale were arguably the better side for the opening ten minutes with Posh looking nervy in-front of a sparsely filled London Road crowd. Neither side showed much creativity in their play with both giving possession away cheaply. The visitors created the first chance of the match when Posh’s defence had a characteristic lapse, letting Rochdale counter with Tommy Rowe the only Peterborough United defender back but Nicky Adams, who is not a favourite at London Road after his comments whilst playing for Leicester, fired his shot straight at Lewis who made a comfortable save.

Posh looked under confident and regularly were looking to clear the ball to into the channels, without thinking, for the hard working Mackail-Smith and McLean to latch onto but it was far too easy for the Rochdale defence to deal with. The first flowing passing play on the edge of the area, which was started with some excellent skill from Lee Tomlin, ended up with George Boyd curling a left-foot shot just wide.

This move had encouraged Posh and the hosts were beginning to assert their authority on the game. A clever passing move between Tomlin, Boyd and Mackail-Smith led to panic in the Rochdale area and AARON MCLEAN instinctively capitalised, firing a powerful shot beyond Luke Daniels in the Rochdale goal and giving Posh the lead.

After the goal Posh would have hoped that they could have furthered their advantage but Gary Jones, who was marshalling the central midfield area, flashed a shot on goal from long-range and Joe Lewis, who had shifted his weight to the opposite side of the goal, had to scramble back to make a good save which required all of his 6ft 7inch body to reach.

The goal had given The Posh confidence and they were playing with much more freedom than they were beforehand. The inter-play on the edge of the area was superb at times, with Boyd and Tomlin both drifting inside causing Rochdale’s defence problems. As a result of this pass and move football Boyd first went close, with a curling shot from the edge of the area, which clipped the outside of the post and then Lee Tomlin was played through but he couldn’t find a finish to cap off an excellently worked move.

Neither side pressed much for the remainder of the half with Peterborough looking comfortable, which made a change after recent performances. The hosts came flying out for the second half though and further increased their lead when CRAIG MACKAIL-SMITH finished well from close-range.

Keith Hill realised that his side were not creating much in attack and brought on the pacey Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro, who had previously impressed with Grimsby, and Anthony Elding to try and give the visitors some spark when going forward as Posh’s defence had been largely untroubled.

Lee Tomlin, who had looked impressive, was determined to score his third goal for Posh and fired two shots at Daniels in quick succession but the ‘keeper was equal to both the powerful efforts from the winger.

The defensive weaknesses of Peterborough had shown signs of improvement but they were evident again as the game time ticked over the hour mark. Matt Done was given far too much time and was allowed to check inside, rounding two Posh defenders, before pulling his shot just wide of Lewis’ near post. Another chance almost fell Rochdale’s way when they capitalised on some more poor Peterborough defending but Gabriel Zakuani produced a superb last ditch tackle just as Akpa Akpro was about to fire a shot in on goal.

The warnings signs had appeared with these two Rochdale’s chances but Posh’s defence again allowed JEAN-LOUIS AKPA AKPRO too much space and this time his punished Peterborough United with a fine finish beyond Joe Lewis. However, there was a blatant handball in the build up to the goal that somehow the referee and linesman missed allowing the goal to the disbelief of Posh players and fans alike.

The home defence had looked a little shaky before the goal but the nerves were evident now as the game entered the final stages with The Posh only holding a slender one goal lead. Rochdale did find space in the area once more with the ball finding its way to Jason Kennedy in a glorious position but Gabriel Zakuani slid in just as it seemed Rochdale were about to equalise to avert the danger, producing his second sensational tackle of the match.

The final whistle came as a relief to the home fans who’s side had looked comfortable for the large majority of the match but almost let a two goal advantage slip in the final stages. This was a hugely important win with our league form being so poor of late – 3 wins in 10 games – and, after a good away victory in the F.A Cup, this should provide some much needed confidence to a team that look as if it is in short supply.

Gabriel Zakuani’s defensive performance was excellent but the man of the match award must go to Lee Tomlin who was scintillating at times. Producing some marvellous skill, he looks our most creative outlet at the moment and can make chances out of nothing. To think he is only 21 and still adapting to this level shows how good he can be, he already seems to be brimming with confidence.

There were still a few worrying signs though. At times we look bereft of creativity and look to smash the ball forward, without thinking, far too often. We have a nasty tendency to miss the midfield out and this tends to just gift possession back to the opposition. Perhaps, as the confidence comes back into the team this will change but it is happening far too often at the moment. We also, at times, play with too narrow a system whilst going forward. Lee Tomlin and George Boyd enjoy cutting inside, they are at their most dangerous in this position, but it can leave us exposed at times and sometimes overcrowds the centre of the pitch, leaving very little space.

We also have to mention the linesman positioned on the Glebe Road side of London Road who highlights the state of some of the officials in the lower leagues. How he missed the hand-ball for the Rochdale goal is beyond belief, as it was so blatant, but he also flagged a Rochdale attacker offside when the ball was clearly played back by a Posh player. There are no excuses for getting basic decisions wrong, when in this position and the state of officiating, at times, is a disgrace throughout the leagues.  

Posh’s performance was an improvement but there is still work to be done. Rochdale, with all due respect, are a side that we should be beating if we wish to achieve promotion but they still have some quality players in Craig Dawson and Gary Jones who will pose a threat to any side. Overall it was encouraging but it is important not to get carried away as our form, even with this win, is still relatively poor and this was not a sparkling performance that casts away all the doubts that still linger over Gary Johnson.

Up The Posh!

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