A superb fight-back saw Posh get off the mark in their first Championship match of the season
There was a definite buzz in the air at London Road as The Championship campaign got underway. Both teams realistically needed a win after Palace flirted with relegation last season and Posh wanted to prove all the pundits wrong after already having their season written off with a quick return to League One predicted. The atmosphere inside the ground reflected the importance of the match as both teams had healthy support who made some considerable noise throughout the match.
Despite making a number of signings over the summer Nicky Ajose was the only new face in the squad named by Darren Ferguson. A surprise starter was Lee Frecklington who had only just come of the transfer list. The remainder of the squad was made up of promotion heroes who made a name for themselves at Old Trafford, including Paul Jones who would be taking the number one shirt for a while replacing the injured Joe Lewis.
Palace were the favourites for the match but it was Posh who made the strongest start to the game. Despite Posh having the most possession when Palace headed towards goal they looked threatening with Sean Scannell testing the keeper within the first minute. Yet it was still Posh who had the most chances and came close on 15 minutes when a shot by Grant McCann from 30 yards out was just pushed over the bar by the fingertips of Julian Speroni. What happened shortly after was a worrying site to see, Nicky Ajose pulling up after 27 minutes on his debut having to be replaced by David Ball. Luckily it only looked like a minor injury.
Posh had the most chances but were struggling to convert any of these and Palace capitalised on this weakness on 33 minutes when Scannell pounced on a mistake by Ryan Bennett and hooked a volley over Jones into the back on the net. Neither team deserved to be winning but it was Palace who had the upper-hand at half-time.
Seconds after the break Lee Tomlin saw a header saved by Speroni as the urgency in the side picked up pace. Palace seemed to have lost their heads, they were giving away fouls all over the field and didn’t really seem interested in playing football instead focusing on breaking up the game as much as possible. They were penalised for this play on 58 minutes as Palace gave away a free-kick just to the left of the box which was cleverly converted by McCann.
This spurred the team on more, the belief was back and Posh were continuously pushing forward leaving the Palace defence wondering how they would calm this storm. Posh were using the flanks well to put in some threatening crosses yet no one seemed to be able to convert. It left the fans wondering whether the void left by Craig Mackail-Smaith had been filled yet. However minutes later Posh were in front as Mark Little stormed his way down the wing and weaved into the box to dispatch a shot to the head of David Ball who gratefully converted.
This only seemed to weaken the Palace spirits even more as Posh again continued to threaten knowing that one more goal and the game would be theirs. It was a nail biting four minutes of extra-time full of ear-splitting whistles from the London Road crowd every time Palace had hold of the ball but the euphoric roar that was let out as the final whistle was finally blown showed how much this win meant to the fans. Palace were anything but tough opponents but a win was a win and getting off the mark on the first game of the season was the dream start. Onwards and upwards we go.
Paul Jones – Did exactly what was needed from him in goal. No mistakes made and strong in the air as always.
Grant Basey – The weakest link in the team. Looked very shaky on the ball and had to rely on other teammates to help him out of situations.
Mark Little – Very impressive. Made a lot of promising runs forward and created the second goal.
Ryan Bennent – Made a few silly mistakes, one of which led to the first Palace goal. However still strong and put in good tackles when called upon.
Gabriel Zakuani – Strong as always. Still seems to have a minor injury.
Tommy Rowe – The surprise performance of the day. Looked so lively going forward and created some great pieces of football.
Grant McCann – Did a great job of controlling the game. Commanded midfield and came close on several occasions with his pin-point perfect free-kicks as always. Fantastic strike for the first goal.
Lee Frecklington – Surprised he started but put in a good performance. Created some good chances.
George Boyd – The most creative players as always. Great on the ball and came close a few times.
Lee Tomlin – Lasted the whole 90 minutes but looked physically drained by the end of the game. Needs to work on his target practice as shots were flying everywhere. Clever move to create the first goal.
Nicky Ajose – Disappointed he had to come off so soon with an injury. Looked lively when on, hopefully he will be back in action soon.
David Ball (sub for Ajose, 27mins) – Probably wouldn’t be a first choice striker yet but stepped up to the mark when he came on. Great headed goal.
Ryan Tunnicliffe (sub for Frecklington, 86mins) – Didn’t have many minutes on the pitch but almost scored from an unstoppable ping straight after coming on. Bags of potential.
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