A fairly impressive Posh performance counted for nothing as Colchester United came from behind to grab three points in the final minutes of the match.
Darren Ferguson named an un-changed line-up from the one that had looked so impressive last weekend against Hartlepool. The Posh also lined up in the same “diamond” formation that seems to be Ferguson’s tactic of choice. John Ward made four changes to the side that had played against Brighton on Tuesday night with Nathan Clarke making his debut at centre back for the hosts.
Posh could have hardly started better after obviously being fired up by a Ferguson team-talk. A swift passing move saw Chris Whelpdale invited to get forward from right-back collecting a pass from Charlie Lee and once he beat his marker Whelpdale put over a delicate cross to the far post for TOMMY ROWE to head home, beating two Colchester United defenders to the ball. Ferguson would have been especially pleased with the goal as a pivotal feature of his new strategy is that both full-backs effectively play as wing-backs and are expected to provide width for the team. This particular feature had worked to perfection here, giving Posh an early advantage to hold onto.
The Colchester United fans were becoming increasingly frustrated with their sides early performance as Posh dominated proceedings, retaining possession well, and it was the visitors who looked more likely to extend their advantage further. Indeed, it wasn’t long before Posh went close again through George Boyd who flashed a shot just wide of Ben Williams’ far post after some clever skill.
The hosts did have their first shot of the match moments later however when Andy Bond smashed a long-range shot straight at Lewis who could only parry the ball back in-front of him but, luckily for Peterborough, Lee was on hand to clear the danger. Lewis had made the speculative effort seem closer than it actually was to being an equalising goal by making a meal out of a relatively comfortable save.
Peterborough were moving the ball fantastically well as the half went on and Colchester were having to work hard to keep their shape to reduce the likelihood of The Posh scoring a second, as The Posh looked to switch play on regular occasions meaning the home side’s defence was constantly having to adjust their positions. However, when Boyd played a wonderfully weighted pass into the feet of Lee Tomlin, who was clear of the last defender, Posh did have a chance to extend their lead but Tomlin smashed his shot straight at Williams when he really should have scored.
Posh once again went close as Chris Whelpdale powered a header at goal from a Lee Tomlin corner but his effort smashed off the post and, agonizingly, rolled across the line before Clarke could clear for “The U’s”. Colchester United were having to cope with a barrage of Posh pressure now and it seemed inevitable that the away side would add a second but when Mackail-Smith tried the speculative from close-range, rather than making sure of scoring, it was a question of wondering whether Posh would be cursing their lack of composure in-front of goal.
This seemed to be the warning side that Colchester United needed and they fired into life, forging their first period of pressure in the half. And it wasn’t long before Posh’s defence buckled, as it had been guilty of doing so throughout the season, when a fairly innocuous cross was put into the box Kelvin Langmead inexplicably tried to head a low ball and his clearance arrived straight at the feet of STEPHEN GILLISPIE, who took a touch to steady himself, before firing past a helpless Lewis. The goal had came as a result of a calamity of errors from Peterborough. Initially starting when Lewis played a poor pass into Bennett, who was under pressure, before both Kennedy and Lee wasted chances to clear before Langmead’s poor clearance proved costly.
The visitors, who had appeared so comfortable for the large majority of the first half, where now looking nervous and Colchester came close to taking the lead when a powerful header from an un-marked Lee Beevers was well cleared by Tommy Rowe. The guilty player for leaving Beevers free, not once but twice, was Kelvin Langmead as the Colchester United defender simply made the same run twice – although first time he was not spotted – and weak marking had left him in acres of space.
As the half-time whistle blew it came as a relief for the away side who looked likely to allow Colchester United to add a second to their total. Indeed, Ferguson had been forced to change to a 4-2-3-1 formation to see out the half. Poor defending was once again to blame and, as Ferguson pointed out in his first programme notes, a team that had been low on confidence had immediately seemed nervous. It was now a question of regrouping and starting the second half as The Posh had opened the first.
The visitors did exactly this. Once again they seemed calm with the ball and when the space opened up for Charlie Lee to smash a long-range shot it looked as if he was to give Posh the lead for the second time in the match but the ball hammered down off the underside of the cross-bar before bouncing clear the Colchester United goal. It was a fantastic strike from Lee that seemed destined for the back of the net, with Williams helpless, but Posh’s luck was out and it meant that the scores remained level.
“The U’s” quickly retaliated though and had a good shout for a penalty when Chris Whelpdale appeared to control the ball with an arm but the referee allowed play to go on. Andy Bond also tried his luck from range but Lewis made a comfortable save.
But Posh had started the better of the two sides and when Mackail-Smith raced clear after a clever pass from Tomlin it seemed that he was destined to put Posh in-front but Matt Heath got back wonderfully well to put Peterborough’s top goalscorer under pressure. In-truth Mackail-Smith will have felt disappointed not to test Williams in the Colchester goal, even with Heath bearing down on him, but credit must go to the defender who did well to get back.
Peterborough then had two penalty appeals in quick succession as they were firmly placed in the Colchester United half. Firstly, a hand-ball from Lee Beevers was not deemed to be a penalty by referee Phil Crossley and then Wesolowski was booked for a dive as he burst clear off the last defender. Both appeals appeared to be legitimate. Beevers definitely handled but it was certainly not intentionally and Wesolowski was clipped but a moment’s hesitation before going down had obviously led to the referee feeling that he gone down too easily.
The visitors appeared to tire in the final stages of the game and Colchester looked to capitalise on this as they hoped one last spell of pressure would be enough to grab them three points out of a game that had seen them have to defend for large periods. First Ryan Bennett had to clear of the line, hacking the ball away after a powerful header, and then Andy Bond’s spectacular long-range effort went just wide of Lewis’ goal.
Just as the game seemed destined to end up as a draw Colchester United, who had now seized the initiative, put in a hopeful cross which was not cleared by the Posh defence and, after the ball had ran loose, DAVID MOONEY remained calm to slot the ball past Lewis and give the hosts an important victory. It had been a hugely important strike for Colchester and that much was evident from the celebrations of both players and fans as a relatively quiet home support erupted in jubilation and Mooney sprinted into the home support behind the goal.
The goal was not to be the final action of the match though as Mendez-Laing, a late substitute from Ferguson, was tripped inside the area but whether he truly had control of the ball may have been the deciding factor as Phil Crossley rejected desperate appeals from Peterborough fans and players. Lee Tomlin then burst passed Nathan Clarke before lashing the ball across goal but unfortunately no red-shirted player was there to tap the ball into an empty net.
This was a game that we really should have won. We dominated the match for the large majority of play but never capitalised on our chances and threw away a lead through a combination of awful defending and poor finishing. Neither of Colchester’s goals were particularly well worked and both had been avoidable. However, credit to the hosts who, when they did have pressure, capitalised on the fact that we could not fend it off and were clinical in-front of goal. They are a well-organised team with some excellent players, notably David Perkins who was excellent throughout the game, and are likely to be in the play-off hunt at the end of the season.
I was accused of having a vendetta against Langmead previously but again he was poor. He cost us a goal once again tonight and, although I will have to see the second goal again before forming an opinion on it, Boyd was clearly in discussions with the former Shrewsbury player after the goal. However, not all the blame can be pinned on him as collectively as a defence we weren’t good enough for either goal. Craig Mackail-Smith and Lee Tomlin both had poor games going forward too.
On a positive we kept possession as well as we have this season. It was great to see the ball being spread from one side of the pitch to another and we created a lot of chances as a result. It is nice to see both full-backs looking to pass the ball back inside, with Lee who was again excellent again being pivotal, instead of looking to smash the ball into the channels as they had been guilty of regularly under Johnson.
In the end walking away from the stadium it was a complete contrast of emotions from the last time Posh had left the Weston Homes Community Stadium. Frustration was the over-riding feeling this time round rather than unmeasured joy last time. However, for a defeat there were still a number of positives and it is easier to lose after seeing your team put in a good performance than not turning up, as we have been guilty of on numerous occasions this season away from home.
Up The Posh.