Rarely have I felt so fed up after a draw. Not because of the manner of it, or because of any individual performance(s), or even the team performance, but rather because of where it leaves us. I know that way, way back in August, before all the fun began, play-offs were the realistic target, and that was achieved a couple of games ago, but automatic promotion has been within our grasp for so long that to now have to watch the results of others to avoid another pair of games and hopefully another trip to Wembley… well, it’s not ideal. From the madness and mayhem of that accompanied the maelstrom of delight after Max Power’s 87th minute goal to the abject feeling of emptiness that followed the home side’s leveller in added time is a long, long journey for the soul to take. Such a change in emotions leaves you drained, especially after such a long season.
After a pleasant stop in Stamford, all vintage bookshops and golden-stoned buildings of apparently great antiquity, we managed a swift one in the Coal Heavers Arms before joining the rest of the 3,700 in the blazing sun of London Road. Not a day for coats, or hats that do anything but keep the sun out of your eyes. After Friday’s sensible win, there were no changes.
O’Nien Dunne Ozturk Oviedo
Morgan Honeyman McGeady
Playing towards the East End, where half of the visiting fans were housed, the Lads had to show a bit of resilience early on as the home side were a bit quicker to sort themselves out, but soon got back into a game that moved from end to end. An early Posh attack was ended when Oviedo earned a yellow, but we survived that free-kick and a couple of half chances before Morgan was instrumental in a little spell that should have seen us go ahead. First he shot wide, then helped set up Honeyman, whose shot was blocked – then we thought we were ahead when big Chas fed Morgan, and the effort appeared to be stopped by an arm. Nothing given, and it was even closer a minute later when Wyke put it away, only to be given offside. A Power shot was straight at the keeper, they shot wide as McLaughlin looked to have it covered, then came the moment when it went wrong. Wyke turned and burst through in the inside-left position, bore down on goal, and, as we began our celebrations, planted the ball firmly beyond the keeper’s right hand – and the keeper’s right-hand post. Aw, man, Charlie, that should have been a goal, and with eight or so minutes to the break it would have knocked the stuffing out of the Posh for a while at least.
It did seem to spur us on a bit, with McGeady dancing his was around his marker and almost setting something up before Power was denied by the keeper and O’Nien did his usual trick of getting to the by-line and crossing low. As the two added minutes were added, McGeady slung in a corner, then a cross, and the home side were forced into some desperate defending to keep us out, particularly when Dunne’s close-range header was saved. We headed in to the break a little aggrieved that we weren’t ahead, but surely that would come in the second half if we maintained the pressure – and we had Grigg, Gooch, and Maguire on the bench.
No changes were made for the second period other than loosening another shirt button too let the heat out, and the first action of note was a booking for their Maddison when he crashed into Oviedo who was attempting to break forward. Ten minutes in Bennett needed lengthy treatment and eventually arose with a bandage around his head. We put in several crosses, low, high, and in the middle, but Chapman in the home goal was equal to them all. As nothing we tried was coming off, it made sense to swap things around, and on 65 Grigg replaced Honeyman, with Catts, as you’d expect, taking over as captain. A bit of close support for Wyke, but McLaughln was the first keeper called into action, taking a cross under pressure and setting us up for another attack that brought a corner when Power’s cross was diverted wide. Compared to what we were used to before Leadbitter’s arrival, they weren’t bad corners, but they lacked the accuracy that we’ve seen since January. McGeady bruised a few home fans with a fierce shot that flew wide, then on came Gooch on about 75 minutes, and he was his usual busy self.
Things looked like they were about to take a turn for the worse soon after, when they burst through in the same channel that Wyke had failed from in the first half. Fortunately (ish) O’Nein was a lot quicker than their defenders had been, but simply chopped the lad’s legs away 25 yards out. An obvious yellow, and we’d have been screaming for a red had the roles be reversed. Well held by McLaughlin when it was swung in, though.
On came Maguire as we went for broke with a bit over ten minutes left, replacing McGeady. After Wyke’s knock-down from Oviedo’s cross didn’t quite reach Power, we had a spot of defending to do, working hard to keep out a couple of corners. Gooch relived the pressure when he ran onto Maguire’s ball over the top, but when he found O’Nien, Mr Energy’s cross was too long. Maguire was in the thick of things and looked like he might just have brought that little something special that could turn the game. When his shot was blocked it fell to Catts, but there was no goal this time as his volley was off target. It’s coming, we thought, and the visiting fans, who’d been in fine voice throughout, turned the volume up to eleven to urge that bit extra effort.
Three or four minutes were left when Posh got all their men behind the ball as Power strode towards the box, and his low right-footer didn’t seem to be anything spectacular, but it flew right past everybody and into the keeper’s right-hand corner of the net to spark crazy scenes in our sections of the ground. Boom! That’s it, sod the play-offs, sod Wembley, we’re on our way.
Except we weren’t. Seven added minutes were announced, Oviedo took a knock and was obviously struggling, but we couldn’t really sneak Hume on without the ref noticing. We had to hold out for those seven minutes, but after only one of them, a break came down their right, Oviedo couldn’t cope, Godden’s low shot came across McLaughlin, beyond his fingertips, and just inside the post for the leveller.
Silence, as our hearts sank, but we drew our breath and found our voices to roar the Lads forward for the winner that somehow we knew wasn’t going to come. Not for want of trying, mind, with Gooch missing and us winning a corner, although the home side missed the best chance when Godden shot way wide.
Then it was all over. Pompey, Charlton, and Barnsley all won, not that any of those results mean a great deal apart from influencing who we might get in the play-offs and reinforcing that nobody looks like slipping up to prevent us going down that route.
Man of the Match? Max Power. Apart from the goal, he had probably his best game for us, dictating play and passing well.