The Lads made the trip down the A1, or the east coast main line, to Peterborough and brought back a valuable point from a proper battling game of football on a bright but windy afternoon, and on a pitch that played a lot better than it looked. Sterling performances from Sanderson and O’Nien kept the home side’s prolific strikers at bay for all but a single moment, and a beaut of a free-kick by McGeady was worthy of a point in any game, at any level.
With the dust quickly having settled on the Good Friday Disagreement, mostly because it took place in Karl Robinson’s head rather than in the real world, we had arguably our biggest game of the season. Quite what Mr Robinson sought to achieve with his stream of misinformation is a bit of a mystery – does he not realise that, while there might not be a camera in the tunnel (mention Sunderland ‘til I die and award yourself two points) there were several around the ground filming his players? All his nonsense served to do was provide Clinton Morrison (EFL on Quest) with an excuse for not watching our match but repeating Robinson’s guff on TV. “Sykes’s first yellow was never a yellow” – yes it was, and the ref quite clearly indicated that it wasn’t just for the foul on Power, but for a series of fouls, which Mr Kettle pointed to as he produced the card. “Power made a meal of it” No he didn’t, he got straight up. “Their player was injured when McGeady scored” No he wasn’t, he was getting back to his feet when he realised we’d taken the free, so he rolled back over. At least he didn’t repeat Robinson’s lie that the police had been called because his goalkeeper, later changed to “one of my goalkeepers”, had been head-butted by an imaginary member of our coaching staff. What a plonker – if you want to try and gain something by time-wasting, feigning injury, and fouling, then be prepared to accept the consequences when those tactics fail….and don’t be surprised if an opposing player remembers your actions in previous games. You say it best, when you say nothing at all.
No real injury worries from our last game, or so I thought until Maguire’s absence from the match-day squad, and a great psychological boost being generated by coming from behind to win convincingly, even if other goals almost as late as Power’s stopped our upward climb. Which is presumably what the Posh ground-staff were hoping to do by spraying countless gallons of water onto the wings. Do they not know that Geads and Jones walk on water? (tra la la la la, la la la la). Or that their pitch is a bit tatie-field anyway? Perhaps they’re thinking of growing rice.
Just to make you feel old, it’s 29 years to the day since John Byrne nodded the ball into the Leppings Lane goal to get us to our last FA Cup final.
Power © Sanderson O’Nien McFadzean
Jones Wyke Stewart McGeady
A pretty attacking line-up there, so you couldn’t knock Johnson’s positivity, and with Matthews, McLaughlin, O’Brien, Gooch, Scowen, Diamond, and Hume on the bench, we were not short of pace in reserve. No sign of Maguire, however, so the usual strutting cameo wouldn’t be happening. Nice to see Hume back in the fray, though, and with the pitch almost certain to be claggy out wide, having two big Lads up front gives us something to hoy the ball at from deep if that clagginess forces Jones and Geads infield. With the live stream refusing to start at 3pm, I was getting to worry that I’d not see any action… that’s because it’s on Sky, you idiot, and you’ve just bought a pass for the Charlton game!
In our usual stripes, we kicked off attacked the goal to the left as the cameras looked, and won an early free when Jones was upended out right, but couldn’t get through the home defence. Ross Stewart was making a nuisance of himself and letting his marker know he was in for a tricky and potentially bruising afternoon. O’Nien had to be alert to block a shot from the edge of the box when the Posh keeper went route one and got it forward, then Power nearly got Jones away when he completed the clearance. On ten minutes, Stewart and Wyke combined well from Leadbitter’s long pass up the field, with the former nodding it into the latter’s path on the edge, and the shot taking a deflection to go for a corner. Leadbitter’s cross from the right was a tad too high even for Stewart, and he couldn’t control his header.
Patient passing saw Power’s pass find Stewart, but be headed for a throw which came back to Power, and he got it into the box, where Stewart’s challenge left Thompson with a stiff neck and Geads picked up the loose ball on the left. He jinked into the side of the box and shot for goal only for Beevers’s head to knock it wide of the post. Stewart whacked it back across, but the Posh cleared for a corner, which the keeper took unchallenged.
Big Ross was having a canny time of it, bringing down Thompson on 15 minutes to give the home side the chance to launch one into our box from the right, but we were up to it only for Winchester to give another free away on the other side. We cleared that, and won a free when Jones was brought down with a deserved yellow for Reed. We tried to play Sanderson down the right from the free, but he couldn’t get it under control (he’s nee winger, like!) and it bounced for a goal kick. We weren’t afraid to go back to go forward, and tried our best to pass it on a bumpy surface as we’d more than matched the home side in the opening 20 minutes – for once not allowing the opposition to have the better of the opening exchanges. Jones danced past a couple of apparently static defenders and fired in a shot that hit Stewart on the back and was put behind for a corner on the right. Jones pinged it low to Sanderson at the front of goal, but he was tackled as he shot and Peterborough got it away.
Despite the wind being on the backs of the home side, we were keeping the ball away from our box and winning most of the midfield battles and being patient, particularly Luke, at the back, when clearing our lines to keep it away from Clark-Harris. Reed tried a pop from well outside the box, giving Burge the chance to get down and get his knees mucky with a comfortable save. With a proper partner, Wyke was able to move wide to either side and provide an outlet for Geads or Jones – while that proper partner did the same. Burge had to be alert to rush out of his box and hoof an awkwardly bouncing ball for a throw, and then O’9 leaned into a shot from our left to chest it behind for the home side’s first corner bang on the half hour. We defended that well enough, with the commentary team claiming it was a combination of chest and hand, even though replays showed no hand involvement at all.
Our subsequent break ended when Stewart was tackled near the corner of the box, but Jones produced some more of those step-overs to get in a cross, but the keeper took the catch in the middle of his goal. Jones was fouled yet again as but the ball refused to drop, and the defence was able to swing a leg at it and poke it out of the box. We were putting the Blues under a fair bit of pressure, with Leadbitter’s looped cross after another Jones run winning us a throw on the left and McFadz crossing to Stewart - but Beevers got in the way again. More clever defending from Luke, flipping it over his opponent Frank Worthington style, got the ball clear, and when we got it over halfway, Jones was fouled again – straight reds have been given in the Prem for less, but a yellow for Butler suffices in this division, apparently. Jones took the free, and there was confusion as the ball bounced around in the box and it took an age for the Posh to get it away, with the wind getting under anything in the air. A Sanderson tackle gave the home side a corner on their left, with O’9 the man in the way again before it rolled back to Burge. A wicked cross from their left, on the break, caused O’9 all sorts of problems on 40 minutes at the back post, and it would have been an OG but for Burge’s reaction save. More defending of the standard sort was needed from Luke soon after, getting in the way of the run of Szmodics in the box and allowing Burge to collect.
Another free gave us the chance to get it forward, but Power’s pass was to nobody in particular and the home defence picked it up as two added minutes were announced. Wyke and Stewart swapped passes to win a throw high up the field on the right, and we ended the half in possession and threatening. Solid defending by the home side and clever persistency by O’9 had kept the division’s two highest scorers from troubling either keeper, but we’d been the better side for the first half of the first half before Peterborough forced their way back into things without being allowed to dominate for any length of time.
I was happy with that score-line, and I expect Johnson was as well. With Jones’s marker Butler being on a yellow, Jordan would have been looking forward to getting amongst him in the second half. Wyke and Stewart were battering away at the home defence, with Beevers in particular enjoying the battle, but in that sort of contest there’s always the likelihood of the ball dropping to someone else. Let it be Geads, please!
Apparently, we’ve scored in each of our last 23 games, and Peterborough have scored in every home game so far this season, so something was surely on the cards for the second half. Us scoring for the 24th consecutive game and Peterborough’s first no-score at home would do nicely. No changes for us, and the home side set things away and won a throw up on our left, which they took long for O’9 (who else?) to head away. We continued to be sharp in midfield to deny possession to the home side, and therefore service to Clark-Harris, but they had the first chance of the half when Sanderson headed away a cross for Szmodics to volley - way over the top. Down at the other end, Wyke blasted a shot from the right that the keeper did well tip over the top for another corner – apparently our first shot on target, although I’d argue that Geads’s first half curler was heading for the corner. After that corner was cleared, we built another attack with Stewart being fouled on the edge of the box on the left – McGeady territory, especially with the wind to assist him, and his right-footed effort was into the side-netting, just the wrong side of the near post. Very close indeed.
Stewart tickled the ball back to Geads ten minutes into the half, but he ran into some blue socks and lost the ball, giving Peterborough the chance to break. We were alive to it and kept them out, with Sanderson doing the necessary in the box as they warmed up a couple of subs and were caught offside. On came Dembele and Brown for Reed and Burrows, with the former being a tricky player we’d need to keep the ball away from. More good defending from O’9, chasing in to tackle Ward perfectly near the corner flag on our left, won us a goal kick. We were looking very neat and tidy in playing it through the middle, and Winchester tried one from distance that he didn’t quite catch correctly, leading to a standard save.
We then needed Sanderson to keep a cool head when Dembele ran at him and into the box, our man eventually poking the ball off his opponent’s toes then watching as the Posh won it back only to shoot well wide. Winchester’s ball to Stewart in the box hung in the air and was nutted behind for a corner on our left which produced a spot of pinball that left Sanderson on the deck after he was hit in the chops by a shot from Stewart. A spot of smelling salts and he was OK, with Butler being replaced by Mason on 63, meaning that both of their booked players were off. They then broke down their right and Burge was sharply at Szmodics’s feet to ensure the shot could only go beyond the far post.
Their next attack swept from their right into the box, and when it was rolled into Dembele’s path on the other side, he had loads of space to plant it back across and inside Burge’s left-hand post. What did I say about keeping an eye on him? The first goal we’ve conceded away from home for six and a half hours, apparently, and I thought that McFadz had been pulled down in the build-up – the sort of foul that’s given in the Prem but not this division. Damn and blast, we still had 24 minutes to put things right, although we were starting to look a little fragile out on our left. Perhaps time for some changes?
More tremendous defending by O’9 after he’d conceded possession denied Clark-Harris and gave the home side a corner which we cleared then lined up Gooch, Hume, McLaughlin and O’Brien. Off went Jones, Stewart, McFadz, and Leadbitter, but it was the home side who had their tails up and we were more than happy when we managed to get the ball up the other end, even though McGeady’s long pass across to Gooch was too strong and went for a goal kick. Power moved into midfield with McLaughlin adopted his normal role at the back, and Burge had to whack another spinning ball from just outside the area before making a fine save at his near post which allowed Sanderson to clear. A Gooch break set up Geads for the cross, and when it was headed clear to the edge of the box, Winchester could only scoop his shot disappointingly over the bar. That was his last contribution, as he was replaced by Scowen who was almost immediately fouled a couple of yards outside the box and central – another for Geads, and he produced, curling the shot just under the bar to the keeper’s left. Perfectly placed, Aiden, and still nearly ten to go.
Szmodics was next to be replaced, with Eisa coming on for the last five minutes but Geads the next to have a go, firing a left-footer low past the front post from the inside right channel, not really getting hold of the shot cleanly. Brilliant strong defending by Sanderson prevented their man getting into the box, and when we got up their end there was almost an OG when the ball bounced off a defender and hit the post, rolling behind for a corner which the home side cleared as five added minutes were announced. We had to double up at the back, with Scowen blocking the cross and us winning a free when the home side were a little too enthusiastic chasing their throw-in. Another sliced interception ended in their keeper’s arms when we whipped in a cross from the left, then Gooch almost got it to Geads in the box and we had another corner on the right. This went way too deep and we couldn’t do anything when Power eventually collected out on the left – and that was that.
A really hard-fought battle of a game, with the central defenders being the dominant figures and a spot of magic from the old magician winning us a point that I’m quite happy with. The ball was moving from end to end in the latter stages, but we continued to chase the home midfield down and deny them the space to feed their forwards – most of the time. We were the better side for most of the first half, but the home side, understandably, threw themselves at us after the break to take the lead. A flurry – nay, veritable blizzard – of substitutions changed our personnel but not our shape, and a foul on one of them, Scowen, gave Geads the chance to do what few players in this league can do.
Man of the Match? Another fine afternoon from Sanderson, and spot of brilliance from Geads, but for me it was Lucky Luke, with another typically energetic and brave display at the back. Nice one, Mr O’9.