If we’d sent the right message with the 6-0 win at Plymouth, that we were gaining momentum at the right time of the season, today we were looking for a statement of intent against one of the two teams going up, to show that we have the quality to match up. Today it didn’t quite happen, for a combination of reasons: we were up against better quality opposition than of late, we failed to convert a penalty, but most tellingly – and similarly to the Ipswich game but in total contrast to the Plymouth match – we regularly couldn’t convert good work and promising positions into clear goalscoring chances, while the quality of our balls in from set pieces was poor all afternoon. The stats show 62% possession but only three shots on target, while the deflected ones – and there were some promising ones in the second half – failed to find the net.
I’d say we were unfortunate to lose but by no means we were robbed, didn’t have enough chances for that. Fact is Peterborough got a goal and, like us at their place when we went ahead, concentrated on holding what they had. They nevertheless had the better chances to extend their lead, even during the second half when we were in their half most of the time. Amos was called on to make the sort of saves that their keeper was not, bar the penalty of course.
With possibly all three of Innis, Maatsen and Washington available again, Adkins did have some decisions to make. He opted to retain the formation that has served us well of late, while making one change, bringing back Inniss, and deciding to partner him with skipper Pearce rather than Famewo, who dropped to the bench. Millar and Jaiyesimi kept their places as the wide men, with Maatsen not making the bench (perhaps still injured) but Morgan retained there, ahead of Shinnie, available to operate wide if needed, while Watson got the nod again ahead of Pratley for the defensive midfield duties. With Aneke and Washington in reserve (no sign of Schwartz) we would have options up front.
It was a pretty even first 10 minutes, we started rather more brightly than in other games of late. Nevertheless, whereas in those games we tended not to concede and to play our way into it, this time we went behind. I actually missed their goal (went to put some laundry in the dryer, came back and we were one down), apparently we were too open at the back and their guy had a shot from the edge of the area that went inside the far post. We were fortunate that it wasn’t 0-2 before 20 minutes were out as this time a ball down the middle caught Inniss rather flat-footed. Their guy was in with only Amos to beat, but the shot wasn’t convincing and Amos managed to get a touch on it to turn it behind for a corner.
We were getting into decent positions, Gilbey got into the box with a one-two but overran it, and we had to wait until the 26th minute for our first actual shot, one from Stockley getting blocked. By that time Jaiyesimi had departed with what looked like a hamstring, Morgan coming on. No change of formation but it did mean a blunting of the outright attacking threat. In that sense it was unfortunate that Maatsen wasn’t on the bench for a real like-for-like.
On the half-hour we had the opportunity to square the game as Forster-Caskey won the ball back and played in through to Gilbey, who was clipped in the box. With Washington not on the pitch, the duties fell to Stockley. He hit it well enough but, like Schwartz’s effort against Oxford, at a good height for a keeper. Their keeper guessed right and made the save. For the rest of the first half we probed without success. Morgan shot over, Millar put in a dangerous cross, we had free kicks (badly underhit), while a poor Purrington clearance almost put Peterborough in only for Watson to make a vital interception.
At the break you felt that we had to do to them what they did to us at their place, stay patient and take the chances when they come to turn it around. There was an issue whether and at what point Adkins might feel obliged to change the formation it we were still chasing the game. But we were playing well enough, Peterborough were looked less threatening than in the early period of the game, just needed to get back on level terms.
Unfortunately the second half became a tale of close but no cigar. Millar, who had struggled early in the game, came into his own and ran them ragged down the left, without ever managing to deliver the killer final ball. Stockley was inches away from crosses, Gilbey made a super run from deep but couldn’t get enough on the final shot (or play in Morgan who was in space). It wasn’t all one-way traffic and it was indicative that one Peterborough move almost saw their lead extended as their guy cut in from the left and with everyone moving that way backheeled it into space for another to run on to. Strong shot was touched over by Amos.
With around 15 minutes left Aneke made his appearance, but given the state of the game it wasn’t Stockley making way but Gilbey, giving us two up front in a switch to 4-4-2. He looked dangerous, a Forster-Caskey shot then one from Millar were both deflected wide, then in the final 10 minutes Washington and Famewo came on, for Inniss and Morgan (unfortunate for him but this gave us the option of another forward threat). Still we couldn’t manage that gilt-edged chance. Although Peterborough were content to run down the clock, in the final moments as we tried to play out and had people committed forward they did hit the post, if that had gone in it would have rubbed salt in the wound. But it mattered not as in truth Peterborough protected their goal well and saw it out.
This game just has to be quickly forgotten and filed under ‘irrelevant’. We now have two games, against Crewe and Accrington, that we simply have to win if we are to get a play-off spot. Get the points, then see where we stand with two to go. On Tuesday, in addition to our game Portsmouth will play at Accrington, Lincoln at Shrewsbury, and Blackpool at Sunderland. Beat Crewe then go again.
Amos – 8/10. Once again made saves that kept us in the game.
Matthews – 7/10. Good game defensively, wasn’t able to get forward that much as our threat down the right side changed with Jaiyesimi departing early.
Inniss – 7/10. Mostly did what he does well enough, but we were opened up for their goal and he was involved in another good opportunity for them not long after.
Pearce – 7/10. No complaints, usual committed performance against difficult opponents.
Purrington – 7/10. Unfair to penalise for one poor clearance when otherwise he was good, also linked up well with Millar at the other end.
Watson – 8/10. Thought he was excellent today, breaking up their play and protecting the defence, as well as moving it forward.
Forster-Caskey – 7/10. Some excellent stuff winning possession and using it, performance just spoilt by some poor set pieces.
Gilbey – 7/10. Came close to getting us a point with his well-timed runs, just didn’t quite happen.
Jaiyesimi – 7/10. Only on the pitch for around 20 minutes before leaving injured.
Millar – 7/10. Could easily have been a score of 9 had his final ball, cross, pass, shot been better. So nearly a match-saver/winner but wasn’t.
Stockley – 7/10. Unfair to mark down for the penalty, worked hard and combined well with Aneke.
Morgan – 7/10. Not his fault he isn’t an outright winger, contributed to our second-half dominance, no reflection on him that he ended up being subbed to make way for another forward.
Aneke – 7/10. Looked dangerous without getting a clear sight of goal.
Famewo/Washington – Not on long enough for marks.