Full-time: MK Dons 3-0 Posh: Abject first-half proves costly

Peterborough United's David Norris rues a missed chance against MK Dons. Picture: Joe Dent
Peterborough United's David Norris rues a missed chance against MK Dons. Picture: Joe Dent
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It’s a rare sight in football to see your team’s best player hauled off after 35 minutes.

But there’s nothing new this season about Posh coming up short against the best sides in League One.

Posh have been humbled by Bristol City and Swindon so far, but nothing will hurt like the first 45 minutes against an MK Dons side they are used to beating.

Four times in a row Posh had triumphed over the Dons.

The near 1,800 travelling fans must have feared the worst against a team who have been so dominant at home all season, but even they must surely have expected better than a first 45 minutes which brought the home side three goals and forced the visitors into two substitutes.

Not that manager Darren Ferguson didn’t want to make more.

The Posh boss, admitted he wanted to take off all his team having gone two goals down and lost “every second ball, every header and every tackle.”

But there was surprise all round when he hauled off Erhun Oztumer just after the half-hour mark.

Surprise and boos that is, with the away end showing their immediate disapproval once Oztumer’s name was called out.

Ferguson said afterwards he did not feel Oztumer had contributed much to the match, but his rasping 25 yard effort which hit the top of the bar was by far the best bit of play Posh had mustered until that point.

The Turk had looked bright in possession and always eager to get forward, so it appeared strange that he would get the chop even if it did bring Marcus Maddison on to the pitch.

Even some home fans applauded Oztumer as he came off, although that might have been just to bate the Posh supporters.

To be honest, it didn’t really matter by then.

Posh had held out against league leaders Bristol City for nine minutes on Tuesday night, but against the second best side in the division they could only manage four before gifting the lead.

Michael Bostwick was easily turned by Daniel Powell who squared the ball to Will Grigg to fire low past Ben Alnwick from inside the area.

To their credit, Posh responded well to the goal and more than matched their opponents, with Oztumer’s thumping effort the one time they came close to levelling the scores.

But that was as good as it got.

Dons are the top scorers in League One, and even without injured star midfielder Dele Alli they showed why.

Powell missed his kick in front of goal when he should have scored and Grigg saw a shot parried by the outstretched foot of Alnwick as the home side stepped up the tempo,

The warning signs were ignored, and soon Ben Reeves made it 2-0 after being given space from a short corner to drill in his shot from around 20 yards.

It was then that Ferguson brought off Oztumer, as well as bringing on Shaun Brisley for Michael Smith.

Yet the changes made no difference. Dons were rampant and Posh were ragged.

The tipping point came on the stroke of half-time.

Jack Payne gave the ball away and Kgosi Nthle tripped Carl Baker as Dons attacked, but with play continuing Reeves cut in from the right and curled in his shot from 25 yards.

Referee Dean Whitestone even seemed to take pity on Posh as he blew for half-time when the Dons had a dangerous free-kick.

The second-half was better from an attacking point of view, but David Norris stabbed wide and Maddison twice failed from good shooting positions, the first of which saw him blaze high and wide with a clear sight of goal.

Ferguson admitted afterwards that his players owed the fans an apology and you could see his point.

They continued to sing despite seeing their desperate defence cling on.

Grigg headed over twice early in the half, and as the home side looked to give their fans a rousing send-off, Brisley had to clear a shot from substitute George Williams off the line.

It has been a punishing week for Posh and their play-off hopes look dashed.

Even Ferguson, who is normally optimist about his side’s chances, hinted that his thoughts are already turning to next season. To his credit, he also acknowledged that big changes need to be made at the club.

With Bradford and Sheffield United up next, more pain has to be expected for Posh fans who must have been glad to see Jon Taylor make his first start after recovering from injury.

Posh end the week in 15th. A week in which even their manager seems to have concluded that the play-off dream is over.

Posh: Ben Alnwick, Michael Smith (sub Shaun Brisley, 35 mins), Michael Bostwick, Christian Burgess, Kgosi Ntihe, Erhun Oztumer (sub Marcus Maddison, 35 mins), Jack Payne, David Norris (sub Conor Washington, 56 mins), Harry Beautyman, Jon Taylor, Luke James. Unused substitutes: Dion-Curtis Henry, Gaby Zakuani, Harry Anderson, Aaron McLean

MK Dons: Ian McLoughlin, Jordan Spence, Kyle McFadzean, Antony Kay, Dean Lewington, Darren Potter, Samir Carruthers, (sub Keith Andrews, 78 mins), Daniel Powell (sub Devante Cole 85 mins), Ben Reeves (sub George Williams, 69 mins), Carl Baker, Will Grigg. Unused substitutes: Charlie Burns, Lee Hodson, Danny Green, Tom Hitchcock

Goals: Dons - Grigg (4 mins), Reeves (30, 45 mins).

Cautions: Dons - Andrews (foul), Lewington (foul)

Referee: Dean Whitestone 7

Attendance: 11,162 (Posh 1,798).