The team written off by everyone, including all but the most optimistic of their own fans, were that close to winning at Bournemouth, a team intent on buying their way out of the Championship.
Posh ‘keeper Dai Cornell delivered some booming clearances in the first-half of the game at the Vitality Stadium, but one weak kick six minutes into the second-half was nodded to Ryan Christie who was allowed to reach the Posh penalty unmolested before firing home. The positioning of Frankie Kent and Cornell undoubtedly helped.
It was the one glaring error of a fine all-round Posh performance and stopped a satisfying point becoming a superb victory. As it is the single point doesn’t help that much, especially given the awful Posh goal difference, but it will have delivered hope to the fanbase and confidence to the players.
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Is it really beyond Posh to beat two mid-table teams Stoke City and Swansea City in forthcoming home games, bearing in mind they have managed just one Championship goal at the Weston Homes Stadium since December 11? Those games take place while Reading have tough trips to Forest and Bournemouth. If those matches go to form and Posh do pick up two wins, the gap to safety is suddenly down to a point, as long as Derby (away to Bournemouth and Blackburn) and Barnsley (home to Fulham and Bristol City) don’t do anything unexpected.
Is it time to dare to dream?
TALKING POINTS FROM BOURNEMOUTH V POSH...
1) Posh have now taken two points from the second-best team in the division and lost narrowly to the best team, Fulham, twice. How frustrating they have failed to raise their game against lesser opposition.
2) It looks like manager Grant McCann won’t be moved off his three centre-back formation, but his tactical tweaks ensured his team still delivered a very positive, fearless, front-footed performance, as he had promised. It was a surprise to see Ronnie Edwards move out of the comfort of the middle of the back three to play on the right, especially as that meant confrontation with the speed and skill of former teammate Siriki Dembele. But Edwards was excellent (as was Joe Ward) in keeping Dembele quiet and he used his vision and passing range effectively given the extra space he now had. Josh Knight was also excellent in the middle of the defence. He was tough and he can also ping a pass.
3) Ward was a revelation last night. The wide man has the natural gift of pace and it’s been frustrating watching him turn back and play a safe pass so often this often. Not last night though when he was always positive and always troubling home left back Jordan Zemura. Ward’s corners were disappointing, but he whipped in some glorious crosses, set up Jack Marriott’s 100th career goal and almost scored late on himself after a terrific burst into the box.
4) In Posh’s position two up top should be a must and Marriott and Jonson Clarke-Harris were effective together with the latter giving two big centre-backs a hard time for 45 minutes until tiring. It’s likely they will meet three centre-backs on Saturday which will make things tougher, but there looked to be potential in the partnership last night.
5) McCann says he is looking at the ‘bigger picture’ (that is planning for next season) as well as trying to pull off a great escape from relegation. That explains why three loan players Hayden Coulson, Callum Morton and Reece Brown were all absent from the matchday squad at Bournemouth and why under 23 star Joe Taylor was on the bench and went on to make his first-team debut. The presence of Oliver Norburn, who one assumes will be off in the summer, did play though and on-loan goalkeeper Steven Benda will surely play when available again. Hopefully Kwame Poku will still be in Posh plans next season, but it was a surprise to see him fail to even make the bench.
6) Dembele was booed by some travelling Posh fans which was disappointing, but an inevitable consequence of engineering a move away from London Road. He was greeted warmly by the Posh playing squad though. Dembele hung out on the left, while Bournemouth concentrated most of their attacks down the right, and only once, soon after Christie’s equaliser, did he break free to set up a close range shot for Dominic Solanke which was superbly blocked by Kent. Dembele’s career will be interesting to follow. He could well became lost if Bournemouth are promoted as the Cherries have the financial firepower to sign many new, more expensive performers.
7) Financial fairplay rules remain a mystery to many. Bournemouth play in front of the lowest Championship crowds and yet can throw big money at relatively big-name players as they attempt an immediate return to the big-time.
8) Posh broke a club record last night, but not in a good way. Christie’s goal for Bournemouth was the 49th away goal conceded by Posh this season beating the club worst of 48 goals in the 1969-70 and 1970-71 seasons.