REPORT: Peterborough United 0, Barnsley 0: Stalemate between two struggling sides as Posh slip deeper into relegation trouble
To the surprise of probably no-one, two out-of-form sides with very little confidence playing in awful conditions delivered a grim spectacle which finished goalless at the Weston Homes Stadium today (November 27).
Posh were the better team, certainly after a floodlight failure caused a 15-minute delay late in the game, but they suffered again through a failure to create clearcut chances.
Substitute Joel Randall missed the best of them six minutes from time when he failed to even hit the target after fine work from Siriki Dembele had left him with a clear strike at goal. How Dembele must despair, privately at least, of his teammates. He creates chance after chance which are invariably wasted.
That’s 11 of 20 Championship matches in which Posh have failed to trouble the scorers. The draw did neither side any good as results elsewhere left a widening gap to safety - Posh are four points adrift and Barnsley stranded by a massive eight points, which made their negativity hard to understand.
Posh boss Darren Ferguson sprang a selection surprise by handing West Ham United Academy graduate Kai Corbett a full Posh and Football League debut at the age of 19.
The young striker replaced Sammie Szmodics in one of five changes to the Posh starting line-up. Josh Knight, Ronnie Edwards, Conor Coventry and Harrison Burrows were also recalled in what could be viewed as a massive gamble in such an important game, or just desserts for several under-performing senior players. Frankie Kent and Joe Ward were removed from the matchday squad altogether with Szmodics, Oliver Norburn and Mark Beevers dropping to the substitutes’ bench.
Barnsley selected aggressively with Carlton Morris, Devante Cole and Cauley Woodrow forming a big front three. They made four changes to their starting line-up.
Both teams lined up with three centre-backs and a pair of wing-backs and neither team possessed the wit to create openings.
Posh left wing-back Harrison Burrows delivered a couple of decent crosses with Corbett diverting one in added time just wide of the post. Jonson Clarke-Harris sent a ball in from the right that just eluded Corbett.
Barnsley dragged everyone behind the ball when out of possession and relied on quick breaks after loose Posh passing to create opportunities. Cauley Woodrow shot straight at Posh ‘keeper Dai Cornell from 20 yards and then shot well wide from a little further out. Cornell also pushed a Morris cross to safety, but neither team could generate consistent pressure.
The first corner of the match arrived in the 41st minute and it went to the visitors. It flew out of play for a throw-in which rather summed the half up.
Ferguson’s reaction was to change shape to a 4-4-2 formation with Burrows and Dembele as wingers. Posh were better for the switch. They won three early corners which caused some concern before clearances were made.
The system change also opened the game up a touch and Carlton Morris was inches away from opening the scoring in the 52nd minute with a 20 yard curler.
Dembele then played Clarke-Harris through on goal, but visiting goalkeeper Bradley Collins was out quickly to smother.
Ferguson made two substitutions just before the hour mark with Szmodics and Norburn replacing Corbett and Coventry, but, although Posh huffed and puffed, clearcut chances remained elusive.
Jack Taylor couldn’t quite reach a Burrows cross before the latter was replaced by Randall for his first appearance since August 21.
Ten minutes later the lights went out, a metaphor for the chances of both teams this season.
Posh should have won the game within two minutes of the restart though. A neat touch from Clarke-Harris sent Dembele racing towards goal. He slipped the ball to Randall with the goal at his mercy, but the substitute fired badly over with a goalkeeper scrambling to get into position.
Posh dominated the final 15 minutes, although Cornell had to stay sharp to beat away a Morris strike.
Posh had one final half-chance deep into added time when a Dembele corner fell kindly for Butler. He got his shot away, but a strong block sent the ball spinning over the crossbar.
And that was that. The struggle continues and the easiest remaining fixture of the season has come and gone.
Posh: Dai Cornell, Dan Butler, Ronnie Edwards (sub Joel Randall, 71 mins), Josh Knight, Nathan Thompson, Conor Coventry (sub Oliver Norburn, 59 mins), Jack Taylor, Harrison Burrows, Siriki Dembele, Jonson Clarke-Harris, Kai Corbett (sub Sammie Szmodics, 59 mins)
Uused subs: Will Blackmore, Mark Beevers, Jorge Grant, Joe Tomlinson.
Barnsley: Brad Collins, Jordan Williams (sub William Hondermarck, 89 mins), Michal Helik, Liam Kitching, Mads Andersen, Callum Stlyes, Claudio Gomes, Josh Benson (sub Romal Palmer, 67 mins), Carlton Morris, Cauley Woodrow, Devante Cole (sub Victor Adeboyejo, 67 mins).
Unused subs: Jack Walton, Remy Vita, Jasper Moon, Dominic Frieser.
Cautions: Posh - Butler (foul), Coventry (foul), Norburn (foul).
Barnsley - Andersen (foul), Gomes (foul).
Referee: John Busby 7
Attendance: To follow.