REPORT: Peterborough United 0, Gillingham 1: Posh slip up after a slow start to open the door for their automatic promotion rivals
These slow starts were always going to catch Posh out one day.
Every game, even against the poorest sides and Gillingham are not one of those, Posh are so slow out of the blocks they invite danger.
Usually they get away with it, but not tonight. Connor Ogilvie’s 14th minute strike settled a niggly, bitty contest with Posh never supplying enough quality to rescue even a point.
The chances did arrive and Sammie Szmodics rattled the crossbar with a terrific volley, but visiting goalkeeper Jack Bonham didn’t have to make a save of note which will surely disappoint Posh boss Darren Ferguson who survived a predictable slanging match with his opposite number Steve Evans.
To the surprise of absolutely no-one Posh named an unchanged side and the threat of Evans to change half of his Gillingham side after a late capitulation at Oxford last weekend proved false. He made just one change for a game his side had more need than Posh to win, in terms of keeping a season alive. Top scorer Vadaine Oliver was the man to miss out with John Akinde stepping in.
Gillingham’s tactics can’t have come as a surprise. They kept Posh pinned back, burly striker Akinde won every header, and as soon they won their first long throw opportunity they claimed a goal.
Ryan Jackson’s hurl into the area was initially defended, but the visitors kept the ball alive in the Posh box before it was driven home by full-back Ogilvie.
Posh continued to struggle and changed shape to three at the back and wing-backs, ironically just after they missed a golden opportunity to equalise.
It was a breakaway from another Gills set piece with Jack Taylor feeding Brown who played the perfect through ball to Siriki Dembele Dembele raced into the area, but instead of shooting he started dribbling and was eventually tackled.
Posh did improve for the change of shape with the ball more easily transferred out wide. Joe Ward and Dan Butler sent successive crosses into the area that just eluded sliding strikers. There was also a strong shout for a penalty when Jonson Clarke-Harris tumbled under a challenge from a corner.
Ward fired a free kick just wide from 25 yards and Dembele shot over from the edge of the area as Posh finished the half well on top, but still behind.
It almost became even worse in the opening moments of the second-half when Kyle Dempsey pounced on a loose Ward pass and raced away, but Thompson got back to tackle.
That was the sum total of Gillingham’s attacking in the second half until Posh ‘keeper Josef Bursik had to make a smart stop from substitute Dominic Samuel in added time.
Posh had all the ball, but passed it too slowly and struggled to penetrate a well organised and deep-lying defence. Crossesd lacked accuracy and pace.
Multiple corners, and the delivery was generally more accurate than normal, came and went with one-half cleared set-piece volleyed spectacularly against the crossbar by Szmodics from 20 yards.
Ward saw a free-kick saved and two far post headers from Thompson and Jack Taylor were easily saved. Clarke-Harris spooned another Ward cross over the bar with his weaker right foot.
Seven minutes of added time was a reflection of some predictable Gills game management and in the third of them Posh had a fantastic chance to equalise.
Dembele for once scampered into the penalty area and his pass was partially cleared, but straight to substitute Ethan Hamilton on his favoured left foot 10 yards from goal. The ball sat up beautifully and the strike was true, but it whistled past an upright.
And that was that, a result to damage Posh and encourage Sunderland and Lincoln City.
Posh: Josef Bursik, Dan Butler, Frankie Kent, Mark Beevers (sub Harrison Burrows, 78 mins), Nathan Thompson, Joe Ward, Jack Taylor, Reece Brown (sub Ethan Hamilton, 68 mins), Siriki Dembele, Sammie Szmodics, Jonson Clarke-Harris.
Unused subs: Dan Gyollai, Mo Eisa, Ricky-Jade Jones, Louis Reed, Niall Mason.
Gilingham: Jack Bonham, Connor Ogilvie, Robbie Cundy, Jack Tucker, Ryan Jackson, Alex MacDonald (sub Thomas O’Connor, 85 mins), Stuart O’Keefe, Kyle Dempsey, Jordan Graham (sub Robbie McKenzie, 90 + 5 mins), Olly Lee (sub Dominic Samuel, 81 mins), John Akinde.
Unused subs: Sacha Bastien, Tyreke Johnson, Henry Woods, Gerald Sithole, Dominic Samuel.
Goal: Gillingham - Ogilvie (14 mins)
Cautions: Posh - Thompson (foul), Szmodics (foul), Dembele (unsportsmanlike conduct).
Gillingham - McDonald (foul), Dempsey (dissent).
Referee: Sam Allison 7.