REPORT: PETERBOROUGH UNITED 2, CARDIFF CITY 2: Someone call the police, there was a robbery at the Weston Stadium tonight

Peterborough United were robbed of a deserved Championship victory by a last-gasp Cardiff City goal at the Weston Homes Stadium tonight (August 17).

By Alan Swann
Tuesday, 17th August 2021, 9:59 pm
Updated Tuesday, 17th August 2021, 11:40 pm
Siriki Dembele in action for Posh against Cardiff. Photo: David Lowndes.
Siriki Dembele in action for Posh against Cardiff. Photo: David Lowndes.

Posh led 2-0 with 10 minutes to go and were still a goal in front when five minutes of added time started. They had played all the football up to this point, but key players leaving the field proved costly as the visitors ramped up their hoofball game and kept Posh pinned in their own half.

Centre-back Aden Flint scored twice with powerful far post headers to spark wild celebrations on the Cardiff bench. They knew they’d got away with one here.

Posh had scored twice in three second half minutes soon after the interval through Harrison Burrows and Siriki Dembele, but captain Mark Beevers and forwards Dembele and Jonson Clarke-Harris had been forced off the field before Cardiff launched their frantic, and very primitive, late fightback.

Posh were expecting a bruising battle against physically imposing opposition. Home fans would have been hoping set-piece planning had taken up a chunk of the pre-match preparations given the favoured tactics of a Mick McCarthy side.

Those plans had been hampered again by the absence of key men in Jack Taylor and Sammie Szmodics, plus fitness concerns of three forwards, one of who had been the subject of an FA charge 24 hours earlier. And then the squad was announced without summer signing Jorge Grant’s presence because of an ankle problem.

In all there were three changes with Josh Knight, Dembele and Burrows starting ahead of Grant, Jack Marriott and Joel Randall.

Burrows and Dembele started behind Jonson Clarke-Harris and they both dropped into dangerous pockets of space to accept some accurate Posh passing.

Indeed only one team played any football in the first-half and it wasn’t Championship regulars Cardiff who, as expected, were reliant on long throws to create any threat.

The did miss the best chance of the half when giant centre-back Flint headed over from close range in the 18th minute, but generally it was Posh who bossed the ball.

Clear chances were hard to come by though. One terrific piece of skill from Dembele freed Burrows on the edge of the Cardiff area, but he pulled his shot wide.

Joe Ward delivered some moments of class wide on the right. One pass led to a Dembele shot that forced a strong defensive block and a terrific run and cross came to nothing as Burrows and Clarke-Harris were crowded out. Clarke-Harris was a real handful for three centre-backs.

Burrows also headed wide under pressure at the near post as Posh kept pressing.

There was a spot of aggro just before the break when Nathan Thompson went down under a heavy challenge. Players poured into the centre circle from all areas of the pitch with referee Thomas Bramall showing yellow cards to main aggressors Flint and Marlon Pack.

Could Posh keep this level of play up for 90 minutes? The quick answer was yes as they struck twice in three second-half minutes first with a superb shimmy and strike from Burrows, with his weaker right foot, in the 49th minute and then with a length of the pitch breakaway - ironically following a Cardiff long throw - as Dembele and Clarke-Harris exchanged passes before the former finished from close range. Clarke-Harris also played an important part in the first goal.

Leoandro Bacuna missed a golden opportunity to pull a goal back immediately before Posh again took control of the match.

Dembele was withdrawn midway through the second-half for Marriott. He left to a standing ovation from Posh fans and a huge sigh of relief from the Cardiff players. Posh had lost skipper Beevers to injury - yes another one - a few minutes earlier.

Cardiff rang the changes and improved. A header from a corner flashed wide, but several good crossing positions were wasted.

Clarke-Harris ran himself into the ground and was then taken off 10 minutes from time which denied Posh an easy out ball. The pressure duly mounted with Flint powering home an 82nd minute header.

Chances were rare though with Posh defending their box well. Posh had a couple of chances on the breakaway with substitute Joel Randall firing wide and Burrows forcing a fine save from Dillon Phillips after a terrific Randall pass.

But one more chance arrived and Flint didn’t miss as Posh lost their shape and composure. They defended one last long throw well enough, but ‘keeper Phillips kept the ball alive on the edge of the area.

Knight turned his back on the ball and Marlon Pack delivered the perfect cross for the unmarked Flint to head home with the ball shooting through the legs of Christy Pym, not that the keeper could be blamed.

Posh were largely excellent tonight though. The contrast in styles with gruesome opponents was stark.

Posh: Christy Pym, Dan Butler, Mark Beevers (sub Ethan Hamilton, 61 mins) Nathan Thompson, Frankie Kent, Joe Ward, Oliver Norburn, Josh Knight, Harrison Burrows, Siriki Dembele (sub Jack Marriott, 67 mins), Jonson Clarke-Harris (sub Joel Randall, 81 mins).

Unused subs: Dai Cornell, Ronnie Edwards, Idris Kanu, Joe Tomlinson, Joel Randall.

Cardiff: Dillon Phillips, Perry Ng (sub Kieffer Moore, 63 mins), Aden Flint, Sean Morrison, Curtis Nelson, Joel Bagan, Marlon Pack, Joe Ralls, Ryan Giles, Leandro Bacuna (sub Mark Harris, 76 mins), James Collins (sub Rubin Colwill, 76 mins).

Unused subs: Alex Smithies, Tom Sang, Will Vaulks, Josh Murphy.

Goals:

Posh - Burrows (49 mins), Dembele (51 mins)

Cardiff - Flint (83 mins & 90 + 5 mins))

Cautions:

Posh -Ward (time wasting)

Cardiff - Pack (unsportsmanlike conduct). Flint (unsportsmanlike conduct),

Referee: Thomas Bramall 7

Attendance: 8,534 (680 Cardiff).