REPORT: Rochdale 3, Peterborough United 3: Posh throw it away before rescuing a point in a dramatic finale
Posh grabbed a point with an added time penalty after an incredible finish at Rochdale today (March 2), but they should see this thrilling 3-3 draw as two points dropped.
Posh led 2-0 at the break after a dominant first-half display and still led 2-1 with three minutes to go.
Dale then scored twice to get in front as four minutes of added time started, only for Posh defender Nathan Thompson to win a spot-kick in the 93rd minute leaving top scorer Jonson Clarke-Harris to stay cool and save a point.
But with main promotion rivals Hull and Sunderland also drawing this was a golden opportunity to take a giant leap towards the Championship.
Posh controlled possession comfortably in the first half and took control of the scoreline thanks to a superb fifth minute strike from Siriki Dembele and an expert finish from Sammie Szmodics on the stroke of half-time.
But Posh switched off at the start of the second-half and conceded a penalty which Stephen Humphrys converted.
Posh looked to have weathered the storm until an 87th minute header from Jake Beesley and a close-range finish from Jimmy Keohane in the 90th minute appeared to give Dale a big win in their fight against the drop.
To the relief of the other struggling sides as well as Posh, a last-gasp penalty alterted the League One landscape again.
Posh received some good news before kick-off as Szmodics was named in the starting line-up after missing the midweek win over Portsmouth with an ankle problem, but Harrison Burrows, the teenager who set up the Pompey victory, was absent with a slight hamstring injury.
Ethan Hamilton replaced Louis Reed in the centre of midfield after serving his one match suspension.
And Posh enjoyed a dream start with a goal inside five minutes. Mark Beevers won the ball inside the Dale half, fed Dembele who turned and curled a beauty into the top corner as home ‘keeper Gavin Bazuno watched admiringly.
Both sides lined up with three centre-backs, but Dembele was finding pockets of space and causing Dale plenty of problems. Posh controlled possession without creating a lot apart from a fine run and pass from Thompson which found Szmodics inside the area. A poor touch ruined that opportunity.
Dale were a threat on the counter, but were mainly restricted to 20 yard shots that Posh ‘keeper Christy Pym dealt with comfortably with one exception.
One terrific move from the edge of their own area led to a right wing cross that Humphrys overhead kicked wide. Humphrys also shrugged off Beevers before shooting wide from the edge of the area, but otherwise the Posh back four held firm.
And Posh took a grip on the game in first-half added time. As manager Darren Ferguson urged his side to cross the ball, the players instead stayed patient with Dan Butler and Ethan Hamilton eventually working the ball to Dembele.
His pass found Szmodics, who had endured a tough 45 minutes until then, and he found enough space to wriggle free and score with his left foot from inside the area.
It should have been a crucial goal, but Posh started the second-half so slowly a Dale response looked likely. It came after the home side won two headers from a set-piece with Beezley then tumbling between Frankie Kent and Beevers to earn a 55th minute spotkick. Beevers looked to be the guilty party as he dangled out a lazy leg over which Beesley tumbled.
Two substitutions did liven Posh up and Dembele was denied a second goal by a superb stop from Bazuno.
Posh also wasted a couple of numerical advantages on the break with poor decision-making before Dale’s persistence paid off when Beesley headed home a terrific left wing cross from Matty Done with Pym caught flatfooted.
Another cross from the left was originally well defended by Thompson, but Keohane had a simple task to fire home from close range to put Dale in sight of a shock, and very rare, home win.
The celebrations were understandably lively in the home camp, but a trip on Thompson ensured the spoils were shared.
Posh: Christy Pym, Nathan Thompson, Mark Beevers, Frankie Kent, Dan Butler, Reece Brown, Ethan Hamilton, Sammie Szmodics (sub Mo Eisa, 61 mins), Joe Ward (sub Idris Kanu 61, mins), Siriki Dembele, Jonson Clarke-Harris.
Unused substitutes: Louis Reed, Dan Gyollai, Ricky-Jade Jones, Frazer Blake-Tracy, Niall Mason.
Rochdale: Gavin Bozuno, Gabriel Osho, Paul McShane, Eughan O’Connell, Ollie Rathbone, Jake Beesley, Jimmy Keohane, Conor Grant (sub Aaron Morley, 83 mins), Conor Shaughnessy, Matty Done, Stephen Humphrys (sub Kwadwo Baah, 61 mins).
Unused substitutes: Jay Lynch, Jim McNulty, Stephen Dooley, Alex Newby, Hayden Roberts.
Goals: Posh - Demebele (5 mins), Szmodics (45 + 1 min), Clarke-Harris (pen, 90 + 3 mins).
Dale - Humphrys (pen, 55 mins), Beezley (87 mins), Keohane (90 mins).
Cautions: Posh -Kent (foul).
Dale - Rathbone (foul), Baah (foul).
Referee: David Rock 7