Peterborough United blew a big chance to clamber back into the top six of League One by conceding three goals in the final 20 minutes at next-to-bottom Bradford City today (March 9).
Jacob Butterfield, Eoin Doyle and Lewis O’Brien all scored for the struggling hosts meaning Marcus Maddison’s 88th minute penalty was a mere consolation.
Posh would have moved into a play-off place with a point as Doncaster lost 2-0 at rock-bottom Wimbledon. Posh are at Wimbledon on Tuesday (March 12).
Posh boss Darren Ferguson resisted the temptation to change goalkeepers and to recall Ivan Toney, a man with five goals against City in three previous outings this season, as the biggest selection surprise arrived with the City teamsheet.
New manager Gary Bowyer’s decision to replace Jack Payne with former Posh midfielder Jermaine Anderson would have shocked, and probably pleased, any regular Posh watchers of the last few seasons.
It was a game both sides really needed to win and it started at a cracking pace with Matt Godden’s firm header from Maddison’s superb left-wing cross ruled out for offside in the fifth minute and Butterfield striking the crossbar with a superb 20-yard free kick. It wasn’t clear if Posh ‘keeper Conor O’Malley got a touch.
Posh didn’t always convince defensively in the first period, but thankfully they had the ball for long spells against a home side who have suffered some bad defeats in recent weeks.
Posh though were too slow in possession and when they did work a crossing position only Godden was to be seen in the penalty area.
Maddison found plenty of space, but it was harder for Lee Tomlin whose influence was neglible until he fired over from 25 yards.
One deep Maddison cross was hooked back into the area by Joe Ward, only for Godden to see his shot blocked. Tomlin had two swipes at a short Maddison pass, but both were seen off by defenders.
And then on the stroke of half-time, Tomlin delivered a lovely flick into Godden’s path, only for former Posh defender Nat Knight-Percival to make a terrific tackle.
City’s cause was not helped by two full-backs leaving the field injured before the break.
Posh were slow out of the second-half blocks and Ben White had to make a fine near post clearance to stop Eion Doyle’s bid for a tap-in, but White then played a dreadful pass which enabled David Ball to speed away down the middle.
The ex-Posh forward shot early, but tamely and O’Malley saved as he did when Butterfield was given another free-kick opportunity on 57 minutes.
Posh did enjoy a decent spell, but it was brief as Daniel Lafferty’s diving header from Maddison’s chip was saved by home ‘keeper Richard O’Donnell and a 40-yard free kick strike from Maddison was pushed over by O’Donnell following a wicked deflection off the wall.
But just as Posh looked to finish strongly they conceded as they gave Butterfield one shooting chance too many. His 20-yard smack finishing in the corner of O’Malley’s net.
Posh immediately threw Toney and George Cooper into the fray, but the changes, if anything, made things worse.
And six minutes from time City made the points safe after a horrible piece of control from Tafazolli led to a lump forward into clear space. Ball fed Eoin Doyle who cut inside and shot back across O’Malley into the corner.
But that wasn’t the end of the Posh agony as within two minutes more hesitant defending enabled midfielder Lewis O’Brien to shoot into the corner with the help of a generous deflection.
Posh at least had the last word when fast feet from Tomlin and Maddison led to the latter winning and converting an 88th minute penalty.
Posh: Conor O’Malley, Jason Naismith (sub Ivan Toney, 73 mins), Ben White, Ryan Tafazolli, Joe Ward, Daniel Lafferty, Alex Woodyard (sub George Cooper, 73 mins), Callum Cooke, Lee Tomlin, Marcus Maddison, Matt Godden.
Unused substitutes:Aaron Chapman, Louis Reed, Tyler Denton, Matt Stevens, Rhys Bennett.
Bradford: Richard O’Donnell, Kelvin Mellor (sub Paul Caddis, 38 mins), Anthony O’Connor, Nat Knight-Percival, Jacob Butterfield, Hope Akpan, Calum Woods (sub Adam Chicksen, 45 mins), Jermaine Anderson, Lewis O’Brien, David Ball (sub Billy Clarke, 90 mins), Eoin Doyle.
Unused substitutes: Ben Wilson, Jack Payne, George Miller, Jake Maltby.
Goals: Posh - Maddison (pen, 88 mins).
City - Butterfield (70 mins), Doyle (84 mins), O’Brien (86 mins).
Cautions: City - Caddis (foul), Ball (foul).
Posh - Cooper (foul).
Referee: Matthew Donohoe 6.
Attendance: 15,890 (Posh to follow).