Darren Ferguson’s miserable return to Peterborough United continued today as his side lost 3-1 at his old club, and current promotion rivals, Doncaster Rovers (February 9).
But the final scoreline didn’t tell the entire story. Posh were hamstrung by haphazard officiating and great dollops of misfortune after taking an early lead through George Cooper’s classy finish.
Posh left-back Tyler Denton was sent off just before the break after collecting two yellow cards, the first for time-wasting, before referee Carl Boyeson took a lenient view of home forward Mallik Wilks thrusting his head into Ivan Toney on the stroke of the interval.
Posh battled hard with 10 men, but conceded three goals in 10 minutes, the first an own goal, the second after a couple of unfriendly ricochets, and after the fortunate Wilks had missed an open goal, and the third after Posh goalkeeper Conor O’Malley booted the ball out of play on purpose thinking team-mate Joe Ward needed treatment when he was actually off the field following another poor challenge which went unpunished.
Doncaster, urged on by their management team, took the throw-in quickly and killed the game off much to Posh’s frustration.
Ferguson clearly didn’t bring a lot of luck with him on his latest return. Posh have barely suffered an injury all season, but they picked up two in Ferguson’s first home game with winger Siriki Dembele, who now faces 10 weeks on the sidelines, and left-back Daniel Lafferty both absent today because of knocks picked up last weekend. Ward was then fouled out of this game
And of course Ferguson was without potential talisman Lee Tomlin today through suspension. First-half red cards are rare, but Posh made it two in two games as Denton, Lafferty’s replacement, was sent off for two yellow cards.
His first was unfortunate as he was cautioned for taking too long to take a throw in after 30 minutes, but having collected that one, his trip after Wilks had raced by him two minutes before the break was silly.
Referee Boyeson, who irritated Posh with his woeful handling of the defeat at Barnsley on Boxing Day, promptly despatched Denton before angering Posh in added time, first by cautioning Toney for what looked like a good challenge and then for punishing Wilks for shoving his head into Toney with just a yellow card.
Those incidents soured a first-half which Posh actually finished ahead courtesy of Cooper’s excellent finish from the edge of the area in the sixth minute.
Cooper who started the match at the tip of a diamond curled a shot home with his weaker right foot after picking up a deflected cross.
Doncaster enjoyed good spells of possession, but passed the ball inaccurately in the main. Top scorer John Marquis missed a great chance from a deep Wilks cross, but Denton came closest to scoring for the home side after a communication error with Posh ‘keeper Conor O’Malley. Fortunately his back header hit a post.
Wilks also ran past Denton only to be denied by a fine O’Malley save.
Posh didn’t keep possession well enough on the whole, but looked a threat from Maddison’s set pieces. A free kick was nodded back across goal by Bennett before being scrambled clear and Bennett then flicked a corner onto the crossbar.
Boyeson went some way to proving he was merely incompetent rather than biased by denying the home side a penalty in the opening minute of the second half after a dodgy looking Jason Naismith tackle.
Posh almost went two goals clear after a superb interception and dash by Ward. His cross was perfect for Toney to dive and head, but home ‘keeper Marko Marosi made a terrific save with his legs on his line. Toney had also missed with a free header from a Maddison free kick, opportunities that proved crucial by the end.
And gradually the home side started to take control. Posh survived one mad scramble by making brave blocks, but a right wing corner was allowed to travel too far and Ben White diverted the ball into his own net under pressure from Paul Downing in the 63rd minute.
Within three minutes Wilks raced through after a Rhys Bennett error, went round O’Malley, but rather embarrassingly struck a post when shooting at an open goal, but the ball struck Naismith ran into the other post and Marquis was on hand to blast home.
And Doncaster struck again in the 73rd minute with a goal that could well leave a bad taste in the mouth of Posh fans. Sixty seconds earlier Ward had been caught late by Keiran Sadlier when delivering a cross.
The officials saw no foul, it was a good foot in front of an assistant to be fair, play continued with the ball reaching O’Malley. O’Malley booted the ball deliberately out of play, presumably thinking Ward was on the pitch requiring treatment, but Doncaster, urged on by a management team that sadly included a Posh playing legend, kept possession from the throw-in and Sadlier, ironically and somewhat predictably, delivered a fine finish.
Posh visibly wilted, but O’Malley made two fine saves to keep the score down.
It was a mess of an afternoon though, another one blighted by hopeless officiating and disappointing gamesmanship, but it ends with Posh out of the top six after just three wins in 16 League One matches.
Posh: Conor O’Malley, Jason Naismith, Ben White, Rhys Bennett (sub Ryan Tafazolli, 71 mins), Tyler Denton, Alex Woodyard, Callum Cooke (sub Louis Reed, 71 mins), Joe Ward (sub Kyle Dempsey, 73 mins), George Cooper, Marcus Maddison, Ivan Toney.
Unused substitutes: Aaron Chapman, Matt Godden, Matt Stevens, Josh Knight.
Doncaster: Marko Marosi, Aaron Lewis (sub Matty Blair, 59 mins), Paul Downing, Tom Anderson, Danny Andrew, Ben Whiteman, Herbie Kane, Ali Crawford, James Coppinger (sub Kieran Sadlier, 69 mins), Mallik Wilks (sub Tyler Smith, 79 mins), John Marquis.
Unused substitutes: Louis Jones, Andy Butler, Tommy Rowe, Alfie May.
Goals: Posh - Cooper (6 mins).
Doncaster - White (own goal, 63 mins), Marquis (66 mins), Sadlier (73 mins).
Sending-off: Posh - Denton (second yellow, foul).
Cautions: Posh - Denton (time-wasting), Naismith (foul), Toney (foul).
Doncaster - Wilks (unsportsmanlike conduct), Downing (foul).
Referee: Carl Boyeson 4
Attendance: 9,627 (1,760 Posh).