STARTS don’t come much more low-key than this.
Posh blew away the cobwebs in their first friendly outing of the summer, but in all truth their display left a lot to be desired.
A 14th minute strike from Crawley captain Gary Alexander earned victory for a host club who have rocketed into League One courtesy of back-to-back promotions.
He curled a shot past new Posh goalkeeper Bobby Olejnik from the edge of the box after being picked out by an errant pass from Mark Little – a transfer-listed full-back presumably only involved due to the absence of Craig Alcock.
Alcock had a ‘slight knock’ according to club officials. Striker Emile Sinclair was also injured and is expected to be out until the start of the season.
Posh manager Darren Ferguson fielded a different team in each half at the Broadfield Stadium with only Olejnik spending longer than 45 minutes on the pitch. The big Austrian number one played the whole game.
Poor passing was another thing present throughout from a Posh side who looked some way behind their hosts in terms of fitness. Crawley did have the advantage of a previous friendly in midweek.
But Ferguson won’t have been at all pleased with the way his men struggled to retain possession, something which came as more of a surprise in the first period when they had the presence of Grant McCann and Lee Frecklington in the centre of a midfield which also included Joe Newell.
Nathaniel Mendez-Laing and Lee Tomlin were given licence to operate in front of that trio with Paul Taylor playing alone up front in the opening half.
All three are talented footballers but were rarely on the same wavelength. Mendez-Laing did shoot wildly on a couple of occasions when presented with a sight of goal while Taylor saw a decent effort on the turn blocked after good approach work from his two fellow attackers.
The city side’s most threatening moment arrived when Tommy Rowe charged forward from full-back, burst into the box and saw a thumping shot kept out by Paul Jones.
Posh’s former goalkeeper wasn’t really troubled again until the final few minutes when Tyrone Barnett unleashed a fierce shot from fully 25 yards that required tipping around a post. Barnett played alongside 16 year-old local lad Levi Wright in the second half Posh attack.
Michael Bostwick, Danny Swanson and Nat Knight-Percival were new faces in the team introduced at the break with centre-back Knight-Percival delivering the best performance of the trio.
He will certainly be breathing down the necks of skipper Gaby Zakuani and Shaun Brisley for a starting place this season.
But whoever plays in defence can be assured of having a fine presence behind them. Olejnik boomed out instructions, commanded his box and handled terrifically in this game. He also made two smart saves from Alexander and one-time Posh transfer target Kyle McFadzean.
First half: Olejnik, Little, Rowe, Zakuani, Grant, Frecklington, McCann, Newell, Tomlin, Taylor, Mendez-Laing.
Second half: Olejnik, Nthle, Richens, Brisley, Knight-Percival, Bostwick, Kearns, Boyd, Swanson, Wright, Barnett.
Crawley: Jones, Connolly, Davis (Hunt), McFadzean, Sadler, Akpan (Davies), Simpson (Wickham), Bulman (Torres), Adams (Neilson), Alexander (Akinde), Clarke (Ferrier).