League 1 report: Those who believe that Darren Ferguson lacks passion in his management of Peterborough United should have sat near him in the stand at yesterday’s 1-1 League One draw at Fleetwood.
Ferguson cussed, complained and cajoled his players like any frustrated fan as they threw away a winning position at the Highbury Stadium. ‘Push out’ ‘squeeze’ and ‘what are you doing Bris? (expletives deleted)’ were among the comments overheard in the press box in the first-half. ‘Keep hold of the ball’ and ‘what are you doing Burge? (expletives deleted) were uttered menacingly in a second-half that included a stunning opening goal from Joe Newell and a soft equaliser from the home side 15 minutes from time.
Ferguson had stopped swearing by the time he faced the press in a more conventional way 10 minutes after the final whistle. His belief that this was a great opportunity missed to secure a third straight League One win was based almost entirely on Fleetwood’s poor scoring record.
Only two sides in League One have scored fewer goals than Fleetwood this season so taking the lead with barely half-an-hour to go should have led to victory. It probably would have done if the players had listened to their manager and shown composure on the ball and kept possession - a set of strikers who fail to hold the ball up is not much of a help though.
Indeed after the home side had equalised with a close-range header from skipper Mark Roberts, they should have won the match as Jamie Proctor clipped the crossbar from just six yards after a strong run from substitute Ashley Hunter had embarrassed Burgess down the left side of the Posh defence.
The Posh performance didn’t merit more than a point, They were bright and breezy in the first 15 minutes when Marcus Maddison was regularly finding space in which to play, but functioned as an attacking force only fitfully after that. Maddison’s early free-kick was well saved by home ‘keeper Chris Maxwell and the one opportunity for Luke James to score his first goal since September 25 was foiled by a slightly over-hit pass from Michael Smith and Maxwell’s speed off his line.
Maddison’s display and Newell’s thumping right foot shot for his second goal of the season just after the hour mark were the Posh highlights, although captain Jack Payne performed well in his 35 minutes or so on the pitch. The rest was pretty average in a dour game in which waif-like Nathan Houghton shone in the ‘number 10 role’ for Fleetwood.
Maddison’s late opportunity to steal three points was saved by Maxwell, but victory would have flattered a Posh side who battled well without threatening to find a second moment of quality to unlock a mean, well-drilled home defence. Kyle Vassell’s injury may be an accidental blessing for the manager if it enables him to find an on-loan striker with a good touch and supreme self-confidence.
Time will tell if this turns out to be a good point - better sides than Posh have failed to win here - but the forthcoming fixture list suggests away wins might be hard to locate between now and the end of the season even if Posh have tightened up at the back.
Fleetwood had a lot of possession in this game and despite Houghton’s promptings they were restricted in the main to pot shots from distance. Posh ‘keeper Scott Loach didn’t make a save until Gareth Evans tested him low down to his right in the 55th minute. Loach was also smartly off his line to thwart former Posh striker David Ball after Burgess had wandered out of position, but the goalkeeper had no chance when Roberts met a right-wing cross with a firm downward header from inside the six-yard box.
Ferguson was disappointed to concede such a goal with three central defenders in action, but the time and space afforded to Conor McLaughlin to deliver his cross was equally irritating.
Posh face back-to-back home matches now when six points could lift them into the play-off places. A surprising possibility for a team that has lost more games than they’ve won.
Posh: Scott Loach, Michael Bostwick, Shaun Brisley, Christian Burgess, Michael Smith, Joe Newell, Jermaine Anderson (sub Jack Payne, 58 mins), Harry Beautyman, Marcus Maddison, Luke James, Conor Washington (sub Aaron Mclean, 84 mins). Unused substitutes: Dion-Curtis Henry, Erhun Oztumer, Kgosi Ntlhe, Harry Anderson, Ricardo Santos.
Player ratings: Magic Marcus is getting back to his best
Fleetwood: Chris Maxwell, Conor McLaughlin, Stephen Jordan, Mark Roberts, Stephen Crainey, Josh Roberts, Nick Haughton (sub Stephen Dobbie, 77 mins), Jeff Hughes, David Ball (sub Liam McAlinden, 85 mins), Jamie Proctor, Gareth Evans (sub Ashley Hunter, 76 mins). Unused substitutes: Stewart Murdoch, Nathan Pond, Tyler Forbes, Mason Springthorpe.
Goals: Posh - Newell (63 mins).
Fleetwood - Roberts (78 mins).
Cautions: Posh - Newell (unsportsmanlike conduct).
Fleetwood - Crainey (foul), Hunter (dissent).
Referee: Andy D’Urso 7.
Attendance: 3,188 (402 Posh).