John Marquis knew how to do it. Head down, firm contact, hit the target, goal.
Gillingham won this game because they had a finisher. Posh would have been 3-0 up in 15 minutes if their golden opportunities had fallen to Marquis.
Instead the best Posh chance fell to a centre-back, Shaun Brisley, in that opening spell and he somehow hit the crossbar from three yards out. The other two chances fell to Conor Washington and Luke James, two strikers whose training for the rest of the week might involve and a banjo and a cow’s backside, and were predictably spurned.
It was harsh on James who created the other two chances and set up Jack Payne’s 55th minute equaliser, but he’s a reasonably-priced striker who hasn’t scored a goal since September 2. Posh’s recent expertise in finding prolific goalscorers has deserted them this season and the consequences will probably be mid-table mediocrity at best.
Posh slipped into the bottom half of the table again after losing for the second time this season to a worthy, but hardly inspiring, Gillingham side. Posh may just be four points from a play-off place, but they will have to battle their way past half-a-dozen sides to get there and unless the promised new signings are extremely gifted and hit the ground running it’s not a likely occurence.
Posh actually played pretty well for 30 minutes. They sensibly tried to attack down the flanks through their wing-backs, but once they fell behind to Gillingham’s first shot on target of the match, they wilted visibly. Bradley Dack was the scorer with a precise first-time shot from the edge of the penalty area.
Dack’s strike probably confirmed to the visitors that luck was on their side and they improved considerably once new boss Justin Edinburgh found a formation that could compete. Remarkably given the start to the game, Gillingham ultimately won quite comfortably despite conceding an equaliser to their old boy Payne 10 minutes after the re-start.
By then the visitors had realised that Posh have a soft centre, and a susceptible left-side, to their defence. Jermaine McGlashan was sent on to test that flank and wreaked havoc with his pace. He and Jake Hessenthaler created the winning goal 10 minutes from time.
For Posh it was a drop down to earth with a bump. In all honesty they hadn’t played well in their mini-unbeaten run of three matches, but they had competed and battled. They faded physically very quickly in this contest, particularly star man Marcus Maddison who performed as though injured from very early on. Gills ‘keeper Stuart Nelson saved well from Christian Burgess on the stroke of half-time and didn’t make another save all night.
Manager Darren Ferguson confirmed he left Maddison on as he’s the most likely to score or create a goal, a damning indictment of the other forward players if a one-legged man is deemed superior. Maddison did wriggle clear on the edge of the Gillingham penalty area 20 minutes from time, but fired wide.
James played well when asked to attack down the right wing - he created Payne’s goal with a terrific chase and cut-back - but he was moved inside for the final 10 minutes where he is far less effective. Washington had understandably been withdrawn at half-time after a dismal display, but replacement Aaron Mclean offered just as little. It’s sad to see such a great club servant play so ineffectively, especially on his 200th appearance for the club.
Payne’s goal should have inspired Posh, but it didn’t. John Egan and Dack both came close before Marquis sealed a seventh home defeat of the season - one more than the whole of last season - for Posh in front of their lowest (by almost 700) League One gate of the campaign.
It was also a sixth straight loss in Tuesday football for Posh this season. Sadly they aren’t good enough on Saturdays to compensate.
Posh; Scott Loach 6, Michael Bostwick 6, Shaun Brisley 5 (sub Erhun Oztumer, 83 mins) , Christian Burgess 5, Michael Smith 6, Joe Newell 6, Jack Payne 6, Harry Beautyman 5, Marcus Maddison 5, Luke James 7, Conor Washington 4 (sub Aaron Mclean 4, 46 mins) . Unused substitutes: Dion-Henry Curtis, Kgosi Ntlhe, Jermaine Anderson, Gaby Zakuani, Harry Anderson.
Gillingham: Stuart Nelson, Bradley Garmston (sub Joe Martin, 76 mins), John Egan, Max Ehmer, Gavin Hoyte, Jake Hessenthaler, Bradley Dack, Danny Galbraith (sub Jermaine McGlashan, 61 mins), Doug Loft, John Marquis, Cody McDonald (sub Luke Norris, 81 mins). Unused substitutes: Glenn Morris, Leon Legge, Antonio German, Brennan Dickenson.
Goals: Posh - Payne (55 mins).
Gillingham - Dack (31 mins), Marquis (80 mins).
Cautions: Posh - Bostwick (foul).
Gillingham - Egan (foul).
Referee: James Adcock 7
Attendance: 4,449 (245 Gillingham).
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