Peterborough United battled back twice to gain a fine League One 2-2 draw in front of almost 28,000 fans at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light tonight (October 2).
Posh were awful in the opening 45 minutes after changing their winning formation in away games, but crucially they were only 1-0 behind at the break.
Posh reverted to their favoured 4-4-2 system for the second-half and played much better. Joe Ward scored his first goal for the club with Ivan Toney claiming the second equaliser five minutes from time.
Sunderland were however still leading 1-0 when left-back Bryan Oviedo was sent off for kicking Posh substitute Marcus Maddison midway through the second-half.
Posh sprang a surprise before the game, not so much with the three team changes, but with the abandondment of the playing formula that had been in employed in five successive away wins.
Midfielders Mark O’Hara and Callum Cooke started the game in support of Alex Woodyard with Siriki Dembele employed behind a front of two of Toney and Jason Cummings in a 4-3-1-2 system. Maddison was dropped to the substitutes’ bench on his return to the North East by unsentimental Posh boss Steve Evans.
It didn’t work. Sunderland, who were forced to make five changes to their starting line-up, enjoyed almost unlimited possession and complete freedom down the flanks. Only poor crossing and finishing kept their lead down to one goal at half-time against a Posh side playing without their usual levels of passion.
The goal was a simple one. Teenager Josh Maja was given all the time he needed to accept a short pass in the penalty area, turn and finish easily into the corner of the net in the 21st minute.
Aiden McGeady almost made it 2-0 minutes later when shooting over from a tight angle and he headed wide after a terrific length-of-the-pitch move, but a much better chance arrived five minutes before the break when the impressive Maja’s backheel set up Jerome Sinclair who fired badly wide from 12 yards.
Cummings did fire a shot wide in the first minute and Toney shot straight at home ‘keeper Jon McLaughlin after neat play with his strike partner soon after the goal, but Dembele struggled in his new role and Posh could put no pressure on their former skipper Jack Baldwin at the heart of the home defence.
Colin Daniel and Ryan Tafazolli almost presented Chris Maguire with a second goal after leaving the ball for each other and Daniel also suffered a communications breakdown with ‘keeper Aaron Chapman, but recovered to clean up his own mess.
To the surprise of absolutely no-one Maddison and Ward replaced Cooke and Dembele at the interval and Ward almost pulled Posh level with a 20 yard curler that required a diving from McLaughlin.
Cummings then nicked the ball off McLaughlin, chased it into the corner, but delayed his cross to an unmarked Toney too long.
Toney then played Maddison in, but his right foot shot was well saved by McLaughlin.
Sunderland eased their way back into the game and were enjoying a dominant spell when Oviedo lost his head, kicked Maddison and was promptly sent off 20 minutes from time.
And Posh were level within four minutes when a weak Baldwin header fell at Ward’s feet and he drilled low into the corner from 20 yards.
Substitute Godden then had a chance to fire Posh ahead but scuffed O’Hara’s flick wide.
Remarkably given the run of play Posh then conceded with 10 minutes to go. Chris Maguire beat Daniel too easily down the left and his cross was slammed home by Sinclair on the turn.
But Posh hit back with five minutes to go. A lovely Maddison pass defeated Baldwin and Toney showed excellent control and great composure to finish.
Jason Naismith then tested McLaughlin with a fierce drive before Posh survived some intense pressure from the 10 men in the six minutes of added time.
Ultimately it was a good result against the League One title favourites after falling behind twice, but 4-4-2 for 90 minutes with Maddison on the pitch might have delivered a much better one.
Posh: Aaron Chapman, Jason Naismith, Colin Daniel, Rhys Bennett, Ryan Tafazolli, Alex Woodyard, Callum Cooke (sub Joe Ward, 46 mins), Mark O’Hara, Siriki Dembele (sub Marcus Maddison, 46 mins), Ivan Toney, Jason Cummings (sub Matt Godden, 73 mins).
Unused substitutes: Jamie Walker, Mark Tyler, Josh Yorwerth, Louis Reed.
Sunderland: Jon McLaughlin, Aidan Matthews, Bryan Oviedo, Tom Flanagan, Jack Baldwin, Dylan McGeouch, Max Power, Chris Maguire, Jerome Sinclair (sub Benjamin Mbunga-Kimioka, 90 mins), Aiden McGeady, Josh Maja (sub Reece James, 71 mins).
Unused substitutes: Robbin Ruiter, Alim Ozturk, Ethan Robson, Bali Mumba, Jack Diamond, .
Goals: Posh - Ward (74 mins), Toney (85 mins).
Sunderland - Maja (21 mins), Sinclair (80 mins).
Sending-off: Sunderland - Oviedo (violent conduct).
Cautions: Posh -Raynor (assistant manager, dissent), Toney (foul).
Sunderland - Power (foul).
Referee: David Coote 5
Attendance: 28,727 (672 Posh).