Ah the blame game, a necessity in football when a win has been thrown away in a madcap final few minutes.
Referee John Brooks copped it from Peterborough United manager Grant McCann after the game for not awarding a penalty which would in all probability delivered a match-winning 3-0 lead for his side.
But Posh still held a two-goal advantage as the match entered its 90th minute against a Charlton team who had run out of attacking ideas well before then. Three points which would have brought the top six back into touching distance was surely a formality?
But no. A penalty conceded rather unnecessarily by Gwion Edwards enabled Ricky Holmes to blast home from the spot and four minutes later Josh Magennis finally won a header from a Holmes cross and the ball fell kindly for substitute Karlan Ahearne-Grant to smash home from close range.
Cue bedlam among the home support who had rather given up on their one-dimensional team, and sheer anger in the Posh camp after naivety and poor game management for five minutes had ruined what had been an outstanding all-round performance.
Why Posh didn’t make substitutions to slow the game down and eat some precious few minutes while it was still 2-0 was baffling. Why two substitutions then took place straight after Charlton’s opening goal when the clock was stopped was mystifying. And sending midfielder Michael Doughty on ahead of centre-back Jack Baldwin was a strange call given Charlton’s sole attacking threat was Holmes delivering crosses from wide positions. The home side never once in 95 minutes threatened to break through the centre of the Posh midfield so the man most capable of helping to deal with aerial threat was surely the best bet?
Striker Ricky Miller was also sent on for an added time run out, but after he accepted a clearance with a clear run to the corner flag available, he instead decided to shoot from 35 yards, an act which helped launch Charlton’s equalising attack. It was a most dispiriting end to what had been arguably the best all-round display of the season, and certainly a tenfold improvement on a miserable effort at Spotland at the weekend.
Of course none of those late decisions would have mattered had Brooks, who was excellent by League One standards for most of the game, awarded Posh a penalty on the hour mark. Edwards, who was unplayable for much of the night, showed skill and pace to break through the Charlton defence, but instead of shooting, he decided to cut onto his weaker left which enabled Ahmed Kashi to catch him and knock him off the ball. Illegally according to those with the best view.
Posh had other opportunities to score which would have taken the heat off Mr Brooks. Jack Marriott missed a sitter when clean through in the seventh minute, three minutes after Marcus Maddison’s tame effort following a fine pass from Andrew Hughes had given him space in the penalty area.
Edwards also saw a shot kicked off the line five minutes from time after excellent approach play by Maddison and Marriott.
McCann set-up Posh from the start superbly. Right-back Alex Penny made his first appearance since the second game of the season as one of five changes to the Spotland starting line-up, and Leo Da Silva Lopes was deployed as Marriott’s main attacking support, leaving Edwards and Maddison to wreak havoc down the flanks.
Chris Forrester returned to the centre of midfield and gave decent support to skipper-for-the-night Anthony Grant. Ryan Tafazolli was back and was quite magnificent at the back, while goalkeeper Jonathan Bond earned his recall with a brilliant close-range save to thwart Magennis midway through the first half.
Posh were a goal ahead by then as Maddison’s typically excellent 12th minute set piece was converted from close range at the back post by Edwards. It was 2-0 on 58 minutes as Marriott swept home Edwards’ precise cross from the right wing.
Charlton were quiet for 20 minutes after Grant had brilliantly headed a third minute Holmes shot off the line, but when they realised their most gifted player could run a rookie right-back they prospered for the rest of the first-half. Posh defended their penalty area splendidly though with Bond only tested again by a Mark Marshall snapshot.
But Charlton’s threat fizzled out after the break. They had plenty of possession, but created nothing to concern Bond until those fateful few moments. They appeared to have one tactic and that was to feed the dangerous Holmes and hope he could create a goal, but Posh barely lost a cross into their area until the last one.
As a result, a scoreline Posh would probably have gratefully accepted before kick off felt instead like a huge kick in the wotsits.
Posh: Jonathan Bond, Alex Penny, Andrew Hughes, Ryan Tafazolli, Steven Taylor, Anthony Grant. Chris Forrester, Gwion Edwards, Marcus Maddison (sub, Michael Doughty, 90 mins), Leo Da Silva Lopes, Jack Marriott (sub Ricky Miller, 90 mins).
Unused substitutes: Jack Baldwin, Danny Lloyd, Conor O’Malley, Jermaine Anderson, Lewis Freestone.
Charlton: Ben Amos, Ahmed Kashi (sub Karlan Ahearne-Grant, 70 mins), Patrick Bauer (sub, Anfarnee Dijksteel, 52 mins), Mark Marshall, Ezri Konsa, Jake Forster-Caskey, Jay Dasilva, Naby Sarr, Ricky Holmes, Leon Best (sub Joe Aribo, 70 mins), Josh Magennis.
Unused substitutes: Dillon Phillips, Johnnie Jackson, Joe Doodoo, Reeco Hackett-Fairchild.
Goals: Posh - Edwards (12 mins), Marriott (58 mins).
Charlton - Holmes (pen, 90 mins), Ahearne-Grant (90 + 4 mins)
Cautions: Posh - Penny (foul), Grant (delaying the restart).
Referee: John Brooks 8.
Attendance: 9,532 (453 Posh).