Peterborough United haven’t let this many points slip through their fingers since Dick Beattie’s match-fixing days as the club’s number one goalkeeper, and he was doing it on purpose.
It’s now 17 points dropped from winning positions in this League One campaign (stat provided by frustrated chairman Darragh MacAnthony) and Posh have now conceded more goals in the final 10 minutes of matches than any other club in the division (stat provided by soccerstats.com). Max Ehmer’s 93rd minute equaliser for Gillingham at Priestfield made it 12 goals shipped at a time when the best teams are strong, well-organised and capable of seeing out tight matches.
It’s a trend that baffles manager Grant McCann who had no answer when pressed about an irritating habit after a grim finish on a grim day in Gillingham yesterday (February 10). “Is it physical? Is it mental? Is it me? was the rhetorical response from a man understandably flattered to be linked with a job at a higher level in recent days.
To be fair to McCann there’s enough experience and knowhow on the pitch to ensure late accidents don’t occur so regularly. Unfortunately one misjudged attempted header by club captain Jack Baldwin, one sliced clearance from the otherwise admirable Steven Taylor and some slapdash marking enabled Ehmer, a centre-back, to charge uncontested to the edge of the penalty area before slamming a shot straight through goalkeeper Jonathan Bond.
It was a horrible moment for Posh who, with Anthony Grant and Michael Doughty dominating midfield areas, had played the better football for 70 minutes in conditions that would have tested Eskimoes until creaking under a late barrage of long balls from a Gillingham side who threw everyone forward in an attempt to cover up for a pretty limp and unimaginative performance.
MacAnthony, whose post-match Twitter comments attract a far wider following than his own club’s fanbase, alluded to the failure to press on for a second goal as a reason for more late frustration and he had a point. Danny Lloyd’s well-controlled volley in the 67th minute appeared to lead to a ‘job-done’ belief, but Posh received an immediate warning about complacency when home striker Josh Parker somehow failed to beat Bond twice from close range, but the danger signs were ignored with disastrous consequences arriving in a horrible five minute period of added time. Just before the equaliser Jack Marriott’s decision to shoot instead of passing to either of two well-placed teammates during a four-on-two counter attack was at best unfortunate and at worst very selfish.
McCann described his team’s performance as ‘outstanding’ after the match which was probably over-egging this particular pudding. They were certainly superior until going ahead, their switch to a 3-4-1-2 formation certainly caught Gillingham off guard, but they didn’t create the chances their greater share of possession demanded. Chief creator Marcus Maddison, an injury victim here, was missed for that reason alone. Lloyd slipped into the role behind Omar Bogle and Marriott comfortably, while wing-backs Liam Shephard and Joe Ward contributed plenty going forward with the former’s cross leading to Lloyd’s 12th goal of an impressive first season at this level.
Marriott, who delivered a first shot on target after 17 seconds, also shot strongly, but straight at home ‘keeper Tomas Holy, in the final moments of the first-half and that was pretty much that as far as clearcut chances were concerned. Bond was also fairly redundant until the late siege, although he’ll be frustrated at the manner of Ehmer’s equaliser.
Remarkably, after a day of late drama in League One, Posh are still very much in touch with the top six, but there’s as much to worry about from rapidly-improving teams just below them as there is from those leading the way. One wouldn’t currently back Posh to win a nerve-wracking, well-contested race to the line, given their lack of composure and their tendency to make rash decision when under the most pressure.
Posh: Jonathan Bond, Jack Baldwin, Steven Taylor, Ryan Tafazolli; Liam Shephard, Michael Doughty, Anthony Grant, Joe Ward (sub Andrew Hughes, 80 mins): Danny Lloyd (sub Chris Forrester, 89 mins): Jack Marriott, Omar Bogle (sub Junior Morias, 66 mins).
Unused substitutes: Conor O’Malley, George Cooper, Leo Da Silva Lopes, Idris Kanu.
Gillingham: Tomas Holy, Luke O’Neill, Bradley Garmston (sub Connor Ogilvie, 74 mins), Max Ehmer, Gaby Zakuani, Jake Hessenthaler, Elliot List (sub Scott Wagstaff, 67 mins), Callum Reilly (sub Conor Wilkinson, 74 mins), Mark Byrne, Josh Parker, Tom Eaves.
Unused substitutes: Tom Hadler, Ben Nugent, Liam Nash, Franck Moussa.
Goals: Posh - Lloyd (67 mins).
Gillingham - Ehmer (90 + 3 mins).
Cautions: Posh - Grant (foul).
Gillingham - Byrne (foul), Reilly (foul), Garmston (deliberate handball), Wilkinson (dissent)
Referee: Andy Davies 7.
Attendance: 7,154 (476 Posh)