Staring at the League One table on a Saturday night gives the impression Peterborough United are still in the hunt for promotion. It’s watching the games that often suggest otherwise.
A win on Tuesday night (February 27, weather permitting) against a toiling Walsall side at the ABAX Stadium and Posh would move above Bradford City into eighth place. They’d be three points behind sixth-placed Plymouth with a superior goal difference from one game fewer, poised on the shoulder of their rivals perhaps like Mo Farah at the end of a long-distance run.
That’s the fanciful view. On what Posh served up yesterday (February 24), and given a run of one League One win in 2018, the smart money would be on an Elise Christie-type crash out of contention.
Indeed, aside from the first 15 minutes of the home match against Scunthorpe, Posh have delivered little to generate optimism within their most ardent of supporters. The players appear to be doing their best to make manager Grant McCann look rather foolish.
McCann’s pre-match promise of fearless, free, attacking football to feet was no doubt honestly made. It’s hard to believe this most gifted of Posh midfielders would want anything else, but either his players weren’t listening or they chose to ignore it yesterday against admirably earnest and well-organised, yet extremely limited, opposition,
Are these players stifled by tactical decisions? Is the manager himself confused by the attacking options now available to him? He left all three January transfer window signings out of his starting line-up and only one of them saw any action at all against AFC Wimbledon. Posh now have several wide players at their disposal and yet none of them are as consistent as injury victim Gwion Edwards.
And why are Posh playing one-up at home against poor opponents and then constantly smashing the ball long and high at a sole striker whose many talents don’t include winning headers as in the first-half yesterday? Even Graham Westley, possibly, would reject that as a gameplan and looking at McCann’s demeanour during the first-half as passes continually went astray and few ball-winning tackles were made, they weren’t acting on his instructions.
It certainly made for a baffling watch, although McCann at least sent Omar Bogle on to assist Jack Marriott up top at the interval, a move that improved Posh enough for them to deserve their fourth draw in a row despite falling behind 15 minutes from time to Lyle Taylor’s well-taken goal. Fortunately three minutes later Marriott’s excellent pass enabled Marcus Maddison to deliver a fine clipped finish to drag Posh level and they did look the likeliest winners thereafter without seriously troubling slow-moving visiting goalkeeper George Long.
Maddison, in particular, and Marriott were both below their best yesterday and yet they were the players to again rescue Posh. Maddison, who was jeered throughout by visiting fans with long memories, even set up the sitter at 0-0 midway through the second half which was messed up by Danny Lloyd’s decision to try and control a ball bobbling about on a scratchy surface rather than steer it first-time into an empty net. Chris Forrester’s follow-up header was nodded off the line by visiting skipper Barry Fuller.
It was a rare scoring opportunity for either side and even Wimbledon boss Neal Ardley admitted a result he would have settled for at the start of the game, turned out to be rather disappointing.
“I’d have taken a draw at a very good Peterborough side with so many attacking options at the start of the game,” Fuller stated. “But after taking the lead so late after restricting them to few chances the draw is a little bit frustrating.”
McCann’s post-match press conferences can be prickly affairs and he came out fighting here. He of course has to display confidence in his players and his management team, but his suggestion that they were ‘all in League One because of their inconsistency’ wasn’t exactly comforting.
Posh fans probably don’t expect ‘Championship or Premier League consistency or quality’ but they do like to be entertained and see their team having a go for 90 minutes. They didn’t get either yesterday which might explain the flat atmosphere at one end of the ground.
Instead the positives were restricted to a late fightback, the quality of the Posh equaliser, the workrate of teenage midfielder Leo Da Silva Lopes and a decent effort at left-back from 18 year-old Lewis Freestone who was appearing for the first time in the first-team this season.
Posh: Jonathan Bond, Liam Shephard (sub Junior Morias, 76 mins), Lewis Freestone, Jack Baldwin, Ryan Tafazolli (sub Steven Taylor, 46 mins), Anthony Grant (sub Omar Bogle, 46 mins), Chris Forrester, Leo Da Silva Lopes, Danny Lloyd, Marcus Maddison, Jack Marriott.
Unused substitutes: Conor O’Malley, Joe Ward, Michael Doughty, George Cooper.
AFC Wimbledon: George Long, Barry Fuller, Jonathan Meades, Adedeji Oshilaja, George Francomb, Nadjim Abdou, Harry Forrester, Liam Trotter, Andy Barcham (sub, Dean Parratt, 72 mins), Lyle Taylor, Joe Pigott (sub Egil Kaja, 72 mins).
Unused substitutes: Joe McDonnell, Paul Robinson, Cody McDonald, Tom Soares, Callum Kennedy.
Goals: Posh - Maddison (80 mins).
Wimbledon - (Taylor 76 mins).
Cautions: Posh - Baldwin (foul).
Wimbledon - Forrester (foul), Long (timewasting).
Referee: Anthony Backhouse 5.
Attendance: 5,146 (523 Wimbledon).