Peterborough United manager Steve Evans reckoned a lack of quality in the final third cost his side victory against Bristol Rovers today (March 24).
Posh were held to a 1-1 draw at the ABAX Stadium, a result good enough to lift them back into the League One play-offs on goal difference from Plymouth.
But Plymouth’s defeat at Charlton and Scunthorpe’s failure to beat Rochdale at home meant Posh wasted a great chance to hit fifth place with a victory that would have been thoroughly deserved.
As it was it required a 13th goal of the season from Danny Lloyd to rescue a point after Rovers had taken the lead early in the second half.
“We’re very disappointed with the result,” Evans accepted. “Because we deserved better. We should be taking care of these sort of opponents at home, but we just didn’t show enough of the quality we are blessed to have in this squad.
“We opened up really brightly in the first 20-25 minutes. We completely dominated the ball, we were playing some lovely one and two touch football, but we were pulling the trigger from bad positions. The only disappointment of that opening 25 minutes was the lack of quality in the final third which is unusual for us.
“And when you are playing that well those two touches become three and four touches and then you lose momentum.
“We had such control of the game we really should have got in front before they changed formation. They had to change because we were over-running them, but we didn’t make enough of our possession. It was a real shame as results elsewhere would have made this a very big win. As it is it’s definitely two points dropped.
“It was disappointing to be 0-0 at half-time, but we told the players to keep playing with the same intensity. Unfortunately we didn’t defend a set piece well enough and they scored. Fortunately our response was fantastic to equalise straight away and then we were denied a blatant penalty because someone elbowed Marcus Maddison in the face.
“We still should have gone on to win the game though. George Cooper probably hadn’t been on the field long enough when his chance arrived and that and Junior’s chance in the first half when he tried to lob the keeper instead of going round him were big chances. Jack Marriott also missed a great chance to play Lloyd in, but then shooting all the time is probably why Jack has been so good this season.
“Marcus Maddison showed great feet to set up George. He can be very frustrating Marcus, but he has such wonderful talent. Some of our crossing was hopeful rather than measured in the second half.
“But never getting in front was crucial as then Rovers would have had to come and out play instead of stringing six or seven defenders across the back.”
Evans made six changes to his starting line-up following last weekend’s defeat at Oxford. He will probably have to make changes again for the big game at fourth-placed Rotherham on Good Friday as centre-back Ryan Tafazolli lasted just five minutes on his return from a hamstring injury.
Teenage left-back Lewis Freestone replaced him with Andrew Hughes moving to centre-back.
Anthony Grant made his first appearance for Evans and skippered the side in place of suspended centre-back Jack Baldwin. Conor O’Malley was preferred to Jonathan Bond in goal.
“Anthony was outstanding,” Evans added. “He ran the game in the first half an hour. Apart from his silly booking he was excellent and man-of-the-match for me. He’s been frustrated by not playing for me, but if you’re not fully fit I won’t play you.
“And goalkeepers are paid to keep the ball out of the net. Jonathan didn’t do that last week so I chose Conor and he did well enough, although I can’t remember them creating an error apart from when young Lewis Freestone played one across his own box and got us in trouble. Jonathan Bond has a great attitude though. He was pleased for Conor when we named the team.
“Tafazolli felt some cramp in his hamstring so he will be assessed tomorrow, but he was a big loss to us even though Andrew Hughes was excellent in his position.”
Key wide player Gwion Edwards was seen running on the pitch before the game, but he is still two-to-three weeks away from a return.