In the immortal words of Derek ‘Del Boy’ Trotter it was ‘deja vu all over again’ for Peterborough United at the Ricoh Arena yesterday (November 1).
For the second successive season Posh played like millionaires against Coventry in the first-half to establish a two-goal lead, but they must have felt like plonkers at the final whistle after falling to a 3-2 defeat.
Posh heads were shaken in disbelief on and off the pitch at one that very much got away. Graham Westley’s side played well enough and created enough scoring chances to win several games. They certainly created enough to make Coventry’s own excellence in the second-half an irrelevance.
Westley, who continues to impress with his straight-talking, offered a mea culpa after the game suggesting that his use of substitutes could have been better which was true, but it wasn’t the manager who missed at least five gilt-edged scoring chances and it wasn’t the manager who was burnt for pace at the pace so regularly it came as no surprise that the visitors finally took advantage to pinch the three points from another outstanding, thrill-a-minute game of football.
Conor Washington was the mis-firing forward. Ricardo Santos was the defender left so exposed and alone by his team-mates he got caught in foot-races that would have tested far faster. better-balanced athletes.
Washington delivered a ridiculously enigmatic display. In an opening 45 minutes bossed by Posh he was quite brilliant until it came to shooting at goal. Washington created the opening goal on 15 minutes for Jermaine Anderson with a burst into the Coventry penalty area and a perfect cut-back, and often ran lumbering central defender Aaron Martin into the ground.
Unfortunately Washington proved to be the golfer with a perfect swing who can’t putt for toffee. He was the maximum-shooting darts player who couldn’t buy a checkout. Without the ability to finish a striker is less than 50 per cent complete.
It’s no exaggeration to say Coventry’s brilliant loan signing from Newcastle Adam Armstrong could have left this game with a double hat-trick if he’d been playing in garish pink. Even when Coventry increased their own playing tempo after the break, Posh created the clearer chances until the final 15 minutes when three golden opportunities were presented to Armstrong.
Posh ‘keeper Ben Alnwick made a fine save to keep out number one, but the tiny striker didn’t make the same mistake again when Jordan Murphy’s sprint past Santos left him with an open goal nine minutes from time, or in the 87th minute when he received a square ball on the edge of the Posh penalty area and shot into the corner of the net after one simple turn had defeated two Posh central defenders.
In contrast Washington’s training this week could well involve a barn door. He glanced two presentable early chances wide after lovely right-wing passing moves and then missed the chance to put the game to bed in the final minute of the first half after accepting Chris Forrester’s superb long ball and racing past Martin before shooting inexplicably the wrong side of a post.
At 2-1 up in the second-half Washington twice had Coventry ‘keeper Reice Charles-Cook in his sights and twice he failed to beat him. Again a third goal then and Posh might well have been celebrating a first victory at Coventry since 1961.
Might-have-beens are no use to anyone though, although Westley remained largely upbeat. He quite rightly pointed out that Posh again played some fantastic football which would have blown lesser sides away.
The manager didn’t mention Jack Collison by name, but his reference to a costly lack of athleticism once Forrester (possibly still feeling the after-effects of the previous weekend’s concussion) was forced off the field soon after the re-start meant he may as well have done. Andrew Fox, Harry Beautyman or even Alex Davey could have been sent on, but Westley went for his experienced option and it back-fired horribly as the game moved too fast for a man whose own movement is so limited.
Interestingly Coventry boss Tony Mowbray left his own injury-prone big name Joe Cole out of his squad altogether as he didn’t think the former England midfielder would cope with Posh’s pacy game. Mowbray also reacted to his side’s two-goal deficit at half-time in a way that might well have confused the layman - he took off a striker and replaced him with midfielder Jim O’Brien in an attempt to suffocate the space Posh had revelled in for 45 minutes.
It was a managerial master-stroke as O’Brien’s presence not only had the desired negative effect, but he also supplied the 25-yard strike that took a slight deflection onto a Posh post 10 minutes after the re-start when the rebound was gobbled up expertly by Romain Vincelot to get Coventry back into the game.
Posh had played some breath-taking football before the Mowbray changes. Their passing was so slick and so quick, their probing so intelligent, the absence of Gaby Zakuani from the back four and thus Michael Bostwick from midfield didn’t appear to matter. Oztumer smashed Posh 2-0 ahead from 25 yards in the 36th minute after accepting a pass from Anderson, but there was always a sense that Coventry would create chances of their own if they could secure enough possession.
Murphy should have shot the home side ahead in the third minute after Bostwick’s sloppy pass gave him a clear run at goal, Marc-Antione Fortune shot straight at Alnwick when well placed and Armstrong struck a post after creating the space with his own trickery.
That proved to be just a sighter for Armstrong, the sort of striker who will relish the opportunity to take on Posh while they persevere with such a gung-ho approach. Fortunately there are not too many more like him in the division.
Santos will take plenty of stick for the cumbersome nature of his defending, but he alone shouldn’t carry that particular can. Coventry’s equaliser arrived after Posh had appeared the weather the peak of the storm, but they were then caught with both full-backs upfield and with Santos left to guard a vast open space against players with enough speed and skill to take full advantage.
At 2-2 Westley replaced a midfielder, Anderson, who looked out on his feet after an hour, with a striker, Kyle Vassell, which was a bold yet ultimately futile gesture. A draw against a strong side with an unbeaten home record would still have been a decent result.
Still, as the manager said himself, if you’re going to lose, do so in an exciting positive way. All three of the Posh defeats have been by 3-2 scorelines against teams now in the top six, but more worrying is the failure to beat any team other than Millwall in the top half of the table.
That doesn’t auger well for the Posh FA Cup tie at Burton next Saturday (November 7), but their next three League One matches are against struggling sides. The same standard of attacking play will surely yield positive results. They will if Washington’s shooting sights are adjusted and the defensive leaks are plugged.
Posh: Ben Alnwick, Michael Smith, Callum Elder, Ricardo Santos, Michael Bostwick, Chris Forrester (sub Jack Collison, 49 mins), Jermaine Anderson (sub Kyle Vassell, 83 mins), Erhun Oztumer, Jon Taylor, Conor Washington, Souleymane Coulibaly (sub Lee Angol, 57 mins). Unused substitutes: Dion-Curtis Henry, Harry Beautyman, Alex Davey, Andrew Fox.
Coventry: Reice Charles-Cooke, Aaron Phillips, Aaron Martin, Sam Ricketts, Chris Stokes (sub Ryan Haynes, 76 mins), Ruben Lameiras (sub Ryan Kent, 46 mins), Romain Vincelot, John Fleck, Jacob Murphy, Marc-Antoine Fortune (sub Jim O’Brien 46 mins), Adam Armstrong. Unused substitutes: Lee Burge, Cian Harries, Conor Thomas, Ryan Kent, Marcus Tudgay.
Goals: Posh - Anderson (15 mins), Oztumer (36 mins).
Coventry -Vincelot (56 mins), Armstrong (81 mins & 87 mins).
Cautions: Posh -Taylor (foul), Santos (foul), Alnwick (time wasting).
Coventry - Martin (foul)
Referee: Gavin Ward 7
Attendance: 11,583 (1.384 Posh)