Marcus Maddison boosted his reputation at Fleetwood today (October 15), the rest of Peterborough United not so much.
Maddison dropped out of the game 30 minutes before kick-off because of illness. Without him Posh were devoid of attacking ideas and deservedly lost 2-0 at the Highbury Stadium.
Not that Maddison would have been able to stop a third-minute goal for Jack Sowerby which was an embarrassment for those in charge of man-marking details.
Or the match-clinching goal on 66 minutes which started with a dismal short pass from Andrew Hughes in the opposition half, continued with substitute Devante Cole humbling Ryan Tafazolli on the by-line and finished with Bobby Grant’s first-time finish which appeared to be going wide until Posh defender Jack Baldwin arrived to turn the ball into his own net.
That’s three own goals and six penalties Posh have conceded this season. Clumsiness is a worrying habit for a back four to have, even one offered precious little protection from a midfield, especially with two full-backs told to operate as wingers half the time.
But Maddison’s presence would undoubtedly have improved the chances of a Posh goal in reply. At Southend recently, Posh lost the plot in the final 20 minutes, but were baled out by their top scorer’s ability to find a goal out of the blue.
Maddison’s Replacement George Moncur, nothwithstanding the difficulty of being told your’e playing just before kick-off, offered little and to be fair he wasn’t alone as Posh again failed to register back-to-back league wins this season.
The bad news started before kick-off with Maddison’s 2.30pm withdrawal and continued for the next couple of hours. Judging by manager Grant McCann’s mood after the game the Posh dressing room wouldn’t have been a happy place and the bus ride home should have been quiet as the players, pampered with an overnight stay at a Hilton Hotel, hopefully contemplated how they would make everything good again by beating local rivals Northampton on Tuesday.
That game now has added significance for a rookie manager as well as a set of players who are losing the faith of their fans base. One win in the last 10 competitive matches and five wins in 17 games overall this season is not form to take into the biggest game of the campaign.
Renowned battler Michael Bostwick was another absentee because of a virus and Posh started the game as though a few others were also struggling health-wise.
By 3.03pm Posh were a goal down as Ashley Hunter’s pass somehow found midfielder Sowerby bearing down on goal with no Posh player with 20 yards. His finish was emphatic to leave McCann’s side a goal down inside three minutes for the second match in a row.
Posh looked sluggish and ‘leggy’ in those opening stages, but gradually settled down to dominate possession against a home side who were happy to drag everyone behind the ball at their cramped stadium.
It worked, while Posh laboured in possession, Fleetwood broke with speed and looked as likely to score the next goal. When they attacked they enjoyed operating in wide open spaces, a luxury not offered to Posh’s gifted midfielders.
Former Posh striker David Ball was denied by a smart Luke McGee save from a 20-yard free-kick, while central defender Ashley Eastham missed the ball completely at the near post following a corner.
Most of Posh’s attacking threat centred around right-back Hayden White who again played high up the pitch. He created a chance for Shaquile Coulthirst, who fired over with his left foot, with a fine run and pass.
Strike partner Tom Nichols twice sent weak shots straight at the ‘keeper, the second from the best Posh passing move of the half, but central defender Tafazolli missed the best opportunity when heading a smart Chris Forrester chip straight at ‘keeper Chris Neal.
In short Posh needed some magic from Maddison. Without him Posh lacked a spark as Moncur was swallowed up in the crowded areas around the Fleetwood penalty area.
Posh were in the game at the break though, but their performance dipped alarmingly after it.
Coulthirst missed a great chance to equalise, but fired straight at Neal before the home side took complete charge.
Eastham missed another chance when smacking a corner straight at Nichols on the goal-line - it was the striker’s sole meaningful contribution to the game - and Cole smashed a fierce shot against the crossbar.
Other balls flashed around the Posh penalty area which Baldwin did his best to counter.
Posh sent on teenage striker Matty Stevens for his debut, but it was far too late as McCann’s men maintained their poor record at this venue.
Rather fortunately ‘only’ 332 Posh fans witnessed this debacle. Unfortunately for the team, chairman Darragh MacAnthony was one of them and he made reference to the lack of hard work from the squad in muted, for him, post-match analysis.
There will be considerably more there at the ABAX on Tuesday to witness the Cobblers’ first visit for seven years. A vast improvement in performance, decision-making and attitude will be required to send the majority home happy.
Posh: Luke McGee, Hayden White (sub Nathan Oduwa, 75 mins), Andrew Hughes, Jack Baldwin, Ryan Tafazolli, Chris Forrester, Leo Da Silva Lopes, Gwion Edwards, George Moncur (sub Paul Taylor, 57 mins), Shaquile Coulthirst, Tom Nichols (sub Matty Stevens, 81 mins)
Unused substitutes: Michael Smith, Callum Chettle, Ricardo Santos, Mark Tyler.
Fleetwood: Chris Neal, Conor McLaughlin, Amari Bell, Nathan Pond, Ashley Eastham, Jimmy Ryan, Kyle Dempsey, Jack Sowerby (sub Victor Nirennold, 75 mins), Bobby Grant (sub Martyn Woolford, 87 mins), David Ball. Ashley Hunter (sub Devante Cole, 50 mins).
Unused substitutes: Eggert Jonsson, Alex Cairns, Alex Jakubiak, Cian Bolger.
Goals: Fleetwood - Sowerby ( 3 mins), Baldwin (og, 66 mins).
Cautions: Fleetwood - Grant (foul), Ryan (foul).
Referee: Nigel Miller 6.
Attendance: 2,711 (332 Posh).