Peterborough United kept alive their play-off hopes with a dramatic 3-1 win over Rochdale at the ABAX Stadium today (February 25).
Posh played for 25 minutes against nine men as the visitors saw Joe Rafferty and Donal McDermott sent off, but home skipper Jack Baldwin was also dismissed late on before Paul Taylor wrapped the points up with an 85th minute strike.
Posh had scored twice in four first-half minutes through Baldwin and Tom Nichols, with Rochdale scoring a minute later through Joe Thompson.
Posh boss Grant McCann was given the dreaded vote of confidence before this game. He, more surprisingly, gave a vote of confidence to his back four despite their midweek mauling.
But it was all change up front again with Nichols deployed as a sole striker in a 4-5-1 formation, a switch that worked well, helped by the fact that Rochdale travelled south with so many defensive issues they started with strikers Calvin Andrew and Ian Henderson in full-back positions.
Marcus Maddison and Taylor looked lively on the flanks with the former smashing a ninth-minute free kick against the crossbar and Taylor finding the side-netting after he was freed by a clever Michael Bostwick pass.
The visitors had set-piece defensive problems last weekend and they looked vulnerable from corners again here. Bostwick escaped round the back from one to cause a scramble that ended with a boot off the goal-line after Ryan Tafazolli had blocked an attempted clearance.
And it was no surprise to see Posh open the scoring from a Maddison corner as Baldwin stretched to poke home from eight yards 10 minutes before the break.
And that was the catalyst for an all-action end to the half with Nichols sweeping home a lovely ball from Leo Da Silva Lopes three minutes later. It was a fine first time strike from the edge of the area by the club’s top scorer, but within 60 seconds a fine pass from former Posh player Nathaniel Mendez-Laing sent Thompson through to pull a goal back with ease.
Posh became nervy as powerful unit Andrew was pushed upfield and he forced his way onto one fine right wing-cross forcing Baldwin and Tafazolli to scramble behind for a corner.
But there was still time for one last pre-interval twist as Dale midfielder Rafferty was sent off after hauling Maddison down deep inside the Posh half. He’d been cautioned earlier for a foul on Brad Inman.
Posh started the second half brightly and received a further boost when McDermott lunged in on Baldwin and was shown a straight red card by busy referee Chris Sarginson.
But Dale defended better with nine men than 11. It took Posh a while to create chances before visiting goalkeeper Ben Wilson saved superbly from Maddison and competently from Inman and Nichols.
A rush of blood from Baldwin threatened to drag the visitors back into the game. Two silly challenges led to two yellow cards and a red 10 minutes from time, but Inman’s cross was lashed home superbly by Taylor five minutes later to seal a much needed three minutes.
Posh: Luke McGee, Michael Smith, Andrew Hughes, Jack Baldwin, Ryan Tafazolli, Michael Bostwick, Leo Da Silva Lopes (sub Craig Mackail-Smith, 63 mins), Brad Inman, Marcus Maddison, Paul Taylor, Tom Nichols (sub Junior Morias, 86 mins). Unused substitutes: Lee Angol, Mark Tyler, Martin Samuelsen, Jerome Binnom-Williams, Callum Chettle.
Rochdale: Ben Wilson, Joe Rafferty, Jim McNulty, Callum Camps, Donal McDermott, Joe Thompson (sub Harrison McGahey, 46 mins), Keith Keane (sub Mark Kitching, 57 mins), Jamie Allen, Nathaniel Mendez-Laing (sub Andrew Cannon, 76 mins), Ian Henderson, Calvin Andrew. Unused substitutes: Conrad Logan, Oliver Rathbone, Reuben Noble-Lazarus, Peter Vincenti.
Goals: Posh - Baldwin (36 mins), Nichols (39 mins), Taylor (85 mins).
Rochdale - Thompson (40 mins).
Sendings off: Posh - Baldwin (second cautionable foul).
Rochdale: Rafferty (second cautionable foul), McDermott (serious foul play).
Cautions: Posh - Da Silva Lopes (foul), Baldwin (foul).
Rochdale: Rafferty (foul), Keane (foul).
Referee: Chris Sarginson 6.