Jack Marriott’s 30th goal of the season deep into added time clinched a remarkable point for Peterborough United at Rotherham today (March 30).
Posh had been largely outplayed for most of the second-half, but Marriott pounced in the 98th minute to convert a fine low cross from Junior Morias to seal what could be a valuable point in the push for the League One play-offs.
Rookie referee Scott Oldham played 10 minutes of added time after announcing a minimum of six to be played. There had been an injury delay, but the home fans were furious at full-time and booed Mr Oldham off the pitch.
The home side paid the penalty for sitting back in the final 10 minutes after taking a deserved lead through substitute Caolan Lavery on 69 minutes, but Posh boss Steve Evans was able to celebrate a great result at his former club. And boy did he celebrate.
This was a bigger game for Posh than a Rotherham team comfortably settled in the play-off places and Evans picked an attacking team.
George Cooper was handed just his second start since a £350,000 January move - and his first since February 3 - in a three-man support team behind Marriott.
But Posh still relied more on the long ball in the direction of Marriott rather than midfield passing, until eight minutes before the break when Cooper and Maddison combined before the latter chipped a great pass to Marriott who had crept behind the home defence. He spun and shot, but goalkeeper Marek Rodak was off his line to save with a foot.
Rotherham’s best opportunity of the first half arrived early when a quick break from a Posh set-piece led to Anthony Forde running clear, but Posh ‘keeper Conor O’Malley spread himself Schmeichel-like to pull off a fine save.
Steve Taylor made two terrific blocks to thwart Joe Mattock and Joe Newell. O’Malley also reacted well to turn away Mattock’s shot from 12 yards.
Newell’s running and crossing was a problem for Posh, although Liam Shephard did a solid job against the former Posh man.
Another Posh old boy David Ball was quiet in the first period, apart from lifting Matt Palmer’s cross over the bar.
Posh were angry not to be awarded a penalty when Marriott tumbled under the challenge of Semi Ajayi on 20 minutes, while Danny Lloyd ruined Cooper’s best moment when failing to control a fine pass when in a good shooting position.
Ryan Tafazolli passed a late fitness test to play and was in commanding form defensively. He also headed a Maddison corner straight at Rodak.
Rotherham started the second half much the stronger team, even though Evans made two early substitutitions, removing Cooper and Lloyd for Morias and Joe Ward.
Newell volleyed a deep cross wide at the far post, before a cross from Newell was diverted into Lavery’s’s path, but he somehow sidefooted wide under no pressure from 12 yards.
But the constant pressure had to tell and the inevitable goal arrived in the 69th-minute from a free kick on the right. Anthony Grant won the initial challenge, but the ball fell kindly for Lavery to slot home.
Posh had to withdraw Tafazolli 20 minutes from time after a great effort on one leg and the siege continued on the visiting goal with O’Malley making a fine save from a Michael Smith header.
Posh broke out only occasionally, but Marriott almost found an equaliser out of nothing with a blistering 25 yarder that Rodak did well to push wide for a corner.
Rotherham looked like seeing the rest of the game out rather comfortably until a late volley from Marriott whistled wide after an Andrew Hughes header.
But there was still time for Taylor to pick out Morias who gave Marriott the chance to do what he does best - for the 30th time this season.
Posh: Conor O’Malley, Liam Shephard, Andrew Hughes, Ryan Tafazolli (sub Lewis Freestone, 72 mins), Steven Taylor, Anthony Grant, Chris Forrester, George Cooper (sub Junior Morias, 50 mins), Marcus Maddison, Danny Lloyd (sub Joe Ward, 56 mins), Jack Marriott.
Unused substitutes: Jonathan Bond, Leo Da Silva Lopes, Jermaine Anderson, Michael Doughty.
Rotherham: Marek Rodak, Josh Emmanuel, Joe Mattock (sub, Michael Ihiekwe, 83 mins), Semi Ajayi, Will Vaulks, Anthony Forde, Matt Palmer, Joe Newell, Ritchie Towell (sub Ryan Williams, 90 mins), Michael Smith, David Ball (sub, Caloan Levery, 60 mins).
Unused substitutes: Lewis Price, Richard Wood, Jon Taylor, Jerry Yates.
Goals: Posh - Marriott (90 + 8 mins).
Rotherham - Lavery (69 mins).
Cautions: Posh - Tafazolli (foul), Maddison (dissent).
Rotherham - Smith (timewasting).
Referee: Scott Oldham 7
Attendance: 9,573 (1,240 Posh).