Peterborough United 1, Walsall 1: Goalkeeper O’Malley saves Posh blushes with a late penalty save

Posh goalkeeper Conor O'malley dives to save a penalty from Luke Leahy. Photo: Joe Dent/theposh.com.
Posh goalkeeper Conor O'malley dives to save a penalty from Luke Leahy. Photo: Joe Dent/theposh.com.
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Peterborough United stole a point from their League One game with Walsall at the ABAX Stadium today (December 22) thanks to goalkeeper Conor O’Malley’s late penalty save.

It finished 1-1 with Ivan Toney equalising for Posh early in the second-half to counter a goal from Walsall’s Isaiah Osbourne in first-half injury time.

Ivan Toney of Peterborough United celebrates scoring the equalisng goal against Walsall with Marcus Maddison. Photo: Joe Dent/theposh.com.

Ivan Toney of Peterborough United celebrates scoring the equalisng goal against Walsall with Marcus Maddison. Photo: Joe Dent/theposh.com.

But the visitors dominated the second period and spurned several chances to win the game, most notably when O’Malley fouled Nicholas Devlin in the 87th minute to concede an obvious spotkick.

But O’Malley superbly saved Luke Leahy’s penalty and he then produced an arguably better moment to deny Andy Cook with a breathtaking double save from close range in injury time.

Posh fielded a makeshift defence and my did it show against the robust approach of a Walsall side who lost 4-0 at Bradford City last weekend.

Commanding centre-back Ryan Tafazolli was absent with a groin injury forcing right-back Jason Naismith into the heart of the back four. Predictably he struggled to make his partnership with Rhys Bennett work in the early stages and with O’Malley starting the game in a jittery fashion, Posh were all at sea at the back.

Jason Naismith of Peterborough United in action against Walsall. Photo: Joe Dent/theposh.com.

Jason Naismith of Peterborough United in action against Walsall. Photo: Joe Dent/theposh.com.

The visitors almost took the lead with a sixth minute header from a corner, but O’Malley somehow kept Jon Guthrie’s effort out of the goal with the help of a couple of defenders.

Kane Wilson saw a volley deflected wide following a right wing cross and a Leahy long throw caused enough panic for Josh Gordon to send in a shot that was also blocked behind.

Posh had appeared to settle down, but in a game when the long ball and physical strength rather than any entertaining football was dominant, they created little.

They should have opened the scoring in the 32nd minute though when Siriki Dembele and Marcus Maddison combined well enabling Louis Reed to cross the ball into Toney’s path. The big man was free eight yards from goal, but swung a lazy left-foot at the ball and volleyed wide.

Posh then enjoyed some set-piece pressure, but fell behind to a sucker punch in first-half added time.

There seemed little danger when a hopeful punt was sent into the Posh area, but Bennett appeared to ignore O’Malley’s call and the ball was returned by Devlin for Osbourne to head home from close range.

The half-time whistle, accompanied by a chorus of boos, was soon blown.

But the mood was lifted 60 seconds after the interval when Maddison, on the set pieces after Reed’s substitution, delivered the perfect corner for Toney to nod home from close range.

Unfortunately the equaliser inspired the visitors who should have re-taken the lead from a corner minutes later, but Leahy muffed his free header.

Naismith, who played much better in the second-half, did well to hack a Luke Kinsella shot off the line and then Walsall missed a golden opportunity to get back in front 10 minutes from time.

Some fine passing, aided by some ropey defending, left Josh Gordon with a free header. O’Malley produced a fine save, but how Wilson then failed to convert the rebound remains a mystery.

And that wasn’t the end of the Walsall chances as Posh laboured in every area of the pitch, apart from between the sticks.

Posh: Conor O’Malley, Joe Ward, Colin Daniel, Rhys Bennett, Jason Naismith, Alex Woodyard, Louis Reed (sub Mark O’Hara, 46 mins), Marcus Maddison, Siriki Dembele (sub George Cooper, 79 mins), Matt Godden (sub Matt Stevens, 56 mins), Ivan Toney.

Unused substitutes: Aaron Chapman, Jason Cummings, Darren Lyon, Tyler Denton.

Walsall: Liam Roberts, Luke Leahy, Jon Guthrie, Nicky Devlin, Kieran Morris, Liam Kinsella, Jack Fitzwater, Kane Wilson, Isiaih Osbourne (sub George Dobson, 73 mins), Josh Gordon, Andy Cook (sub Morgan Ferrier, 80 mins).

Unused substitutes: Chris Dunn, Joe Edwards, Zeli Ismail, Connor Johnson, Connor Ronan.

Goals: Posh - Toney (47 mins).

Walsall - Osbourne (45 + 1 mins).

Cautions: Posh - Maddison (foul).

Walsall - Cook (foul).

Referee: Paul Marsden 8

Attendance: 7,243 (262 Walsall).