Peterborough United manager Steve Evans hailed the influence of on-loan star Lee Tomlin after a much-needed 2-1 League One win over Rochdale at the ABAX Stadium today (January 12).
Tomlin, a star Posh player when they last won promotion from League One in 2011, scored during an outstanding individual performance in the first-half. He tired after the break, but his replacement George Cooper netted six minutes from time before Posh survived a late Rochdale fightback sparked by a 30-yard strike into the top corner from on-loan Manchester United midfielder Ethan Hamilton.
It was a first Posh win at home since November and the three points moved them back into the play-off positions after Grant McCann’s Doncaster let in three goals in the final 15 minutes to slip to a 3-2 loss at Wycombe.
But it was Tomlin’s performance that created a buzz not seen much at the ABAX Stadium this season. Tomlin, who turned 30 today, has re-joined Posh on loan for the rest of the season from Premier League side Cardiff City.
“We are very fortunate to have a top, top player in our squad for the rest of the season,” Evans enthused. “We already had a lot of attacking quality at our disposal, but we have now picked up a brilliant performer, someone who loves the club and who wants to taste success here again.
“We have to look after him. He didn’t want me to take him off again, but he needs to be managed so he doesn’t pick up any injuries. He’s effectively doing a pre-season with us, but what a player he is. He showed his class today with some wonderful touches and he has scored a high class goal.
“But every day with us he will get fitter and he will also get better. The rest of the lads love him. You can tell what players feel about a player by their reaction when he scores and everyone bar Aaron Chapman ran up to him to celebrate.
“Lee is great around the dressing room. He is a big voice in there. I would say our chances of going up have increased with his arrival.”
Evans also handed on-loan Fleetwood midfielder Kyle Dempsey a debut. Skipper Alex Woodyard was left out of the starting line-up for the first time this season in a League One match, while striker Jason Cummings and centre-back Rhys Bennett didn’t make the 18-man squad. Cummings is expected to leave Posh and return to parent club Nottingham Forest.
“We have good options now,” Evans added. “They were options we didn’t have before January. Kyle Dempsey is a fantastic player who offers us something a bit different.
“We should have won by many goals today. We should have reached half-time able to take a couple of players off to protect them ahead of some tough games, but we didn’t take our chances. We weren’t ruthless enough.
“We then shouldn’t have had to see Aaron Chapman make some fine saves to keep us in front, although he should have done better with their goal which led to a nervy finale. One of Aaron’s saves was world class though.
“But we’ve felt under pressure at home and no wonder as we haven’t been good enough so it was good to get over the line. We deserved to win and it’s good to climb back into the top six. It’s a long season and there’s plenty of points to play for, but we are slap bang in the middle of the promotion race which is all we wanted at this stage of the season.
“I left Woodyard and Bennett out today, but they will have big parts to play. We will need the entire squad for the run-in. Jason Cummings is contractually still with us, but we will see what a change of manager at Nottingham Forest brings. He was set to return there next week.
“We have a free week now which we will use well before a tough game at Luton next weekend.”
Evans revealed on-loan Brighton centre-back Ben White would have started today, but he felt ill in the morning so was named among the Posh substitutes.
The next two Posh League One matches are at second-placed Luton (January 19) and at home to fourth-placed Charlton (January 26).
In between they have a Checkatrade Trophy quarter-final tie at League One leaders Portsmouth (Januaury 22, 7pm kick off).
“The Portsmouth game is easily the least important of those three matches,” Evans admitted.