There are many who believe Peterborough United are merely keeping a League One promotion place warm for bigger hitters.
Certainly Sunderland, who were described as a juggernaut by Posh boss Steve Evans after this game, probably Barnsley, who lit up the ABAX Stadium earlier this month, or maybe even Luton Town who have a home record the rest of League One would die for.
That sort of pessimism might just inspire Posh. An ‘us against the world’ mentality could well kick in and drive the squad to great heights. It’s quite the thought as it’s rather remarkable to even consider a team averaging two points per game over a near-third of the season could still have question marks over their second-place position, but those concerns will remain fair until Posh can improve their form at the ABAX Stadium.
Last night was a first win at a ground soon to be coming home to rightful owners since August 18. It’s a start, but that’s all it is. It was encouraging to see a misfiring formula abandoned, an attempt to pass the ball to feet rather than lump it in vague directions of team-mates employed and a defence and goalkeeper stay solid enough to secure a first home clean sheet of the campaign, one achieved with Joe Ward rather than Jason Naismith at right-back in the first defensive change of the League One season by Posh.
“Our away form would win a title,” Evans stated. “Our home form would get us relegated. We know we have to improve results in our own stadium to have any chance and this was a first step in that direction.”
Evans is a canny enough post-match performer to suck-up to his club’s fans, well those who attend matches rather than fire anonymous barbs on social media. He did it here by praising a crowd, one boosted by a terrific financial incentive for young people, for sticking with the players, something that will always happen if effort is matched by bright ideas and a desire to entertain.
Posh were far from successful on the latter count, especially in a first-half spent by both teams sparring prettily until falling apart anywhere near the opposition penalty area, but a second goal of the season for centre-back Rhys Bennett, who powerfully headed home a splendid corner from Louis Reed in the 53rd minute, led to an end-to-end finale which at least included some goalmouth activity, most noticably when Ivan Toney’s volley from a free-kick was disallowed, wrongly apparently, for offside, and when the same player saw a shot saved by Fleetwood ‘keeper Alex Cairns’ legs and when Posh number one Aaron Chapman stretched his 6ft 7ins frame to divert a fierce Wes Burns’ shot round a post.
Posh will be encouraged by Reed’s display in the middle of the park, by Jamie Walker’s excellent second-half display when he prompted many breakaways with his smooth running and precision long-passing, and by the ease with which Ward eased into a different role. Toney also battled gamely up top on his own as Evans bravely left his three leading scorers on the bench until four minutes from time.
Posh will be less encouraged by another largely lethargic display from Marcus Maddison and an often infuriating one from the other winger Siriki Dembele. The immensely gifted Dembele danced his way into a shooting position only to fire well wide in the first-half before spoiling some honest toil with some baffling decisions in possession after the break.
The win moved Posh to within four points of leaders Portsmouth, but knockers were still to found within the ABAX.
Fleetwood boss Joey Barton, who carries with him a crew filming a documentary about a man in charge of a club that encouraged 46 fans to travel to this game, reckoned he managed ‘much the better side tonight.’ He was frustrated his side had lost 1-0 to the top two teams in the division in the space of a few days.
A reporter who attended both games insisted Posh were actually better, more skilled, more ambitious and more entertaining than Pompey. At least someone rates Steve Evans’ men.
Posh: Aaron Chapman, Joe Ward, Colin Daniel, Rhys Bennett, Ryan Tafazolli, Alex Woodyard, Louis Reed (sub Mark O’Hara, 85 mins), Marcus Maddison (sub Jason Naismith, 75 mins), Siriki Dembele (sub George Cooper, 88 mins), Jamie Walker, Ivan Toney.
Unused substitutes: Jason Cummings, Matt Godden, Mark Tyler, Tyler Denton.
Fleetwood: Alex Cairns, Lewie Coyle, Ashley Eastham, Craig Morgan, Ryan Taylor (Jason Holt, 63 mins), Kyle Dempsey (sub Chris Long, 63 mins), Ross Wallace, Dean Marney (sub Harrison Biggins, 43 mins), Ashley Hunter, Ched Evans.
Unused substitutes: Paul Jones, Cain Bolger, Gethin Jones, Ryan Rydel.
Goals: Posh - Bennett (53 mins).
Cautions: Posh - Daniel (foul), Naismith (time wasting).
Fleetwood - Wallace (foul), Taylor (foul), Long (dissent).
Referee: Ollie Yates 7
Attendance: 5,347 (46 Fleetwood).