No wonder Peterborough United manager Steve Evans wasn’t in the mood for talking much after a second round FA Cup tie somehow ended in a draw.
Game management - the art of controlling the tempo and flow of a contest to ensure a lead is maintained to the final whistle - is supposed to be a strength of his teams, but for the second time in three matches Posh blew it big style. Sneaking in front in the 90th minute and not winning at Coventry two Fridays ago was an uncomfortable dig in the ribs, but conceding twice in the final six minutes against the worst side in League One yesterday (December 1) was a Deontay Wilder strength punch in the chops. Fortunately it wasn’t a knockout blow.
Evans, in his post-match chat with the club’s official media team, did give credit to Bradford City for their never-say-die attitude and the world-class goal that started their unlikely comeback, but the fury that was undoubtedly simmering inside soon erupted when faced with rest of the media. He answered one question, took exception to the second and then rushed out, presumably to kick the stadium cat.
In the interest of fairness the Peterborough Telegraph wasn’t present to witness the 60-second press conference - the curse of the unexpected last-minute rewrite - but a recording of the confrontation left little to the imagination. Evans wasn’t happy and understandably so, but others were more culpable than a rookie post-match interviewer with a mic.
And the real shame? That a terrific 45-minute display which generated a thoroughly deserved 2-0 half-time lead was reduced to a postscript because of six mad minutes. That two splendid goals - the first from Ivan Toney following a superb break out of defence involving four players and a brilliant Marcus Maddison pass, the second a lovely finish from Siriki Dembele - were largely forgotten among the post-match furore.
Posh hadn’t played this well at home since early August and they still didn’t get the convincing win they need at the ABAX Stadium to get some of the irritatingly incessant knockers back on board. The failure to kick on from a commanding position at the break was a major frustration, but against a team containing the excellent Jack Payne and very little else they still should have booked their place in the third round of the FA Cup for the fourth season in a row. Evans’ decision to try and strengthen a defence that had coped comfortably with a few set-pieces backfired even if replacing Joe Ward with a more defensive right-back with just over 10 minutes to go seemed logical enough.
Both City goals arrived from the flank Ward had left, although Kelvin Mellor’s stunning 25 yard strike into the top corner and Luca Colville’s well-struck, but non-threatening until it took a crucial deflection, shot from 20 yards arose from an absence of collective defensive responsibility rather than anything substitute full-back Jason Naismith did. Any combination of players should have been able to see this game out safely. Posh could have sent Conor O’Malley on as a centre-half and still expected to beat this opposition
It’s also unrealistic to believe that a manager with Evans’ record of success told his players to drop their intensity which led to three visiting yelow cards in the opening half-an-hour in the second-half or to switch off and settle for a 2-0 win.
It’s most doubtful Evans told Dembele, who was the best player on the pitch in the first-half, to stop running past an outmatched full-back, one who had been cautioned in the opening five minutes, in Paul Caddis and instead try showboating flicks and dribbles.
It’s also doubtful Evans told substitute Jason Cummings to cross the ball in the 88th minute when Posh were still leading when his only possible target Toney was already on the floor thus conceding possession far too cheaply. Bradford equalised 90 seconds later and 60 seconds before Maddison ruined another decent personal display with an act of simulation so blatant even a referee as poor as Trevor Kettle couldn’t miss it.
Posh: Aaron Chapman, Joe Ward, Colin Daniel, Rhys Bennett, Ryan Tafazolli, Alex Woodyard, Louis Reed (sub Mark O’Hara, 86 mins), Marcus Maddison, Siriki Dembele (sub Jason Naismith, 79 mins), Matt Godden (sub Jason Cummings, 71 mins), Ivan Toney.
Unused substitutes: Conor O’Malley, Sebastien Bassong, George Cooper, Tyler Denton.
Bradford City: Richard O’Donnell, Paul Caddis, Adam Chicksen, Anthony O’Connor, Kelvin Mellor, Jim O’Brien (sub Luca Coliville, 64 mins), Karl Henry (sub Kai Bruenker, 79 mins), Jack Payne, Lewis O’Brien, David Ball (sub George Miller, 64 mins), Eoin Doyle.
Unused substitutes: Ben Wilson, Ryan McGowan, Connor Wood, Daniel Devine.
Goals: Posh - Toney (30 mins), Dembele (45 + 1 min).
City - Mellor (84 mins), Colville (89 mins).
Cautions: Posh - Godden (dissent), Maddison (simulation).
City - Caddis (foul), Henry (foul), Ball (foul).
Referee: Trevor Kettle 6
Attendance: 3,750 (234 Bradford City).