“What’s he headed it for?” came the cry from the Peterborough United half of the Fleetwood directors box as time ticked on towards a fourth straight League One win and a realistic tilt at pinching the final play-off place from Doncaster Rovers yesterday (April 19).
You see it was obvious from high in the stands that Rhys Bennett should have left one last hopeful punt forward well alone. It must also have been obvious to those closer to the action, most notably goalkeeper Aaron Chapman who had the best view of all.
And yet nothing was said and if it was Bennett ignored it. Within seconds the ball was in the hands of Fleetwood’s long throw expert James Hill and seconds after that it was nestling in the back of Chapman’s net courtesy of substitute Ashley Hunter’s fine volleyed finish, in the 95th and final minute as three points became one from a 1-1 draw.
Posh boss Darren Ferguson was left to moan about a ‘concentration lapse’ and what a costly one it was. Such are the fine margins at this stage of the season in an instant Posh went from having sixth place in their own hands (albeit with tough games against Sunderland and Portsmouth to come) to becoming rank outsiders again even though Doncaster predictably lost 2-0 at Sunderland, a defeat that would have caused anxiety in Grant McCann’s camp if only Posh had completed what always looked like being a comfortable 1-0 win at Highbury once Marcus Maddison had continued his rich run of goal-scoring midway through the second-half.
As it was McCann and co probably shrugged their shoulders especially with a most winnable fixture against Accrington Stanley to come the day after Sunderland visit the ABAX Stadium.
Posh need to beat the automatic promotion favourites now and for that to happen they need to find a way of turning domination into goals. Fingers were being pointed in the direction of defenders at the end of yesterday’s match, but they’ve conceded just one goal in four matches and it wouldn’t have been an expensive one if Posh hadn’t failed to convert their obvious superiority for most of this game into goals.
Maddison was on social media apologising after the game for a weak first-half penalty - an attemped chip down the middle - that Fleetwood ‘keeper Alex Cairns saved. Not unreasonably Maddison reckoned Posh would have won if he’d scored, but at least he looks a threat.
It’s a strong front four Posh are fielding on a weekly basis. At least on paper, but, Maddison aside, the stats tell you otherwise. Ivan Toney, who failed to make any of three presentable chances count, has scored two League One goals in 2019, Lee Tomlin, who must be marked down as a huge disappointment given his reputation and pedigree, scored his only Posh goal on January 12 and Siriki Dembele, who was treated cynically by Fleetwood defenders and unsympathetically by the latest hopeless referee, hasn’t netted in League One since December.
It’s all most frustrating as there are signs that manager Darren Ferguson has improved other individuals, most notably skipper Alex Woodyard, leading to signs of a more pleasant playing style and more domination of matches rather than hoping to catch teams on the break.
There were tales of misfortune as Maddison hit the top of the bar from a free-kick and Toney hit the post with a header before the former lashed home Jason Naismith’s cross. At 1-0 Toney headed wide again after Naismith’s deflected cross arrived in his orbit.
But Fleetwood were a side with little to play for apart from keeping controversial manager Joey Barton out of the headlines so it was a disappointment to concede ground so readily after taking the lead.
“It felt like a win,” Fleetwood assistant manager Clint Hill said (Barton is being kept away from the media while allegations of misbehaviour are investigated).
It was also celebrated like one on the final whistle as Posh were left to lick what will most likely be a fatal wound as far as play-off ambitions are concerned
Posh: Aaron Chapman, Jason Naismith, Daniel Lafferty, Rhys Bennett, Josh Knight, Alex Woodyard, Louis Reed, Siriki Dembele (sub Tyler Denton, 80 mins), Lee Tomlin (sub George Cooper, 74 mins), Marcus Maddison, Ivan Toney (sub Matt Godden, 82 mins).
Unused substitutes: Conor O’Malley, Callum Cooke, Mathew Stevens, Darren Lyon.
Fleetwood: Alex Cairns, Lewie Coyle, Ashley Eastham, Ashley Nadesan (sub Ashley Hunter, 74 mins), Harrison Biggins, Nathan Sheron (sub James Hill, 74 mins), James Husband, Ross Wallace, Paddy Madden, Wes Burns, Ched Evans.
Unused substitutes: Paul Jones, Eddie Clarke, Macauley Southam-Hales, Ryan Rydel, Laurence Smith.
Goals: Posh - Maddison (64 mins).
Fleetwood - Hunter (90+5 mins)
Cautions: Posh - Dembele (foul).
Fleetwood - Husband (foul), Eastham (foul), Biggins (foul).
Referee: Tom Nield 5.
Attendance: 2,717 (333 Posh).