Posh 1-3 Sheffield United - Coul Runnings not enough to blunt the Blades

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When a player brought on after 54 minutes is named man-of-the match then it’s often the case that he was either brilliant or that the rest of the team were awful.

In the case of Peterborough United and Souleymane Coulibaly against Sheffield United neither quite rang true.

Conor Washington surges forward for Posh in the 3-1 home defeat at the hands of Sheffield United. Photo: David Lowndes.

Conor Washington surges forward for Posh in the 3-1 home defeat at the hands of Sheffield United. Photo: David Lowndes.

Posh were exposed often at the back (not helped by a number of injuries to their defenders) but it would be unfair to state that they were hopeless despite a 3-1 defeat being a fair reflection of the gulf between the teams.

And while Coulibaly impressed during his time on the pitch - in particular through his curled finish to level the scores just five minutes after being brought on - it would be mistaken to get carried away by his performance against a mediocre defence.

His goal, though, was enough to rouse the fans (and members of the press bench) off their seats through the quality of the strike and the anticipation of Coulibaly’s back-flip celebration which was duly delivered after a lengthy run past the home dug-out.

Football should be about joy and passion, and in the 40 or so minutes that Coulibaly was on the pitch he duly delivered both.

Coulibaly’s English may not be the best, so it is said, but his performance practically yelled ‘play me’ in the direction of manager Dave Robertson.

Robertson said: “When Soli (Souleymane Coulibaly] came on he gave us the energy that we needed up front.

“He stretched the game, he was a threat in behind, and even with his goal he had a lot of work to do.

“He took his goal really well. I was really pleased with him. He gave us the energy that we needed.

“When you come on and score goals and put in the performance that he did, then what you are doing is screaming at the manager ‘you’ve got to play me on Saturday.’

“And that’s exactly what he’s done. He’s been given the opportunity and to be fair to the lad he’s grabbed it with both hands and I can’t ask any more from the players than that.”

Coulibaly also struck two efforts over the bar later on in the match after replacing Joe Gormley.

Gormley’s performance capped off another disappointing performance for the striker with a miscued shot from inside the area in the first-half following on from bad misses in his pervious three matches as he seeks his first competitive goal for the club.

More than the missed chances, though, his much-hyped partnership with Conor Washington appears non-existant.

You only had to see the link-up play between Sheffield United’s Conor Sammon and Billy Sharp to see that there was a gulf between the two strike forces.

Sharp escaped Gabriel Zakuani to set up Sammon for his opener, with the Irishman finding space past Ricardo Santos to smash the ball past Ben Alnwick at his near post from about 12 yards out.

Moments early Alnwick had rushed out of his goal to block a Sammon shot after the striker went clear.

And a one-two later in the half nearly saw Sammon slipped in for a clear-cut opportunity but Sharp’s return was just overhit.

Posh were unfortunate to see Kgosi Ntlhe hobble off shortly before Sammon’s opener with a foot injury, and they could have gone into the break level if Gormley had found the target after a Marcus Maddison shot had deflected into his path.

But just like in their opening three fixtures of the season, they were disappointing in the first-half.

Although whatever Robertson says at half-time is clearly much more effective than his pre-match words as once again Posh enjoyed a second-half revival.

This one was led by Harry Anderson who skinned two defenders before electing to shoot wide from 20 yards instead of playing a simple pass to Gormley who would have had just the goalkeeper to beat.

The winger then had a volley saved by Mark Howard in the visitors’ goal as the crowd began to find its voice.

It was then that Coulibaly struck and for a second Tuesday night the home fans were lifted by a piece of individual brilliance.

Last week against Crawley Town it came from Anderson who skipped past two challenges before setting up Maddison to score.

This time it came from the 20-year-old Ivory Coast striker - who signed for Posh after a successful trial and has already spent time at Tottenham and in the Italian leagues - who cut in from the left and curled his shot into the corner.

His goal galvanised a now vociferous crowd whose presence appeared to rattle the United players with passes now going straight out of play.

Unfortunately for Posh they were up against a team who showed why they are favourites for promotion from League One this season.

With Alex Davey struggling with a groin problem, and Jack Payne waiting to come on, the visitors pounced.

Zakuani had already thrown his body in the way of a couple of efforts, but when Che Adams squared the ball to Sammon he was there to put the ball low into the corner from about 12 yards out.

Coulibaly did his best to bring his side level again, but when Jose Baxter exchanged passes with James Wallace and fired in off the underside of the bar from just inside the area, it was no more than the Blades deserved.

In Sharp, Sammon, Adams and Baxter they have an exciting and vibrant front four for this level.

Indeed, in the three league fixtures which Posh have now played their opponents have been sides brimming with attacking intent who move the ball along the ground with pace.

It makes for a good spectacle and long may it continue, but with Ntlhe and Davey joining fellow defenders Michael Smith, Tobi Adebayo-Rowling and Jack Baldwin on the sidelines, Posh may have to find plenty of goals rather than rely on clean sheets to get them the wins they seek.

It might make for nerve-wracking matches, but it also might lead to a lot more Coulibaly celebrations to savour.

Posh: Ben Alnwick, Alex Davey (sub Jack Payne, 73 mins), Ricardo Santos, Gabriel Zakuani, Kgosi Ntlhe (sub Shaun Brisley, 14 mins), Harry Anderson, Michael Bostwick, Jack Collison, Marcus Maddison, Joe Gormley (sub Souleymane Coulibaly, 54 mins), Conor Washington.

Subs not used: Dion-Curtis Henry, Jon Taylor, Kyle Vassell, Jermaine Anderson.

Sheffield United: Mark Howard, Kieron Freeman, Neil Collins (sub Kieran Wallace, 25 mins), Jay McEvely, David Edgar, Stefan Scougall (sub Jamal Campbell-Ryce, 19 mins), Chris Basham, Jose Baxter, Che Adams, Billy Sharp (sub James Wallace, 75 mins), Conor Sammon.

Subs not used: George Long, Marc McNulty, Martyn Woolford, Louis Reed.

Goals: Posh - Coulibaly (59) Sheffield United - Sammon (15, 72), Baxter (85)

Bookings: Posh - Anderson (foul), Santos (foul), Zakuani (foul), Collison (foul), Brisley (foul.

Blades - Sammon (goal celebration), K Wallace (foul)

Attendance: 6,526, (1,578 Sheffield United)

Referee: Nigel Miller 6