Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, Area Quarter-Final report: If Posh are walking out at Wembley in March games like this will be forgotten. Actually this one has probably been forgotten already by the majority of a subdued crowd tonight (132 November).
A single-goal victory against mid-table League Two opposition was dull yet deserved. Britt Assombalonga’s tap-in has left Posh two ties and three matches from a trip to the national stadium and at the end of the day that is what matters most - the thrills, excitement and drama will hopefully arrive in the future, although this sort of contest has become the norm at London Road.
Posh worked hard and defended stoutly against a team with far more pace than quality, but once again the attacking thrusts which earned manager Darren Ferguson his fine reputation were seen only occasionally.
One goal was enough though and Ferguson will be pleased that his new strike force Nathaniel Mendez-Laing and Assombalonga provided it. The former robbed a dithering defender on the edge of his own area just before the hour mark and delivered the perfect pass for the latter to claim his second tap-in, in two games.
A minute earlier Abu Ogogo had missed a six-yard sitter at the other end and if Posh had fallen behind one wonders whether or not they would have the wit and imagination to come from behind and win.
Posh are struggling against massed defences and Dagenham were willing to pull everyone behind the ball in the knowledge that they had the speed to counter quickly when gaining possession.
Chris Dickson shot behind the Posh defence early on, but dithered for so long Michael Bostwick recovered to block. Dagenham enjoyed bits of good possesion after that, but never once forced Bobby Olejnik into a difficult save.
Daggers ‘keeper Chris Lewington has also probably had a few busier nights and for that he can thank his brave defenders who blocked fierce strikes at goal from Grant McCann, Bostwick and Craig Alcock.
On-loan midfielder Hogan Ephraim came close to marking his full debut with a goal, but his 18-yard drive was kicked off the line by Brian Saah midway through the first-half. McCann clipped the top of the crossbar with a free-kick with the last act of the first-half, but Posh struggled to sustain constant pressure despite controlling large parts of the contest with their possession football.
It didn’t help that wing-backs Mark Little and Kgosi Ntlhe delivered erratic performances. Their roles are vital in the 3-5-2 formation that was employed again tonight.
Ephraim didn’t sparkle as he did at the weekend, but he was shifted to the left of midfield at the last minute when Joe Newell pulled a thigh muscle in the pre-match warm-up.
Posh boss Darren Ferguson insisted he enjoyed the game and admitted that his team need to work more often and for longer on their play in the final third of the pitch. That’s the truth although it was pleasing to see more pace on the pitch in the first place.
Daggers boss Wayne Burnett reckoned his side bridged the expected gulf in class, apart from with their finishing as he insisted they created the better chances.
They may well have done, but Olejnik was still celebrating his 11th clean sheet of the season - a remarkable record on November 12.
Teams (plus ratings):
- Posh: Bobby Olejnik 6, Michael Bostwick 6, Shaun Brisley 8, Craig Alcock 7, Mark Little 5, Kgosi Ntlhe 6, Grant McCann 6, Hogan Ephraim 6 (sub Tyrone Barnett, 81 mins), Danny Swanson 6, Nathaniel Mendez-Laing 7 (sub Tom Conlon, 87 mins), Britt Assombalonga 6 (sub Shaun Jeffers, 87 mins). Unused substitutes: Joe Day, Robert Duggan.
- Dagenham & Redbridge: Chris Lewington, Luke Wilkinson, Femi Ilesanmi, Brian Saah, Billy Bingham, Medy Elito, Abu Ogogo (sub Luke Howell, 86 mins), Afolabi Obafemi (sub Josh Scott, 72 mins), Chris Dickson, Gavin Hoyte, Xavon Hines. Unused substitutes: Jordan Seabright, Sean Shields, Jack Connors.
Goals: Posh - Assombalonga (57 mins).
Cautions: Posh - Bostwick (foul).
Referee: Mark Haywood 6
Attendance: 4,870 (102 Dagenham)