League 1 report: Naturally there was disappointment as Peterborough United lost for the first time in League One this season tonight (August 19).
But with the length of the absentee list at London Road right now, six points from three games is not a bad start to a long season at all.
The Blades might have arrived in the city shorn of confidence as well as points and hardly played like the favourites for the League One title, but they will undoubtedly improve over the course of the campaign.
Posh will also. New signings will arrive - one, Christian Burgess, came on as a substitute here - and the injuries will eventually clear up. Posh had just one of their first-choice back four on the pitch at the close so perhaps no wonder that they were sent spinning to defeat by a poorly-defended long throw attempt five minutes from time.
Just why a player as good as Ben Davies had all the time in the world to shoot into the corner from the edge of the area wasn’t obvious. It was decisive though and robbed Posh of a point they probably deserved.
Of course this was a fixture enjoyed only by insomniacs and masochists last season. A 0-0 draw with so little action (thanks to United’s suffocating, spoiling tactics) one was surprised there wasn’t a queue of angry punters demanding their money back on the final whistle.
This was more open from the start, but a lack of quality and precision going forward ruined many promising positions for both sides.
Posh started brightly and became excited when Conor Washington beat Blades’ keeper Mark Howard to the ball outside his area, but promptly took a tumble when confronted by a lunging defender.
‘A penalty’ according to Posh boss Darren Ferguson, but more importantly referee Scott Duncan disagreed.
Washington, who hasn’t scored a goal in any Posh match since April, then found himself behind the back four following strike partner Kyle Vassell’s flick, but he was thwarted by a high bouncing ball and sent his effort high into the empty Moy’s End area.
Vassell was restored to the starting line-up following his heroics as a substitute at the weekend.
Posh were also forced into another change at centre-back as Michael Bostwick was nursing an injury as well as celebrating recent fatherhood.
Ricardo Santos was recalled and looked far happier as a right-sided central defender then he had on the other side in his previous outing this season.
Burgess, who is a big lad, was left on the substitutes’ bench after dashing down from Middlesbrough, with whom he had trained in the morning, and arriving three hours before kick-off.
Ferguson felt the opposition struggled to live with Posh’s tempo before the break which was at least a slight exaggeration.
There were moments of promise, but Jon Taylor was quiet and Nathanial Mendez-Laing on the other flank was irritatingly inaccurate with his crossing and his shooting.
The Blades weathered the early mini-storm and started testing the new-look defensive partnership of Santos and Shaun Brisley.
Craig Alcock, who delivered a polished display at right-back for his new club, missed the ball completely when a corner reached him six yards from goal in the 15th minute, but it was soon forgotten when the visitors grabbed a 24th minute lead.
The attack started down the Posh left as Davies and Chris Basham worked the ball neatly to Jose Baxter who moved forward and finished expertly across ‘keeper Ben Alnwick.
Posh took a little time to recover, but equalised within 10 minutes when Brisley met Taylor’s corner with a firm near-post header.
Brisley’s only other Posh goal arrived at Wembley in a slightly more high-profile contest.
The teams traded rather soft blows until the interval with Vassell forcing a brave stop from Howard following a cross from Jermaine Anderson and a touch from Mendez-Laing.
And that’s how it stayed for most of the second-half. The visitors were frustrated to see a ‘goal’ disallowed for offside, Posh should have struck when a fine free-kick delivery from Mendez-Laing was side-footed wide at the far post by Tyrone Barnett, In mitigation it was Barnett’s first touch of the ball, having replaced Taylor who is currently struggling to get through 90 minutes.
Taylor had missed a presentable opportunity after terrific work by Washington earlier in the half, but Posh lost any fluency when forced to take off Santos and Kgosi Ntlhe as well as the little winger.
Santos was much improved compared to his last Posh outing and limped off to a fine ovation after hurting himself making an excellent goal-saving challenge.
Burgess looked comfortable in possession and decent in the air. Posh may need a few more new arrivals before they can be confident of maintaining their current position in the top six.
Posh: Ben Alnwick 6, Michael Smith 6, Kgosi Ntlhe 6 (sub, Kane Ferdinand, 75 mins), Ricardo Santos 6 (sub Christian Burgess, 63 mins), Shaun Brisley 7, Jack Payne 8, Jermaine Anderson 7, Nathaniel Mendez-Laing 6, Jon Taylor 6 (sub, Tyrone Barnett, 71 mins), Conor Washington 6, Kyle Vassell 5. Unused substitutes: Joe Day, Grant McCann, Joe Newell, Harry Anderson.
Sheffield United: Mark Howard, Craig Alcock, Chris Basham, Neil Collins, Ben Davies, Michael Doyle, Harrison McGahey, Jay McEveley, Marc McNulty (sub Michael Higdon, 72 mins), Jose Baxter (sub, Ryan Flynn , Jamie Murphy. Substitutes: Iain Turner, Bob Harris, Andy Butler, Jamal Campbell-Ryce, Louis Reed.
Posh - Brisley (34 mins).
Sheffield United - Baxter (25 mins), Davies (85 mins).
Referee: Scott Duncan 6
Attendance: 6,578 (1,062 Sheffield United fans)
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