The tea lady can keep the kettle boiling and re-stock the sandwich trolley as Peterborough United responded to chairman Darragh MacAnthony’s midweek moan in the appropriate manner yesterday (April 16).
MacAnthony issued a ‘Godfather-like’ set of ultimatums and threats when asked about his under-performing squad ahead of this game. No-one from ‘the top of the club to the tea-lady’ was safe from the summer sack unless performances improved before the end of the season. If it was meant as an unrefusable offer it worked.
In reality, while the result was most welcome, the performance didn’t improve greatly and a 4-1 win at the second-worst team in League One was acutely flattering, a point accepted by Posh manager Graham Westley who nonetheless was probably even more relieved than the catering staff at being able to enjoy a more relaxed weekend.
His team’s spirit and defensive determination, as well as some lethal late counter-attacking, saw them home at the Weston Homes Community Stadium, but Colchester’s staff had every right to feel aggrieved at simply losing, never mind by such an emphatic margin, particularly as the result pretty much ended their faint hopes of avoiding relegation.
This was actually a shock result on current form. Posh had lost their previous two games in dismal fashion, while Colchester had won three of their last four matches and hadn’t conceded a goal for 336 League One minutes. It was a designated kids’ day at the stadium which ensured the atmosphere had a pantomime feel - entirely appropriately, some Posh fans would say.
Westley has increasingly become the Posh villain in recent months, but he had a decent day, as his positive starting selection was rewarded instantly as Jon Taylor punctured Colchester’s proud recent defensive record in just 100 seconds, and two second-half substitutes, Andrew Fox and Shaquile Coulthirst, scored within minutes of their arrivals to effectively secure the points with 20 minutes still to go.
But the boss - Westley, not MacAnthony - was not fooled by the scoreline. He admitted Posh were never in control of the game, were over-run in midfield and relied on excellent performances by skipper and centre-back Michael Bostwick, and goalkeeper Ben Alnwick to mathematically ensure their own League One future, for another season at least.
When Bostwick wasn’t hurling himself in front of Colchester shots at goal, Alnwick was using all parts of his body to keep the ball out of his net. The ‘keeper’s best moment arrived in the 20th minute when flinging himself to his left to save George Moncur’s penalty.
By the time Moncur, who was the game’s outstanding player, did beat Alnwick 14 minutes from time, Posh had stretched their lead to three goals, but a first-half equaliser could well have shifted the contest in the home side’s favour. Marcus Maddison’s 60-yard breakaway goal in the final moments was a cruel way to punish a home side who contributed greatly to an entertaining, if rather frenetic, contest.
For most of the match Colchester were brighter in possession and sharper into tackles. They were often helped by terrible Posh decision-making and execution in the first-half as passes across defensive areas were intercepted and players were caught in possession far too close to their own goal for comfort.
Jack Baldwin defended well, but Alan Hansen he is not. One dreadful pass was picked up by Gavin Massey who was in the Posh penalty area shoting weakly within a couple of strides. Erhun Oztumer, who looks fatigued, twice lost the ball on the edge of his own area and was bailed out by Bostwick and Baldwin blocking the inevitable shots at goal.
The Posh preference for playing out from the back and drawing opponents on to them was rumbled months ago. Teams now employ a high press and either nick the ball off Posh toes quickly or force hurried clearances when space is finally closed off. Only Chris Forrester looks comfortable accepting the ball under pressure and he is currently way off his best form.
There were some nervy performances in the first-half despite Taylor latching on to a loose ball following a powerful header by Bostwick and a flick by Aaron Williams, bursting into the area and finishing confidently. Taylor should have made it 2-0 within minutes after Oztumer’s excellent pass, but the more controlled, dynamic football was happening at the other end.
Ricardo Santos started this game at right-back and was tortured by Elliot Lee for 45 minutes. A clumsy trip on his winger gave Moncur his chance from the penalty spot and more fouls on the same player led to a yellow card before Posh’s biggest man settled down to play solidly after the break.
Colchester probably started to realise it wasn’t going to be their day when Chris Porter sent a free header wide from six yards just before the break and Lee struck the post soon after it. Oztumer saw his opportunity to score towards the end of the first-half ruined by a soft shot and Colchester keeper Elliott Parish’s positioning.
Marcus Maddison set that chance up and he was a threat all afternoon. He was for once over-shadowed in an attacking sense by Taylor whose surges of speed and direct running troubled a Colchester side who were forced to send many players forward with their League One future in serious jeopardy.
Taylor smacked a fierce shot against the post after out-pacing the home defence and played a big part in Coulthirst’s first Football League goal for the club, a tap-in from close range 20 minutes from time following the Posh winger’s strong sprint into the area.
That made it 3-0 as just a minute earlier Fox and Coulthirst had combined for the former to open his career Football League account from eight yards. Moncur pulled a goal back quickly afer a corner fell kindly at his feet, but poor misses by Maculey Bonne and Femi Akinwande, plus two superb saves by Alnwick to thwart Bonne, enabled Posh to survive and add gloss to the scoreline when Maddison led a three-on-one charge on the home goal in the 94th minute.
That late goal enabled Posh to become the top scorers in League One again, a scant consolation in a frustrating season.
They will need to play a lot better at play-off chasing Barnsley on Tuesday (April 19) to force MacAnthony to keep his thoughts to himself.
Posh: Ben Alnwick, Ricardo Santos, Michael Smith (sub Andrew Fox, 66 mins), Jack Baldwin, Michael Bostwick, Chris Forrester, Harry Beautyman, Jon Taylor, Erhun Oztumer (sub Leo Da Silva Lopes, 76 mins), Marcus Maddison, Aaron Williams (sub Shaquile Coulthirst, 66 mins). Unused substitutes: Lee Angol, Mark Tyler, Martin Samuelsen, Gaby Zakuani.
Colchester: Elliott Parish, Frankie Kent, Tom Eastman, Nicky Shorey, Tom Eastman, Tom Lapslie (sub Darren Ambrose, 63 mins), Owen Garvan, George Moncur, Elliot Lee, Gavin Massey (sub Macauley Bonne, 71 mins), Chris Porter (sub Femi Akinwande, 72 mins). Unused substitutes: Dillon Barnes, Richard Brindley, Drey Wright, Leo Chambers.
Goals: Posh - Taylor (2 mins), Fox (69 mins), Coulthirst (70 mins), Maddison (90 + 4 mins).
Colchester - Moncur (76 mins).
Cautions: Posh - Santos (foul), Baldwin (foul), Fox (delaying the re-start), Maddison (delaying the re-start).
Colchester - Shorey (foul), Kent (foul)
Referee: Andrew Madley 7
Attendance: 5.965 (567 Posh).
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