It’s tough to know what qualifies as a satisfactory Peterborough United performance these days.
Posh won their third League One match in a row last night (November 24) by beating Barnsley 3-2 at the ABAX Stadium to move to within one point of the play-off places. They scored three more goals to take their tally for the season to a most impressive 42 and struck the woodwork twice as they won a Tuesday night home game in League One for the first time in 18 months.
And yet many Posh people present - including manager Graham Westley - were less than thrilled with the display. This must be how Real Madrid fans feel about Cristiano Ronaldo when he only scores two goals rather than a hat-trick at the Bernabeu. Great talent and regular flashes of brilliance lead to high expectations.
But the gnarled professional in Westley and others also know the importance of winning when playing well below your best. This was the second home game in succession against a team who started the day in the bottom four that Posh had been forced to tap into their reserves of, to use the words of the manager, ‘resilience and defiance.’
They had to as some of the game management they showed in the tense final moments was pretty poor. On too many occasions attempts to play out, or even dribble out, from the back were thwarted leading to further Barnsley pressure. Better sides would undoubtedly have punished Westley’s men.
Playing in two games in four days has become an issue for Posh and this victory won’t completely dispel them. Posh rarely got anywhere close to the standards they attained in the second half at Crewe on Saturday, but they continued their wonderful trait of scoring goals when they need them, even if all three had a touch of good fortune about them last night.
Lee Angol’s seventh goal of the season in the 24th minute arrived from a soft shot that somehow went through visiting ‘keeper Adam Davies, debutant Miles Addison’s downward header from substitute Marcus Maddison’s corner (poetically M. Maddison set up M. Addison) took a big bounce off the turf and sailed over over the head of Davies just past the hour mark and 18 minutes from time Maddison’s well-struck shot entered the net following a deflection off a Barnsley defender.
Maddison’s excellent half-hour display off the bench was the most heart-warming news of the night for Posh alongside a mighty display at centre-back from Michael Bostwick and the realisation that Angol has managed seven goals from just 11 starts.
Bostwick was partnered last night by debutant Addison as the former Derby and Bournemouth defender was asked to fill in for multiple absentees. It was a tough task for a player without a competitive appearance, or even a club to play for, since May and there were times when he understandably floundered, most notably when he conceded a penalty after he was out-paced by Barnsley striker Marley Watkins enabling Conor Hourihane to fire the visitors level from the spot eight minutes before the interval.
It was also Addison who headed the ball out of goalkeeper Ben Alnwick’s hands and against his own crossbar to help set up a second Barnsley goal 13 minutes from time for substitute Sam Winnall. Winnall pounced after Alnwick had recovered to tip an Adam Hamill onto the same piece of woodwork.
That goal brought Barnsley back to within a goal and set up a frantic, thrilling finale which saw visiting defender Kevin Long dismissed for a two-footed lunge at Posh substitute Harry Beautyman, Hammill force a superb last-gasp save from Alnwick with a 25-yard deflected curler and both Angol and Jermaine Anderson strike the woodwork. Angol’s effort was well saved by Davies, while Anderson had made up tremendous ground to get on the end of Callum Elder’s precise pull-back.
Goal machine Anderson was one of several players whose recent levels dipped disappointingly. Erhun Oztumer, Chris Forrester and Jon Taylor were others to look sluggish from the start, although the latter’s burst of pace through the heart of the Barnsley defence did create the opening goal.
Otherwise too many short, simple passes were intercepted, while the longer passes were usually over-hit, apart from one glorious ball out of defence by Bostwick which enabled Michael Smith to bomb into the Barnsley penalty area to win a corner.
It was Smith who created an early opportunity for Angol that was spurned. The right-back often struggled defensively against the skills of Hammill, but he was given very little help by those in front of him.
But Posh got through another tough examination of their promotion credentials. It’s now seven wins in 11 League One matches under Westley, form that might one day persuade the Peterborough public to turn up and watch their local team in far more impressive numbers.
Less than 4,500 of them ventured out last night to watch a team who have now scored five more goals than anyone else in the top four divisions of English football.
Posh: Ben Alnwick, Michael Smith, Callum Elder, Miles Addison, Michael Bostwick, Chris Forrester (sub Harry Beautyman, 76 mins), Jermaine Anderson, Erhun Oztumer (sub Marcus Maddison, 57 mins), Jon Taylor, Conor Washington (sub Souleymane Coulibaly, 67 mins), Lee Angol. Unused substitutes: Dion-Curtis Henry, Martin Samuelsen, Harry Anderson, Andrew Fox.
Barnsley: Adam Davis, Kevin Long, Alfie Mawson, James Bree, Conor Hourihane, Marley Watkins, Ben Pearson, Adam Hammill, Lloyd Isgrove (sub Sam Winnall, 60 mins), George Smith, Ivan Toney (sub Simeon Jackson, 76 mins, sub Lewin Nyatanga, 84 mins). Unused substitutes: Nick Townsend, Marc Roberts,Reece Wabara, Michael Smith.
Goals: Posh - Angol (24 mins), Addison (62 mins), Maddison (74 mins).
Barnsley - Hourihane (penalty, 37 mins), Winnall (77 mins).
Sending off: Barnsley - Long (serious foul play).
Cautions: Posh - Addison (foul), Anderson (persistent fouling), Elder (time wasting), Smith (foul).
Referee: Nick Kinseley 5
Attendance: 4,783 (284 Barnsley)
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