It’s not often a football manager brings a laptop to his post-match press conference.
But Peterborough United boss Dave Robertson arrived pitchside armed with video evidence that condemned referee Graham Salisbury’s decision to rule out Jermaine Anderson’s last-gasp, point-saving ‘goal’ at Burton Albion yesterday (August 22).
It was a shocker admittedly - a phantom shirt-tug offence apparently committed by Posh substitute Jon Taylor - but no less shocking than the performance of Robertson’s players for the first hour of the match at the Pirelli Stadium.
Refereeing incompetence is nothing new at League One level and, sadly, watching Posh struggle against teams with little obvious quality is becoming more and more of a regular occurence. Burton boss Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink wasn’t impressed with his own side’s display which gives a fair indication of how how bad Posh were, until, at 2-0 down and a man down, they delivered a spirited display for the final half-an-hour which almost rescued an unlikely point.
Gaby Zakuani’s red card for a horrible lunge on Burton play-maker Timmy Thiele - it was his first dismissal for over six years and completely out of character - fired Posh up along with the arrival of busy substitutes Taylor and Conor Washington. Marcus Maddison’s outstanding 25-yard strike into the top corner on 67 minutes unsettled the home side, but an equaliser (and Souleymane Coulibaly almost claimed it straight away with an acrobatic overhead kick) may well have papered over some pretty worrying cracks.
This is a Posh side that has so far (and it’s important to remember that they have played just four league matches) lacked creativity and a potent strike force. They have also suffered alarming lapses in defensive concentration. It’s not a combination of factors that bodes well for the season ahead.
It’s certainly a tough challenge for a rookie management team who won’t be afforded the luxury of a settling in-period by some Posh fans. How pathetic it was to hear some visiting supporters brieifly mocking their own team after goalkeeper Ben Alnwick’s spill enabled Stuart Beavon to convert the decisive second goal nine minutes into the second-half.
Robertson’s own patience has clearly been tested during a tough opening to the League One programme. He dumped strikers Washington and Joe Gormley onto the substitutes’ bench and played Coulibaly as a sole striker with wide men Maddison and Harry Anderson charged with supporting their enthusiastic and energetic team-mate.
Transfer-listed Jack Payne returned to a three-man midfield alongside Michael Bostwick and Jermaine Anderson, but if the changes were made to guarantee greater possession it failed miserably. So poor was the Posh passing at close quarters they soon resorted to by-passing midfield and lumping the ball to a striker not blessed with height.
Coulibaly lived off scraps and managed just one shot at goal - it bobbled wide after a promising run into the penalty area - in the first-half and that arrived after Burton had taken a 36th-minute lead. Alnwick had already cleared a couple of dangerous home attacks with his feet when he was given no chance by in-form Nasser El Khayati’s eight-yard sidefoot after two simple passes had opened up the Posh back four, which again featured on-loan Chelsea centre-back Alex Davey playing out of position at left-back.
Burton became complacent at 2-0 according to Hasselbaink and they almost paid the penalty. Taylor’s direct running style caused them problems, but Posh’s final ball was usually inaccurate and their set-pieces - and they had several in good positions - were awful as Maddison routinely failed to deliver the ball past the first defender.
It took a strong surge down the right wing from centre-back Ricardo Santos to show the forward players how to run and cross. His 97th-minute pass led to the late drama and Salisbury’s blooper, but if Taylor had converted the initial cross, as he should have done rather than hitting the post, Posh would have secured their draw and Robertson could have left his laptop in the dressing room.
Posh: Ben Alnwick, Tobi Adebayo-Rowling (sub Shaun Brisley, 71 mins), Ricardo Santos Almeida, Gaby Zakuani, Alex Davey, Jermaine Anderson, Jack Payne, Michael Bostwick (sub Conor Washington, 63 mins), Harry Anderson (sub Jon Taylor, 63 mins), Souleymane Coulibaly, Marcus Maddison. Unused substitutes: Dion-Curtis Henry, Joe Gormley,Lee Angol, Kieran Sadlier.
Burton: Jon McLaughlin, Phil Edwards, Shane Cansdell-Sherriff, John Mousinho, Robbie Weir, Stuart Beavon (sub Matty Palmer, 60 mins), Nasser El Khayati (sub Lucas Akins, 89 mins), Damien McCrory, Tom Naylor, Timmy Thiele (sub Aurelien Joachim, 70 mins), Mark Duffy. Unused substitutes: Remi Matthews, Callum Reilly, Anthony O’Connor, Jerome Binnon-Williams.
Goals: Posh - Maddison (67 mins).
Burton - El Khayati (36 mins), Beavon (54 mins).
Sending off: Posh - Zakuani (serious foul play).
Cautions: Posh - J. Anderson (foul), Davey (foul).
Burton - Cansdall-Sherriff (foul), McLaughlin (time-wasting), Duffy (foul).
Referee: Graham Salisbury 5.
Attendance: 3, 407 (818 Posh).