It’s surely a sign of the times that a home draw with Gillingham is treated with such joy by Peterborough United.
In the days of Holy Trinities, Tomlins and Assombalongas, honest, well-organised opponents like yesterday’s (August 29) unbeaten League One visitors to the ABAX Stadium would have been swatted away with ease. Now a 90th-minute strike from Jon Taylor was required to salavage a point and send the home crowd, if not into raptures, at least into a state of welcome relief.
This was actually one of the better days of an embryonic Posh season. Two new, if relatively unknown, signings and the end of a run of three competitive defeats in succession saw to that.
Posh did little to suggest they are about to embark on a thrilling surge up the table, but they showed enough endeavour and spirit to hint that a relegation battle might not be in the offing either, especially after falling behind with just five minutes to go against a team keen to cling onto top spot.
Gills’ centre-backs John Egan and Adedejo Oshilaja combined for the latter to nod them in front after a sustained spell of pressure, but while many expected a Posh team short of confidence to wilt, they instead rallied impressively. Kyle Vassell promptly smacked a terrific volley against the underside of the crossbar from 20 yards before Taylor pounced after visiting ‘keeper Stuart Nelson palmed an excellent cross from Marcus Maddison into his path.
The goal really should have been disallowed as Ricardo Santos was in a clear offside position when he lunged, without making contact, at Maddison’s centre, but then Gillingham should have been down to 10 men with half an hour to go when Brennan Dickenson hauled down Maddison for as clear a second yellow card offence as you’re likely to see. These erratic officials really do have too much influence on a result, as Posh know only too well themselves following the harrowing finish to their defeat at Burton seven days earlier.
The late drama enabled rookie manager Dave Robertson to be far more enthused about his players after the game and he had a point. While the sheer skill and creativity are absent fans will be far more supportive if passion and desire are present. Posh actually left the field with applause ringing in their ears after securing just a fourth point in five matches.
Maddison was outstanding for Posh showing a rare willingness to pass to better-placed team-mates after drifting in off the flanks. Transfer-listed Vassell was a surprise selection up front and held the ball up well in a display full of hard-running and accurate passing. Alex Davey also played as though he was pleased to return to a centre-back role, while Michael Bostwick, initially at right-back and then in central midfield, and goalkeeper Ben Alnwick, helped by a terrific fourth minute save to deny Egan from a long throw, showed pleasing improvement.
It was Vassell who slipped Taylor through on goal after 50 seconds only for Nelson to rush off his line and block. Misfiring striker Conor Washington had a clear sight of goal inside 60 seconds following Maddison’s pass, but he dithered and delayed and saw his shot blocked by Dickenson.
It was pretty even fayre after that with Gillingham’s midfield diamond enabling them to occasionally enjoy clear runs at the Posh back four, although another long throw from Ryan Jackson which landed obligingly at Jordan Houghton’s feet led to their best chance of the first-half. The midfielder shot wide despite being granted all the time in the world to finish from 12 yards.
That wasn’t Gills’ worst miss as Luke Norris somehow struck the outside of a post with a six-yard header in front of a gaping goal 60 seconds before his side did hit the front. Norris also rattled the crossbar with a rather better effort from a 25-yard free-kick 20 minutes from time.
Posh also had their moments after the break even though Jack Collison and Jermaine Anderson rarely inspired as a central midfield partnership and Washington was again disappointing. The latter was replaced by the more energetic and enthusiastic Souleymane Coulibaly who should have scored with his first touch in the 65th minute.
Again Maddison was the architect with a curling free-kick which located the sub unmarked at the far post. A form header would have done the trick, but instead Coulibaly attempted to chest the ball home and Nelson kicked the danger away.
Britt Assombalonga and Aaron Mclean would have scored.
Posh: Ben Alnwick: Ricardo Santos, Alex Davey, Callum Elder, Michael Bostwick, Jermaine Anderson, Jack Collison (sub Tobi Adebayo-Rowling, 76 mins), Jon Taylor, Marcus Maddison, Conor Washington (sub Souleymane Coulibaly, 65 mins), Kyle Vassell. Unused substitutes: Dion-Curtis Henry, Shaun Brisley, Harry Anderson, Joe Gormley, Lee Angol.
Gillingham: Stuart Nelson, Ryan Jackson, John Egan, Adedeji Oshilaja, Jordan Houghton (sub Emmanuel Osadabe, 46 mins), Jake Hessenthaler (sub Doug Loft, 62 mins), Bradley Drack. Josh Wright, Rory Donelly (sub Cody McDonald, 81 mins), Luke Norris, Brennan Dickenson: Unused substitutes; Glen Morris, Max Ehmer, Ben Williamson, Jermaine McGlashan.
Goals; Posh - Taylor (90 mins).
Gillingham - Oshilaja (86 mins).
Cautions: Posh - Washington (foul), Vassell (foul), Bostwick (foul).
Gillingham - Dickenson (foul).
Referee: Keith Stroud 6
Attendance: 5,083 (728 Gillingham).