ON-THE-WHISTLE-REPORT: Walsall 1, Peterborough United 1: Edwards saves a point for Posh
Gwion Edwards, stretchered off in this fixture last season, claimed a point-saving equaliser for Peterborough United at Walsall today (September 16).
Edwards struck with a 72nd-minute volley to give Posh a draw they certainly deserved despite falling behind to former player Erhun Oztumer’s strike eight minutes before the break.
But Posh thought they had grabbed all three points 10 minutes from time when substitute Junior Morias stabbed home a deflected Marcus Maddison cross at the back post.
An assistant referee flagged for offside briefly, but then put his flag down. He changed his mind again to then rule the ‘goal’ out after consulting with match referee Sebastian Stockbridge.
The right decision might eventually have been made, but it was an ugly, messy piece of officiating and irritated Posh who dominated the final stages of the contest.
Posh remain on 999 Football League wins, but at least they claimed their first goal at this ground in five seasons, even though they were faced with a cagey approach from Walsall.
A natural reaction to a 5-1 drubbing is to adopt safety first tactics even when you have won more home games in 2017 than any other League One club.
And so Walsall lined up in a 5-3-1-1 formation designed to stifle the pace and creativity of the Posh attack. It worked a treat in the opening half once the home side had survived two Jack Marriott scampers into the penalty area in pursuit of Maddison passes.
The first was blocked by a defender, the second by Walsall ‘keeper Mark Gillespie before Posh, despite hogging much of the ball, disappeared as a creative force.
Two Maddison corners were headed over by Posh defenders Steven Taylor and Andrew Hughes, but otherwise the game became bogged down in a messy, muddled midfield area.
Until the Walsall wizard pitched up eight minutes before the break. Oztumer, a man known pretty well by the Posh camp, had rattled the crossbar from 25 yards in the early stages when he also produced one crafty headed pass which started a rapid home break, but he was then quiet until Posh ‘keeper Jonathan Bond parried a Luke Leahy shot into his path.
The angle was acute which might be why the Posh defence didn’t exactly bust a gut to close him down. Big mistake. One swing of a deadly left boot and the ball had fizzed past Bond into the roof of the net.
Unsurprisingly Posh made a double substitution at half-time and switched to a 4-4-2 formation, Chris Forrester arrived in place of Anthony Grant, who picked up his fourth yellow card of the campaign (six if you count the two that led to a red) while natural right-back Liam Shephard replaced Leo Da Silva Lopes.
And Posh started the second period okay with Marriott’s fierce strike after fine work by Ryan Tafazolli drawing an excellent save from home ‘keeper Mark Gillespie and Tafazolli seeing a header blocked by a defender’s foot.
But it was after a quiet spell that Posh emerged to equalise on 72 minutes when Forrester’s right wing cross was converted on the volley by Edwards. It wasn’t the cleanest of strikes as the ball was struck straight into the ground and over the ‘keeper off the underside of the crossbar.
And that was the signal for heavy Posh pressure, interrupted only by a cracking dash forward by home substitute Zemi Ismail which ended with a smart Bond save.
At the other end crosses rained in on the home penalty area, but shots were blocked and a cross from Andrew Hughes was just touched to safety as Morias waited to pounce.
Posh: Jonathan Bond, Steven Taylor, Ryan Tafazolli, Andrew Hughes, Leo Da Silva Lopes (sub Liam Shephard, 46 mins), Gwion Edwards, Michael Doughty, Anthony Grant (sub Chris Forrester, 46 mins), Marcus Maddison, Ricky Miller (sub Junior Morias, 67 mins), Jack Marriott.
Unused substitutes: Conor O’Malley, Jack Baldwin, Danny Lloyd, Idris Kanu.
Walsall: Mark Gillespie, Joe Edwards, Luke Leahy, Jon Guthrie, Nicky Devlin, Adam Chambers, Flo Cuvelier (sub Kieron Morris, 75 mins), James Wilson, Erhun Oztumer (sub Zeli Ismail, 82 mins), Tyler Roberts (sub Amadou Bakayoko, 69 mins), Shaun Donnellan.
Unused substitutes: Liam Roberts, Simeon Jackson,Kory Roberts, Daniel Agyei.
Goals: Posh - Edwards (72 mins).
Walsall - Oztumer (37 mins).
Cautions: Posh - Grant (foul), Edwards (foul).
Walsall - Chambers (foul).
Referee: Sebastian Stockbridge 7
Attendance: 4,453 (Posh to follow).