Monday, 26 December 2022

All Too Familiar, But Take The Point

There were some pretty obvious reasons for this afternoon’s game to be of considerable interest. How would Holden set up the team? Would the players deliver the hoped-for new manager lift? Would they be able to repeat the concentration and determination they had shown in seeing off Brighton? And could we finally end our winless streak in the league at seven? No doubt the afternoon would throw up some more. Almost as interesting after all, just who might be spotted in the West Stand with their chequebooks hanging out of their pockets?

What we got was a decidedly mixed bag in terms of performance. There was no shortage of effort, but that hadn’t really been the problem under Garner. In reality we had a reminder of why we are where we are in the league as once again we failed to win, for the second home league game running despite taking the lead. We conceded another goal from a set-piece, defending it poorly, and we gave the ball away in positions which might have produced other goals, all of which was familiar. Hardly surprising really as its only been a few days under Holden, no chance for him yet to shape the team – although we did focus less than before on retaining possession at the back for its own sake. I suspect overall we just wanted a last-minute winner off someone’s backside, to show that Holden is lucky. And we didn’t get that in a game which in the final stages could easily have gone either way.

The team did show some notable choices. Maynard-Brewer, as against Brighton, kept the keeper’s jersey despite the availability of MacGillivray. In what looked like a 3-5-2 we had Lavelle and Ness either side of Inniss, with Clare and Sessegnon seemingly being asked to play wing-backs. Dobson, Fraser and Payne all kept their places, while up front Leaburn kept his too and was joined by Kanu, with Stockley on the bench. The set-up meant no starting place for either Blackett-Taylor or Rak-Sakyi, who were among the subs, along with Kirk, with Mitchell and Henry the only alternatives in midfield and defence (unless we switched formation), with Morgan apparently ill and Forster-Caskey not included.

The first half was, from our point of view, disappointing. The formation didn’t seem to be working as we weren’t getting much down the flanks from the wing-backs, while Payne operating behind a front two seemed to deny him space. And during this period Leaburn and Kanu looked like a couple of kids learning their trade against experienced opposition. The only time we came close to scoring was a free-kick outside the box which Fraser curled over the wall but just wide. That really was it.

At the other end, Peterborough didn’t pull us to pieces but they had moments. They had joy down their right/our left, and had the half-chances to take the lead. A corner routine worked well first time with a low ball in met by a guy in plenty of space. His shot was blocked and the follow-up put into the side-netting. And their main chance, on 35 minutes, saw us caught on the break as a poor ball from Ness was intercepted and their guy was played in. Maynard-Brewer blocked the first effort and was on his feet quickly to get in the way of the second, getting a bloody nose for his heroics.

At the break it was still all square, but Peterborough will have been reasonably content, being clearly ahead on points and looking the more likely. You felt that the game might end up turning on whether we could keep it level before some changes were made. But hey, this is football. Whether it was something Holden said we almost scored three goals in the first 10 minutes.

A few minutes into the half and we had the lead. A ball forward was just nicked by Kanu, who managed to loop the ball up before the defender reached it, effectively playing himself in down the left. He looked up and sent in a peach of a cross, which saw Leaburn get across his marker and guide a deft header into the far side of the net. A splendid goal completely at odds with what had gone before. A couple of minutes later and it was nearly two, this time all Leaburn’s own work. He wriggled through in the box, going past a couple of challenges which might have yielded a spot kick had he gone to ground. Instead he agonizingly just failed to get a clean shot away at the end of the run. Two more minutes and we were an inch away from making it three as we broke from their corner and Clare was able to pick it up in our half, with nobody between him and the keeper. He did almost everything right, managing to move it quickly enough to avoid a defender getting back, lifting it over the advancing keeper, only for the ball to come back off the inside of the post.

After that Payne shot over from a decent position and Clare had another storming run down the right. Peterborough seemed shell-shocked at the turn of events, but just after the hour we left them back in. Fraser lost the ball badly and Lavelle did well to cover the eventual effort, blocking it for a corner. But a familiar weakness resurfaced as one to the far post found two Peterborough players with the opportunity for a free header. The one back hit Ness and bounced through Maynard-Brewer’s legs and over the line before it could be hooked out.

Then Peterborough did a passable impression of us, coming within a whisker of scoring again. Another low corner was prodded goalwards only to come back off the bar, with their guy failing to convert what looked like a tap-in from the rebound. Another couple of corners followed, ending with their guy advancing onto a loose ball inside the area only to blaze over.

As we drew breath with 20 minutes or so left on the clock the abiding thought was surely there was another goals in the game, but for who? Both sides made changes, with a triple substitution from us. On came Stockley, Rak-Sakyi and Henry, for Kanu, Payne and Fraser. Unfortunately Rak-Sakyi had no time to get into the game before he was offered the chance to put us ahead again. He was in plenty of space when Leaburn’s ball square found him, but rather tamely hit the shot wide. And our final decent chance of the game also fell to him, with a few minutes of normal time left he was found in the box. He was being forced onto his right and ended up running out of space and unable to get a shot away. And for good measure after that the Peterborough guy broke clear down the left, only for his fierce shot to cannon back off the bar.

There was to be no deciding goal and the points were shared, with both sides ruing their inability to take very good chances and neither coming away with the win they both badly needed. Nobody will disagree that a draw was a fair result, just that it should have been 2-2 or 3-3 rather than 1-1. Ultimately we didn’t learn anything we didn’t already know and move on. No choice, we have to, to wait for some changes in January to set the tone for the remainder of the campaign.

1 comment:

  1. One win vs Coalville, 2 sort of wins on penalties(draws really), in 10 games. Not really anything but relegation form.

    What happened between the first half, where we were 2nd best, and the early 2nd half where we were dominant? OK half time, but anything tactical? or just a good talking to by the manager ....Then I was puzzled by the initial substitutions, just as Kanu was finding his feet , he was taken off. Oh well.

    Happy New Year BA.


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