Even the most optimistic Addick was I suspect struggling to go into last night’s game with grounds for confidence. Peterborough, on the back of their thumping of Plymouth, still badly needed to win to close the gap on the top six, while we, following defeats recently against good teams (Sheff Wed, Derby, Bolton) and ordinary ones (Fleetwood), were left to ponder whether the team had it in them to compete when quite obviously there’s nothing left for us this season, while injuries from the weekend would probably limit options. But football doesn’t usually turn out as planned and Peterborough, after a poor showing in the first half, spent most of the second a man down (just how it wasn’t 10 against 10 only the ref knows). We should have been able to take advantage but couldn’t and it ended up as a stalemate between two teams short of the quality we have seen of late from those in the top six.
The team showed some changes but a retention of the 3-5-2 starting formation used against Sheff Wed. Sessegnon came in as one of the wing-backs, replacing Blackett-Taylor, while Payne was given a rare start ahead of both Morgan and Kilkenny, while the unavailability of Aneke and doubts about Leaburn’s fitness meant Bonne would start, with Rak-Sakyi sort of alongside him up front, although he and Payne seemed to alternate.
We did play pretty well in the first half, generally controlling the flow of the game, winning most of the individual battles, and restricting Peterborough to only a few dangerous moments. Bonne proved reasonably effective outside the box. But we carried little in the way of a goal threat. Early on Bonne had an opportunity inside the box but his shot on the turn went well over (a later shot from him went for a throw-on), later Ness got on the end of a corner but his header went over the bar. For them some good moments down the flanks and one good ball in from their left which was met by their guy towards the far post. His goalbound header forced a smart save from Maynard-Brewer. The only other incident of note was a challenge by Dobson facing his own goal, their guy tumbling to the ground. In real time I thought it was probably a penalty, albeit a soft one – and not surprisingly Peterborough boss Ferguson considered it nailed on. But the replays at the break seemed to indicate that the guy had lost his footing and was on his way down before any slight contact.
At the break Holden would have been reasonably pleased with the display. You doubted that Ferguson would feel the same way and the thought was surely Peterborough would shake off their lethargy and up the ante in the second half. You also felt that if they went ahead at any point we would struggle to get something out of the game. The first half had delivered one effort on target from the two teams combined. That said, with Leaburn and Blackett-Taylor on the bench there was always the chance that the second half would produce more in the way of attempts on goal.
Before the second half had really taken shape we had the main event of the night. This is how I saw it in real time. Rak-Sakyi took the ball forward in their half and seemed to be fouled by one, then another, and went to ground. A bit of a tussle on the ground with the second guy, then as he’s getting up Rak-Sakyi swings his left arm into their guy’s face. After the inevitable melee which followed it seemed clear we would be down to 10 men. When the ref flashed a red at their guy I thought ‘great, 10 against 10’. And with the benefit of replays that decision appears correct for their guy kicking out at Rak-Sakyi when both were on the ground. But when the ref then brandished a yellow for RS I just laughed. And watching the replays haven’t changed that. Ferguson talked of the decision being ‘just astonishing’ and there’s no disagreement there. Holden after the game talked of there not having been a punch and more an attempt to push the guy away, but that’s not a fair description.
We had been handed a clear advantage, now had around 40 minutes to make it count. In terms of possession and half-chances we did, but poor finishing and poor decisions in good positions meant we just didn’t stick the ball in the net – or indeed require their keeper to make more than routine saves. Peterborough still carried a threat, albeit now a sporadic one on the break. But the list of our chances included Sessegnon setting up Dobson to shoot well over the bar, then Fraser doing the same. Payne and Blackett-Taylor (who had by then replaced Hector to try to make the extra man tell, with us switching to a 4-4-2) then combined only for Payn’e shot to be diverted wide. An excellent swivel by Leaburn (who came on with Penney, Fraser and Sessegnon making way) found CBT but his shot after cutting inside was turned around by the keeper.
In truth, as the sum total of about 45 minutes (including six of stoppage time) with a man advantage, it didn’t amount to that much. Peterborough were conceding territory and possession but were never desperate and saw out the game reasonably comfortably. The final stats showed we had 10 attempts on goal in the second half (after five in the first) and just two on target (against zero). And to add to that we never threatened from set-pieces.
We would have taken a point before the game and the draw does prevent consecutive losses becoming four defeats in a row (after Plymouth on Saturday). We got away with Rak-Sakyi not getting a three-game ban (and his yellow card means he can’t be given a retrospective red), seem to have come through the game with no further injuries, and can go to Plymouth with nothing to lose. It ain’t what we want but them’s the breaks, until matters off the pitch can be clarified.