I must admit, therefore, that that I have watched my recording of the match several times and can confirm that I did appear in the broadcast but not as the main onscreen subject merely a crowd scene.
This was a match that we could not afford to lose. A win would be very handy but we cannot be greedy and a draw was very acceptable. Due to Peterborough’s attacking prowess and ability to score goals it would be a case of us scoring as well not a thing we have been very good at recently.
We lined up with Danny Ings as our sole striker, a difficult task for one so young, and McDermott playing in the hole. The rest of the team was the current first choice albeit dictated by injury.
As expected ‘boro came at us ‘all guns glazing’ right from the start. For the first twenty minutes we were over run although we did create two chances in this period. First of all Feeney raced clear after Shwan’s long punt but shot wide and then after a fine move, involving Feeney and Robinson, Smith also shot wide with his wrong foot. The problem was that Posh scored twice. A delicious cross field ball from McCann to Mackail-Smith allowed the striker to control the ball on his chest and come inside Smith to shoot at goal. Smith managed a partial block but this may have actually ensured that the ball beat Shwan’s dive to nestle in the far corner. A few minute’s later Rowe burst through onto Mackail-Smith’s layoff to take on Smith who he rushed past far too easily to smash a shot which Shwan could only pary into the net. Some thought that he could have done better but the power of the shot was so great that, to my mind, he did well to get so much on it.
Despite these set backs the team kept their heads up and actually started to get on top and pinched a goal back on the half hour as ‘boro’s ‘keeper Joe Lewis flapped at a corner and the ball bounced to Ings who flicked his left boot at it and the ball trundled in. Those of us on the away terrace at the other end of the pitch did not immediately realise what had happened as there was no bulge of the net, barely even a ripple! To our dismay a defensive mix up of our own from a corner, which Pearce clearly thought had been awarded in error, saw Mackail-Smith score via numerous parts of his anatomy. 3 1 at half time was hard to take, due to the effort put in to pull things back after the first twenty mins, but was about fair.
Right from the start of the second half United surged forward and Mackail-Smith shot wide. Play was, however, even with us seeing more than our fair share of the ball. For the neutral it must have been an attacking feast although not necessarily of high quality. Peterborough had a fair number of attempts on goal but Shwan did not have to make one save in the second half. Fletch replaced Pugh as we started to really go for it and, of course, became more direct. McDermott went wide left so we still had two out and out wingers. A great interception by Robinson, on the surge, saw him carry the ball forward and lay it off to Feeney. The winger advanced with a couple of touches before swinging the ball over to the far post. This appeared to be too deep and too near the bye line but Fletch somehow managed to muscle his way between two defenders and send a trademark looping header over Lewis and in off the far post. I’m not the greatest of Fletch fans but this was truly a match turning quality moment.
Both sides persisted in their search for more goals and the entertainment for the television audience continued. Chances cleared the bar by mot a lot at both ends (ours was a Pearce header). We started to get on top, although ‘boro were dangerous on the break, and with Fletch on the pitch our approach a little more direct than at the start of the match. Four minutes of added on time were indicated and in the first minute of this Fletch headed wide from a superb Wiggins cross. Still we kept going and in the third minute of this added time a free kick was pumped into their box. Three defenders challenged Fletch for this and with none of these making a clean contact the ball fell to Smith who took a touch before firing a shot through the crowded box. Lewis somehow managed to let this slip through his grasp and we were level. For such a highly rated young ‘keeper this was a poor display. There was still time for McCann to bounce a half volley just over the bar. Wild scenes at the final whistle amongst the away fans as it felt like a win.
The most impressive thing about this match was the spirit that was shown by the team to keep going right until the end. Heads could have dropped three times during the match, at two down, three one down and towards the end, but the opposite happened and the player’s sheer guts came to the fore. Whilst the first twenty minutes was a bit of a horror show the rest of the match was a display of real character. Plenty of this will need to be in evidence for the run in.
A fascinating point came out of this match and it relates to the way sides attack. Peterborough try to swamp the opposition through the middle with quick passes and movement. We on the other hand use the wings as the main part of our offensive game as is demanded by the Dean Court faithful. Wingers have been in vogue for the majority of my forty years supporting the lads…….and it is the way I like to see football played as well.
Liam Feeney. He put in a ninety minute shift and his chasing back was a joy to see considering what he was like a few months ago. It is as though he has appreciated that without Marvin we need our next quickest player (i.e. him) to make those lung busting runs back to help out the defence. On top of this he has learnt to tackle! Once the first twenty minutes was out of the way virtually the whole team played well. The positive feeling from the storming finish needs to be carried on into the next few games.
A mention also for Jon Moss, the referee. His gentle handling of the match helped it as a spectacle although there were a few mystifying decisions. His willingness to have a ‘quiet word’ rather than splash cards around was very refreshing and the three bookings were made to take the heat out of situations. Mr Moss was hardly noticed throughout the match, always the sign of a good ref.
AFCB: Jalal, Smith, Cooper, Pearce, Wiggins, Feeney, Hollands, Robinson, McDermott, Pugh, Ings
Subs: Stewart, Purches, Partington, Dalla Valle, Fletcher (for Pugh, 52 mins), Lovell (for Ings, 72 mins), Arter (for Hollands, 88 mins)
Phil Nesbitt, Acocks Green