With two thirds of the season to go, a point at Peterborough took Town to half of the 50 point target which, usually, keeps you above relegation.
The result was disappointing following a performance which, while far from faultless, should have been enough to secure a creditable away win, and it should be said that there was some genuine bad luck with decisions and injuries.
However, it was probably a more realistic assessment of Town’s chances of sustaining a challenge at the top end of the table that they were unable to see through a victory against fairly limited opponents, lacking the ruthlessness necessary for tricky midweek fixtures away from home.
A dominant first half display, which wobbled ominously towards the back end, should’ve laid the foundations for victory and the exceptionally marginal offside decision against Ward when he converted a rebounding effort from Holmes off the bar, was particularly galling following a similar decision at Bournemouth. Neither call remotely hinted at the benefit of doubt supposedly afforded to strikers (if there is such a thing), and the much improved Ward has been desperately unlucky to be denied goals which attested to good striking instincts.
The disallowed open play goals would also have provided a little more balance to those achieved through set pieces, which seems to overly concern the more esoteric fans and commentators.
A high press which was maintained throughout a solid first half pinned the hosts back for long periods but, the disallowed goal aside, the control didn’t result in opportunities and a late flurry by Peterborough nearly, and ludicrously, could have seen Town go in one down.
Just before the break, Hogg went down injured and though he made it to half time, he didn’t reappear and was replaced by High. This was a blow; High is a good footballer but simply couldn’t hope to replicate Hogg’s experience which had been instrumental in the dominance of Posh in the first half.
Still, it was the visitors who continued to look the more likely winners and with O’Brien driving the team forward, they looked increasingly dangerous from both flanks. Thomas, who was otherwise a little flat and probably in need of a break, delivered a great cross to the back post which was headed over by Holmes, who perhaps should’ve done better.
Toffolo was brighter than he had been for much of the season and was integral to a couple of complex passing movements down the left which failed in the last action. He also brought a standard save from Posh’s otherwise too underworked keeper.
It was Toffolo who won the corner which led to Town’s goal with more good offensive work down the left and Thomas finally delivered a decent delivery on to the head of Colwill, who headed down for Ward to snaffle the opener from short range.
Ward thoroughly deserved his goal, particularly after being on the wrong side of two highly marginal decisions in the last 2 away games, and, along with Holmes who put in another strong performance before injury saw him replaced by Turton, should be highly praised for their massive improvement.
Sadly, the goal provoked a mindset which ultimately cost the team 2 points. Wether Turton would’ve been sent on to shore things up had it not been necessary to replace the injured Holmes is a little moot. Town’s approach became defensive and tentative and it is disconcerting that they were undone by an opponent simply throwing on a big fella to try to turn around a game they never looked like gaining anything from.
With just over 5 minutes to play, High and Turton conspired to miss opportunities to either clear a loose ball or block the consequent cross which exposed Colwill to Clarke-Harris in the middle. A small push by the Peterborough substitute was missed by the officials – O’Brien was furious and booked for his protests – but Town really only had themselves to blame.
Despite the disappointment of dropping 2 points, there was a fair amount to like about the performance. As mentioned, Ward and Holmes performed to high levels again, O’Brien and Toffolo put in their best displays of the season to date and, the late lapse aside, Town still looked defensively solid.
Saturday’s trip to Cardiff, likely with an injury depleted squad, will be tough despite the travails of the Welsh club, but whatever the outcome, the first third of the season has been more than satisfactory.
The breaking news about Phil Hodgkinson’s other businesses adds a layer of uncertainty and unwelcome distraction, but there is nothing Corberán, the players or the fans can do about that. If it proves to be the end of his ownership, however, his stewardship during a painful and difficult transition is clearly bearing fruit and this should be acknowledged amidst the crisis he is now facing.