A solitary Kane Ferdinand goal was enough for Posh, as they grabbed a vital three points against Blackpool at Bloomfield Road.
Darren Ferguson chose to name Tyrone Barnett in his starting line-up, as Posh used a slightly altered version of the 3-5-2 system that they used against Leeds in midweek. Rather than having a flat three in midfield, Lee Tomlin played just behind the strike-partnership – with Barnett partnering Dwight Gayle up-front.
Barnett’s inclusion was largely down to his aerial ability. The playing surface at Bloomfield Road was not conducive to Posh’s usual productive, patient football and, as a result, Ferguson’s men were clearly looking to utilise the long-ball; adopting a more direct style of play.
The slight adaptation of the formation, though, was causing Posh more problems than Blackpool as it was allowing Ludovic Sylvestre and Tom Ince to find space in between the visitor’s defence and midfield, with Jack Payne and Kane Ferdinand outnumbered. The Seasiders were quick to take advantage of this, too, and could have easily had an early goal to merit their dominance.
Firstly, Matty Phillips fired a half-volley goalwards that was acrobatically saved by Bobby Olejnik, before Tom Ince latched on to a brilliant pass from Alex John-Baptiste, but could not finish when one-on-one.
Olejnik was called into action again, as Ince struck a powerful shot from range, but the Austrian stopper was equal to the effort – tipping the ball over the bar and out for a corner.
The host’s dominance was now becoming worrying and Ferguson decided to drop Tomlin back into midfield to combat Blackpool’s extra-man. The change seemed to work and Posh began to find their way into the game and adapt to a pitch that was cutting-up particularly badly.
Gayle had Posh’s first shot of the match, firing a left-footed effort just wide after showing good pace to burst past Kirk Broadfoot.
The match was then stopped for a lengthy period of time after Barry Ferguson went down with what looked a severe injury. The central midfielder required a neck-brace and a stretcher before he left the pitch to applause from both sets of fans.
It killed any momentum that either team had gained and meant that the game became even scrappier than it was before.
But in the 45th minute the deadlock was broken. After neat work by Gayle down the right hand-side, he played the ball back into the feet of Jack Payne. Payne, stopped and steadied himself, before dinking a delicate ball in for Tommy Rowe to nod back across goal for Kane Ferdinand to head into the net from close range.
It provided Posh with a priceless lead and one which hadn’t looked likely as they had found chances fairly hard to come by throughout the half.
The second-half began in much the same manner as the first had finished – with the ball bogged down in midfield and neither side creating much of note.
Nathaniel Knight-Percival provided the home fans with something to get excited about, though, when he brought down Ince, after already receiving a yellow card, but he received a final warning from the referee rather than a red-card.
It meant that Ferguson was forced into a change, with Joe Newell coming on to replace the centre-back with Posh switching to a 4-4-2 formation.
Consequently Lee Tomlin was now found on the right-wing, rather than in the centre of midfield where his attacking talents had been stifled so far, and he benefitted almost immediately. Bursting past one man, he cleverly put the ball between Stephen Crainey’s legs before prodding a shot goalwards, but it was well saved by Matt Gilks.
Gayle then came close, with a long-range effort, but once again Gilks was equal to it and Blackpool survived.
The hosts were now having most of the play, with the ball seemingly permanently inside the Posh half, but they were finding it hard to break down a resilient Peterborough United backline and create anything of note. When they did, they were generally wasteful, too, with Crainey being particularly poor in the final-third.
Indeed, it was Posh who created the best chance of the second-half when Payne picked out Rowe, but he couldn’t quite manage to find the target with his header.
All of the visitor’s resoluteness in holding out for a vital victory was almost un-done, however, when Ince found space on the edge of the area, but fortunately for them his goalbound effort hit Nathan Delfouneso and deflected away to safety.
Five minutes were added on but, despite throwing numerous amounts of balls into the box and committing numbers forward, Blackpool could not create the opportunity they so desperately wanted and Posh held on to claim a vital three points.
Today, when it was a battle, Peterborough United fucking battled. To a man, the team were superb and stood up to everything that Blackpool threw at them. This wasn’t a pretty victory; this was a win created through sheer hard-work, desire and willingness to give everything to keep us in the division. We wanted this win badly and it showed.
The celebrations at the end were also quite revealing in how important this win was for us. Darren Ferguson was punching the air towards the fans, whilst all the players were congratulating one and other. Every single Blackpool player had left the pitch at least a minute before the first Posh one had.
And, whilst we mention the pitch, it has to be said how much of a disgrace it was. It simply shouldn’t be allowed in the Football League. It is not only a health hazard, but a pitch which completely requires opposition teams to change their style of football to become a direct one – it doesn’t exactly help the fluid football that Blackpool try and play, either.
But, enough of moaning, and back to the positives. I thought Lee Tomlin was absolutely superb going forward, he linked everything up brilliantly, but also fought hard – in the right manner this time! Gabby Zakuani, Michael Bostwick, Nathaniel Knight-Percival and, when he came on, Shaun Brisley were all tremendous at centre half and barely lost a header all game. Jack Payne and Kane Ferdinand were also incredibly hard-working and allowed Posh to win the midfield battle. Payne, especially, seems to have the credentials to become a real-star at the club.
It would be unfair not to mention Tyrone Barnett, too. He may not be the most popular figure at the club, but his presence was certainly valuable today and he did the job that Ferguson asked him to do very well. He also makes us much more secure at defending set-pieces, something that has been a problem in recent weeks, and cleared most of Blackpool’s corners away.
When we sold George Boyd a few weeks ago many people questioned whether that was the club throwing in the towel, but today’s performance showed that these boys are clearly still prepared to fight on. If we get 8 more performances that match the commitment that every Posh player showed today, then we will be a Championship team again next season.
Up The Posh!