Posh get in behind twice in the first half to avenge 2-0 defeat at Gresty Road
Crewe Alexandra suffered a set-back in their hopes of keeping pressure on those clubs above them in the top six with a 2-0 defeat at rival promotion candidates, Peterborough. After a promising opening 25 minutes on a difficult playing surface at the Weston Homes Stadium, Crewe were punished by two lapses of concentration down our right hand side.
Siriki Dembele slipped in Man-of-the-Match, Sammie Szmodics for the opening goal on 25 minutes and then Szmodics turned provider after ghosting in behind and rolling the ball over for Jonson Clarke-Harris to help himself to a tap-in.
Peterborough certainly created the better of the chances in the game but Crewe had good periods of possessions and just couldn’t muster that real chance that could have got us back into the game.
Crewe were incensed at the start of the second half by a recklessly high challenge from Frankie Kent on Luke Murphy that only resulted in a yellow instead of a red card. He had a lucky escape.
With the news that Oli Finney suffered a fracture of the leg against Shrewsbury on Tuesday evening, there was a first start for the on-loan Antony Evans. The on-loan Paderborn midfielder was handed his chance after an impressive cameo as a late substitute against Gillingham.
The other change in the starting line-up was the experienced, Billy Jones, returning at right-back for Travis Johnson.
It was a strong Alex bench with the club’s deadline day loan signing, Nathan Wood, named in the 18 alongside his Middlesbrough team-mate, Stephen Walker and Chris Porter.
It was certainly a testing playing surface to play on at the Weston Homes Stadium and overnight downpour didn’t help. At times, the ball was sticking in the mud and it made things tricky. It was a shame because there is no doubting that Crewe and Peterborough are two of the most attractive, passing sides in the division.
The slippery conditions meant the players had to strike the ball more truly and Crewe certainly did that from wide areas in the opening minutes with Owen Dale delivering one deep cross from the right and Luke Murphy, likewise from the left.
Crewe were compact and organised to keep Peterborough playing in front of us for the opening period of the game and our pressing in their half of the pitch saw us nick possession in good areas. Evans was influential and despite the pitch, he was a willing runner with the ball.
It took 15 minutes for the home side to conjure up their first major chance. They got in behind on the left flank and Joe Ward’s dangerous looking cross only needed a touch from Jonson Clarke-Harris but the ball whistled just past him.
Moments later, Crewe produced their best move of the opening passages of play. Jones and Evans combined superbly down the right hand side and the full-back’s far post cross was attacked in the air by Dale and he was unfortunate to see it blocked and deflected behind for a corner.
On the counter attack, Ward got in behind again and in a 3v3 situation, the ball was switched top Clarke-Harris and his low drive had to be collected by Richards. Murphy had recovered fantastically well to recover and put the forward under pressure.
Clarke-Harris then had his clearest opening after full-back, Dan Butler had found him with a wonderful cross. Clarke-Harris met it powerfully with his head but directed a yard wide of the far post.
Crewe continued to be a threat though with some excellent one and two touches moves in and around the Peterborough box. After being slipped in Pickering was unfortunate not to find Daniel Powell rushing in at the far post and Dale couldn’t quite reach the loose rebound. Billy Jones also had a shot blocked from a central position as he continued to enjoy getting forward.
Following an entertaining 25 minutes, a loose ball from the Alex into the middle of park was punished. Peterborough opened up the Alex up down the right hand side, with Siriki Dembele slipping in Sammie Szmodics and after drawing Richards to him, he guided into the opposite corner for the opening goal. It was a calm finish.
Five minutes later, an almost identical move saw Szmodics get behind Jones too easily and he rolled the ball over for Clarke-Harris to tap home with ease. Crewe looked over for an offside flag but none was forthcoming.
Jack Taylor was the first player to be booked for Posh but with the 2-0 cushion they controlled the remainder of the second half. With the trickery of Dembele and Szmodics, they continued to combine well together and it was the Alex needing the half-time whistle.
Crewe had a couple of bursts forward with Evans and Dale making progress with forceful runs but the Peterborough defence had marshalled the threat of Mandron really well and we didn’t force Christy Pym into a save of any note in the first period.
The second half began with a dangerously high challenge on Luke Murphy by Frankie Kent. Murphy’s experience just about got him out of serious trouble and the Alex players and staff were clearly incensed by the challenge - but referee Carl Boyeson only showed the defender a yellow card. He was lucky because he had certainly endangered the player’s safety.
Crewe needed the next goal to stand any chance of acquiring anything from a tough enough trip to London Road. With Crewe lacking that final ball, David Artell made a triple substitution with Mandron, Evans and Powell making way for Porter, Lowery and Walker on 59 Minutes.
Walker was instantly involved and his excellent cross to the far post found Dale in space but his header just cleared the far corner. It was a presentable chance for the winger but he couldn’t quite get his angles right to guide it away from Pym.
Dembele was cautioned for a foul on Pickering but more so for not retreating 10 yards.
Crewe were very much in the contest but need to be more threatening. On the break, Ward ran into space down our left flank and after chopping back his fierce drive was blocked.
Ward soon made way for Niall Mason before Szmodics drove one just wide of Richards’ left hand post.
Posh lost Kent through injury and he had to be replaced by Idris Kanu.
With 15 minutes left, the home side had the perfect chance to kill the game stone dead when Dembele raced in behind to go one-v-one with Richards but the talented number 10 got his finish all wrong and he fired wastefully wide. He was replaced soon after for Mo Eisa.
The let off meant Crewe were still in the game. A great chance could have provided that lifeline with Jones heading just over from a Pickering cross via a corner.
With the minutes ticking away, Crewe kept going and kept probing but our opportunities on Pym’s goal were limited.
In fact, it was Peterborough, with Crewe chasing the game, who had the better of the late chances with Clarke-Harris doing superbly off the touchline to find Eisa but he was denied by Richards, who did enough to divert it behind for a corner.
Szmodics was also denied a late chance to add a third by some superb last ditch defending from Pickering. The captain did fantastically well up against two breaking Peterborough players.