Ajose hat-trick takes Town up to top spot…
When Richard Selbourne put his name down to write this match report just over a month ago, this was the kind of headline he’d imagined writing for yesterday’s match against Peterborough United. How things have changed in those few injury-filled weeks. Yet, despite suffering our sixth defeat in seven games, there were still enough positives about the performance to keep the ‘Cooper out’ brigade quiet for a little while longer.
The big pre-match news: Ben Gladwin was back in Town for an emergency loan having failed to establish himself in the QPR line-up after an early season injury. (I wonder if Jack Stephens, Harry Toffolo and Nathan Byrne are still struggling to get a game..?)
Other changes included the introduction of Adam ‘he used to play for City but he’s alright now’ El Abd in the centre of defence on another emergency loan. While Louis Thompson was also recalled and asked to fill in at right-back, flying back from international duty without even having time to take a shower after his appearance in Denmark the previous day.
With just over 7,000 in attendance, the Town set about the opposition every bit as brightly as the weather. I’m not too good on formations, because the players have a frustrating habit of running around all over the place during the game, but it looked mostly like a 4-2-3-1 with Gladwin playing just behind Ajose up top.
It was Gladwin who take charge in the opening half hour, dropping his shoulder, entertaining with his flicks and tricks, and carving out chance after chance for himself and his teammates. There was none of the expected ring-rustiness and, as someone who occasionally watched him play for Marlow before his transfer to Wiltshire, I’m truly amazed by Ben’s rapid rise in form and class from those non-league days. It was also heartening to see Drissa Traore displaying some confident touches and neat passing in midfield after recent poor performances.
Unfortunately though, Town were unable to capitalise on this long period of early dominance and Peterborough began to work their way into the game, striking the post and creating good chances of their own.
It was no real surprise when Jon Taylor slotted home for the visitors from a tight angle after a neat move. It was a decent enough goal, but it didn’t really warrant an annoying thirty seconds of celebratory posturing and strutting in front of the Don Rogers stand from the wee man.
A killer blow seven minutes before half-time and worse was to come seven minutes afterwards. Playing a characteristically awkward one-two with Rossi Branco, keeper Lawrence Vigouroux appeared to stop playing and invite a bewildered Lee Angol to tap in from a yard out. This bizarre goal was scored with such ease that it should not only prompt an inquest from his manager, but also from the Match-Fixing Commission.
Surprisingly perhaps, given the circumstances of the goal and the recent poor run, the home crowd continued to get right behind the team and urged them forward to try and salvage an unlikely point. The young players responded and Louis Thompson and the enterprising James Brophy looked particularly dangerous, with BOO causing problems for the Posh on the other flank. A now frustrated Ben Gladwin had taken to shooting on sight, but unfortunately he was displaying Owen Farrell-style accuracy with every attempt sailing comfortably over the bar.
On 73 minutes, the breakthrough was finally achieved. A free-kick was whipped invitingly into the box by Anton Rogers and beefy Posh defender, Bostwick, as fed up by the Town’s poor finishing as the home fans, decided to show our strikers the way by powering a glorious header into his own net. Looks like the Match-Fixing Commission is in for a busy week.
With youngsters Ellis Iandolo and Will Randall coming on in the closing minutes, it looked very much like boys against men, but the Town continued to pour forward in search of a dramatic equaliser. If their efforts could only have been matched by a little composure in front of goal, I might easily have been reporting on an epic fightback but, alas, it was not to be.
Man of the match? Without question it was Ben Gladwin in the first half, but as he started to tire, James Brophy continually caught the eye in the second. Overall though, that award has to go jointly to the Town End and the Don Rogers stand. It was only the committed support throughout the second half that enabled the youngsters to play with such freedom and confidence in adversity.
While some will still be baying for change, this reporter remains reasonably optimistic for the rest of the season. With Thomas, Obika, Williams, Nathan, Turnbull, Kasim, Barry and Kevin Stewart (I might even have forgotten one or two others?) all set to return in the next few weeks, we will surely soon be back on the front foot.