Peterborough United saw off Gillingham in EFL League One on Tuesday evening to go second in the table.
In a true game of two halves, John Akinde gave Gillingham the lead from the penalty spot in the first-period, only for Peterborough to completely take over proceedings in the second to win 3-1 thanks to Jonson Clarke-Harris (2) and Siriki Dembele and move into the automatic promotion places.
Story of the match
Despite no early attempts, Gillingham started the better of the two sides, seeing more of the ball, although the only real action of the opening 10 minutes saw a Gills free kick headed away inside the Peterborough penalty area.
Connor Ogilvie fired over from a Gillingham corner as Peterborough opted to leave three men forward. Gillingham continued to press Peterborough high, hunting in packs, and Posh seemed to be struggling with Gillingham’s balls into the box towards big forwards John Akinde and Vadaine Oliver.
Tom O’Connor saw an effort in the area blocked as Peterborough continued to try and play out form defence, but there is no doubting Gillingham were having the better of the opening proceedings.
Mo Eisa saw Peterborough’s first effort on goal blocked by Connor Ogilvie, and the forward curled a cross-come-shot narrowly wide not long after as Posh tried to get into the game.
It was Gillingham who took the lead just after half an hour through John Akinde. After Tom O’Connor played a free kick short to Ryan Jackson on the right, the Gills fullback crossed into the area. As Akinde jumped to head the ball, he was pushed in the back by Jack Taylor and referee Charles Breakspear showed no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
Akinde too the penalty himself, firing down the middle as Peterborough ‘keeper Christy Pym dived to his left to give his side a deserved 1-0 lead.
Connor Ogilvie went close again for Gillingham to close the half, and the hosts would certainly have been the happier of the two teams going into the break.
Peterborough swapped Mo Eisa for Siriki Dembele at the break and equalised almost straight away. Defender Nathan Thompson ventured forward and curled an effort towards goal which should have been easy for Jack Bonham, but the Gills ‘keeper spilled the save. As all good strikers do, Jonson Clarke-Harris followed in to drag the ball home to equalise.
And just a few minutes later, Peterborough had the lead. Flying out the blocks, Posh drove forward with Jack Taylor feeding Dembele on the edge of the box. The forward’s curled effort was deflected, and Jack Bonham this time had no chance – the game had flipped on its head just seven minutes into the second half, and Peterborough led.
The visitors, who had switched from a 3-5-2 formation to a 4-4-2 at the break, continued to push, with Joe Ward enjoying plenty of space going forward on the right. Clarke-Harris shot wide on the hour mark as Gillingham were forced to simply stay in the game.
Gills manager Steve Evans made a double change on 65 minutes, replacing Olly Lee and Tom O’Connor with Alex MacDonald and Tyreke Johnson, in an effort to improve his team’s fortunes. Peterborough, however, would not let up, and added a third on 67 minutes.
Clarke-Harris had his second of the game and it was hard to argue it wasn’t deserved for the visitors. After Peterborough broke, Ward crossed, aiming for Clarke-Harris, but the forward showed frustration as the ball arrived behind him. Tucker’s clearance, however, was blocked, and Ward had another go. This time the cross was spot on, and Clarke-Harris got head of his man to put daylight between the two teams.
Gillingham swapped out Callum Slattery for Robbie McKenzie as the game edged towards the final 15 minutes, but it was almost certainly too little, too late for the hosts.
Peterborough can probably consider themselves unfortunate not to have added to their lead in the closing stages, and, despite Mark Beevers having to head a John Akinde flick on over the bar, Posh saw out the game to earn a 3-1 win.
Takeaways from the match
A game of two halves
This match really was, as they say, a game of two halves.
Gillingham dominated the opening period but only had a solitary goal to show for their efforts. Peterborough sorted it out at half time and hit their stride straight away, turning on the style to put three past a Gillingham side that had no answers.
Gillingham's defensive problems
One always felt the Gills would concede in this one and they never looked comfortable at the back - in fact, it could have been more than three.
A series of defensive errors contributed to Posh's goals and Steve Evans' side have now conceded 10 goals in their last four games. Conceding at that rate won't earn you many points.
Who else? Posh's number nine stole the show again with two fine goals; particularly the second.
Clarke-Harris moved to the top of the scoring charts on Tuesday with his brace, now finding the net 17 times in 27 appearances.
Ward, like most of the Peterborough team, had a quiet first-half, but came alive in the second after Peterborough's change of system.
He was granted a lot of space in attack and got forward well down the right and delivered the assist for the third goal.
Bonham, Jackson, Cundy, Tucker, Ogilvie, Dempsey, Slattery (McKenzie 75), Lee (MacDonald 65), O’Connor (Johnson 65), Oliver (Graham 53), Akinde.
Subs not used: Bastien, Morton, O’Keefe.
Pym, Kent, Thompson, Beevers, Ward, Taylor, Brown, Butler, Szmodics, Eisa (Dembele 46), Clarke-Harris.
Subs not used: Gyollai, Burrows, Blake-Tracey, Kanu, Hamilton, Mason.