Kidderminster Harriers v Posh 3rd Rd 4 Jan 2014

Venue: Aggborough, Kidderminster

Attendance: 3,858 (875 Posh)

Score: Peterborough Utd 0 v Kidderminster Harriers 0

Referee: Jonathan Moss

This was never likely to be an easy game on a surface which made footwear a toss-up between long studs or wellington boots, but some context should be delivered.

Kidderminster lost their last outing 6-0, they hadn’t kept a clean sheet since the beginning of October and they started this game 49 places below Posh in the Football League ladder.

They had a few players who looked like they sampled the famous Aggborough cottage pies as well – trim and athletic they were not.

Kidderminster had good overall home form though, while Posh had a lengthy list of absentees, and that was the fig-leaf for a disappointing display full of erratic passing and wayward shooting – no wonder manager Darren Ferguson is hoping to bring in a couple (at least) of attacking players before they next play a competitive match.

Any newcomers won’t be able to help to oust Kidderminster, but if this Posh team can’t beat this opposition at London Road, some serious questions should be asked.

Posh could well have gone out here. The home side were excellent in the opening half-an-hour, plus they missed a sitter midway through the second-half and had half-a-chance from a corner with virtually the last kick of the game.

Posh will point to amazing goal-mouth scramble five minutes from time when they hit the bar twice and apparently forced the ball over the line (by two yards, according to manager Darren Ferguson, a fact not disputed by the home boss). It would however have been harsh on the home side, who betrayed their reputation by delivering a sturdy defensive display after working hard to get the game on in the first place.

Of course this game was ripe for an upset. The bigger team were hopelessly out of form and the heavy, bumpy pitch levelled the standard of player on view considerably. That explained the 57 members of the press corps in attendance (55 more than normal), but thankfully the wind and rain stayed away.

And any thoughts Posh had of an easy ride were dispelled by a fast start by the home side who three times threatened to score in the opening 30 minutes. Posh centre-back Shaun Brisley deflected a shot onto his crossbar after 58 seconds before Bobby Olejnik twice made acrobatic stops to thwart Lee Vaughan and Joe Lolley. If winger Lolley really was the subject of transfer interest from Posh boss Darren Ferguson he was quick to show why as his speedy, direct running gave Kgosi Ntlhe a hard time.

Posh slowly worked their way into the game. but, although they enjoyed plenty of possession, they created little. Star man Lee Tomlin was deployed wider on the right side of midfield (the diamond was ditched in favour of a 4-4-2 formation) than normal, but he still looked the main threat whenever Posh managed to find him with an accurate pass, which wasn’t often in the first-half.

Tomlin did have the best two strikes on goal. He was well set up by Ntlhe and Shaun Jeffers, but blasted over from 20 yards and he stroked a free-kick over the wall which forced home ‘keeper Danny Lewis into a diving save. After the break Posh were in control for the most part and Assombalonga almost converted a Newell cross in the 48th minute, but Lewis tipped the ball over the bar.

Posh saw plenty of the ball, but were largely restricted to long-range shots by a deep-lying defence with Joe Newell (three times), Jack Payne and Tomlin all trying their luck without success, but the home side were always a threat on the break and they wasted a glorious chance to secure an upset when Vaughan was sent clean through midway through the half before screwing his shot hopelessly wide.

Assombalonga promptly saw another header well saved by Lewis before Posh felt they won the game in a dramatic passage of play five minutes from time. Tomlin’s 25-yard free-kick struck the underside of the bar, Assombalonga’s follow-up suffered the same fate before Brisley just failed to force the ball over the line, apparently, although photographic evidence Ferguson claimed to have seen indicated a goal should have been awarded.

That was galling enough, but a home goal from a corner in the final seconds would have made it a totally horrible afternoon. Fortunately Olejnik’s weak punch fell to defender Josh Gowling and his shot was blocked by Jeffers.

The replay will be another test for Ferguson, who at least pre-empted criticism of his substitutions in this match by failing to make any. With three members of the club’s youth team on the bench that probably wasn’t a surprise.

Teams:

Posh: Bobby Olejnik, Mark Little, Michael Bostwick, Shaun Brisley, Kgosi Ntlhe, Jack Payne, Jermaine Anderson, Joe Newell, Lee Tomlin, Britt Assombalonga and Shaun Jeffers.

Unused subs: Regan Carthey, Grant McCann, Tom Conlon, Liam Marshall, Danny Swanson, Nathaniel Knight-Percival and Joe Day.

Kidderminster: Danny Lewis, Danny Jackman, Mickey Demetriou, Josh Gowling, Lee Vaughan, Lee Fowler (Jack Byrne 63), Kyle Storer, Callum Gittings (Jack Dyer 53), Michael Gash, Amari Morgan-Smith (sub Anthony Malborn 71) and Joe Lolley.

Unused subs: Marvin Johnson, Dior Angus, Jamie Grimes, Nathan Vaughan.

Bookings:  Michael Bostwick (Posh), Lee Vaughan, Danny Jackman and Jack Byrne (Kidderminster Harriers).