Posh pride despite defeat on pens

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Peterborough 1-1 West Brom, Baggies win 4-3 on penalties – www.theguardian.com

It was heartbreak for Peterborough and Lee Angol, who missed the penalty that meant his side crashed out of the FA Cup at the hands of Premier League West Brom. Jon Taylor gave the League One hosts a deserved opener early in the second half, but Darren Fletcher’s thunderous strike made way for an enthralling period of extra-time.

Peterborough caused the Black Country visitors some nervy moments, none more so than in the opening quarter of the match, which saw Posh play some great football. Jon Taylor tried his luck early on, a low shot gathered by Foster and a long-range effort that flew wide. Chris Forrester was the next man to have a go, his twenty-yard strike providing Ben Foster with a nervous moment.

Forrester’s summer arrival from St Patrick’s was met with concern by some, due to the deep midfielder’s small frame, but he has won doubters over with his composure and distribution qualities which were on show on Wednesday. Forrester played some sharp, 15-yard passes forward which gave Martin Samuelson the space to thrill.

Samuelson’s passing quality, movement and touch made him difficult for West Brom players to get near to and as a result they dropped deep. Wing-backs James McClean and Cristian Gamboa struggled to get up the pitch as the Baggies struggled to get out of their own half.

They began to assert their physicality midway through the first half, however and pressed with more aggression. It became an increasingly scrappy affair, which perhaps suited West Brom’s battle-hardened professionals more than Peterborough’s young technicians.

Craig Gardner tried to cross from his free-kick but Ben Alnwick caught the ball under pressure. The former Sunderland stopper had another worrying moment when Salomon Rondon knocked Ben Foster’s long kick down for Saido Berahino, who tried to gently curl the ball but it flew over the bar. Alnwick then tried to claim Gamboa’s cross but the ball flew across goal, only for James McClean to be denied by a firm Jack Baldwin block. The resultant corner fell to James Chester, but the former Hull centre-back did not have the required goalscoring instinct and mishit the ball.

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James McClean – www.sportsjoe.ie

Jon Taylor had made a key impact in the initial tie at the Hawthorns and Albion fans will be aware of his capabilities. The impressive winger crossed in from the left within 90 seconds of the re-start, but Lee Angol could not get his shot away from close range.

Angol had a quiet first half but was now getting more involved and played his part in a move that found Shaquile Coulthirst, who tried a deft shot from the edge of the area which went over the bar. Peterborough had competed strongly with West Brom but their shooting had been the one thing letting them down. That changed when Taylor found himself one-on-one with the goalkeeper and slotted the ball past to put Peterborough in front.

The Posh continued to pop the ball around the shaken Baggies and applied pressure, but could not capitalize and that was to prove costly. James McClean’s cross was only half cleared and Darren Fletcher smashed the ball into the roof of the net from outside the box.  Fletcher had been one of the players to give his all for the team throughout the match and the Scot deserved his goal.

Around 10 minutes after West Brom equalized, their Premier League fitness began to show and Peterborough legs began to get heavier. Ben Alnwick raced out of his goal to block Salomon Rondon but the ball fell to Berahino, whose shot was blocked off the line by the colossal Michael Bostwick. Alnwick then had more work to do on 90 minutes, stopping Rondon from close range after a tiring Andrew Fox gave the ball away.

Extra-time was a dramatic affair with both teams having their chances to win it. Sammuelson dazzled four West Brom defenders with a mazy run, before pulling the trigger with a powerful shot from the edge of the box, but it went over the bar. West Brom’s Rondon then chested the ball down and drilled just wide from 20-yards out.

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Gabriel Zakuani – www.thetimes.co.uk

It was then Peterborough’s turn to attack as the game assumed an end-to-end feel, substitute Marcus Maddison ran towards goal and hit the roof of the net with an audacious lob. Centre-back Gabriel Zakuani showed incredible bravery on the night and his display was typified when he threw himself at Craig Gardner’s powerful shot. Gardner nearly turned provider when he picked out Berahino at the back-post, but Alnwick did well to narrow the angle and the forward headed wide. It had been an exciting extra-time period, yet neither side could score the goal to win, meaning a penalty shootout was needed to split the team.

Both Samuelson and Angol made the naive mistake of taking long run-ups, which made it harder for them to get their footwork right and have a clean strike. It will be of little consolation to the talented duo that Darren Fletcher, a man who has handled the pressure at the highest level with Manchester United, also made a mess of his spot-kick, scuffing it just wide. Defeat was cruel for Peterborough, who matched experienced, reasonable Premier League opposition for 120 minutes and fully deserved their plaudits.

West Brom’s reward for victory is a Fifth Round date with Championship side Reading. The Baggies have not won the FA Cup since 1968, when the late Jeff Astle was their star striker, who scored the extra-time winner against Everton. They got a share of luck in the Third Round that year, putting in a poor display against lower league Colchester before equalizing to get a fortuitous replay, which they won 4-0 en route to the final. It is fair to say they have had similar luck in the early rounds of this competition. Albion fans will be hoping for the same outcome, but based on current performances, that remains a distant dream.