A sterling Seb Larsson performance saw us over the line today in the FA Cup. Prepare yourselves for our match report, right here!
It was far from an FA Cup classic at London Road as what was in essence a relatively dull game. That said though, we wanted a cup run, and sometimes you've got to just grind out a result. They can't all live up to the spectacular treats we've had for the last few games.
Basically it was just a job done. Here's our report on the match, complete with ratings and all that sort of malarkey...
Martin O'Neill proved he's taking the FA Cup seriously by selecting a strong team for this game, despite a few changes. Phil Bardsley returned at right-back, bumping Craig Gardner into midfield. In attack, Stephane Sessegnon was left to lead the line alone. On the bench there was welcome returns of Michael Turner, Kieren Westwood and Connor Wickham. No place at all for Nicklas Bendtner or Jack Colback.
It was almost as if O'Neill is taunting Steve Bruce at this point. We rolled over against Wigan under Bruce, and now in cup competition, against a Championship side in blue and white, O'Neill goes with the Sessegnon lone striker formation which failed so dismally at Brighton & Hove Albion in the League Cup earlier in the season.
A quiet start to the game, as far as cup ties go anyway, meant we had to wait until the seventh minute for any decent strikes at goal. This coming from distance via the boot of Craig Gardner, repelled for a corner off keeper Joe Lewis.
A couple of minutes later Gardner again was the instigator of an attack, intercepting a slack pass by Scott Wootton, feeding Sessegnon. Sess played in a lovely cross not to disimilar to the one he dispatched against Wigan Athletic in the week, but this time Sebastian Larsson who was arriving had the ball nicked off his toes. The corner coming to nothing.
The home side eventually woke themselves up, moments later George Boyd flashed a shot at goal from a corner, blocked by his own man. In the scramble the ball broke nicely to left-back Tommy Rowe who sent his shot wide of Mignolet's goal, with the Belgian looking like he had it covered.
From then on, Peterborough seemed to take a little more control of things as we sat way too deep. Matt Kilgallon slightly lax in defence when trying to clear, Phil Bardsley looking like a player who's missed a few games, whilst George Boyd was for them, the main protagonist of our problems, before Paul Taylor went extremely close to breaking the deadlock.
Breaking from midfield, Taylor showed Kieran Richardson a clean set of heals, then Kilgallon, and eventually sending a left-footed shot just wide of the upright from the edge of the area. With us under the cosh as much as we were, it was clear something special was going to be needed from us to undo the mini-rut we were in. Step forward, James McClean.
Following a nice break away in the 25th minute or so, The ball was fed from Larsson to Sessegnon, or so it looked. Sess left it well for McClean to pick up. On the edge of the area, McClean only needed one quick touch to get things out of his feet and unleashed an absolute rocket, which I think at time of writing still has the crossbar shaking.
However, from then on it was a case of reverting to type in what had been a relatively dull cup-tie to this point. Craig Gardner had a header spilled following Larsson's deflected cross, but this was about as much as either team could muster in the remainder of the first half following McClean's thunderbolt.
Martin Atkinson thankfully called half-time following two minutes of stoppages, on what was a frustrating and uneventful half of cup football.
Straight after the restart things were much better, and we had the lead. James McClean was felled by Craig Alcock, 30-yards or so out and wide to the left. Across comes Larsson, who so far had only managed to deliver a series of ineffectual corner kicks, but this time things were much better. A ball hit with plenty of venom and bend was just begging for someone to flick it in. Nobody did, but it didn't matter as the ball bounced and skidded up into the net with pace beyond the helpless Joe Lewis.
Finally we seemed to enjoy things a little more, Larsson almost made it two with an incisive break from Gardner again, feeding the Swede who shot straight at Lewis, Phil Bardsley tried his luck twice on the rebound to no avail. McClean getting in on the act a few minutes later with a right-footed shot deflected wide for a corner, and from that corner, the lead was doubled.
Larsson with the in-swinging corner, and James McClean was there at the front post to guide it into the far corner of the net for his second goal in as many games. The home side had offered little in the second half, but that goal certainly put the game to bed somewhat.
From then on we were in cruise control, Phil Bardsley took the advice of fans who yelled "Shooooot" when he found himself free on the edge of the area, and fired wide a yard or so wide of Lewis' bottom right corner.
Tired legs were rested as the industrious Vaughan was replaced by David Meyler, whilst Sessegnon, who'd had a little bit of an off day playing the lone role, was replaced by everyone's favourite Korean, Ji Dong-Won as time ticked on and minds drifted towards the fourth round draw.
Teams (Ratings in brackets)
Starting XI: Mignolet (6), Bardsley (6), O'Shea (6), Kilgallon (6), Gardner (7), Richardson (6), Vaughan (6), Cattermole (6), McClean (7), Larsson (7), Sessegnon (6)
Subs Used: Meyler (6), Dong-Won (6), Elmohamady (6)
Man Of The Match: Sebastian Larsson - Bit or a toss up with him and McClean who both played very well today. Larsson's pin point crossing was a delight throughout the second half, and fully merited both the goal the the assist for McClean's headed goal. Craig Gardner also had a very decent game, so an honorable mention for him too.
And that was that. There wasn't anything particularly remarkable about the game, but at least we're through to the next round. The formation and personnel pre-match was a bit of a worry. We'd seen this set-up before and it back-fired massively, however O'Neill just continued to prove that anything Bruce can do, he can do better and it got us through to the next round.
What a fourth round tie we have too, a home tie against Championship high-flyers, Middlesborough. Not only should it be a decent game, but represents a great chance of making it to the fifth round and the cup dream well and truly alive.
Party With Marty.