A game of two halves at the Weston Homes Stadium saw Rovers come from two goals down against a Peterborough United side who needed to equal or better Lincoln City’s result to ensure Championship football next season.
Things had looked bad for Andy Butler’s men when Joe Ward gave Posh the lead inside 10 minutes and frankly ominous when Sammie Szmodics doubled the lead just 15 minutes later but towards the end of the first half, Rovers burst into action with an inspired Jason Lokilo performance helping the side get level.
It was his ball which set up Fejiri Okenabirhie for Rovers opener not long before half time and it was his sublime run down the right and cut back which found substitute Taylor Richards unmarked in the box to snatch an equaliser.
Rovers rode their luck at times with Ward finding the woodwork on two occasions and Louis Jones denying him from a free kick and Mark Beevers from close range, but had chances to win it themselves with Lokilo and Richards forced a save from Josef Bursik.
It was another challenging start to the week for Andy Butler with a Rovers player testing positive and a further three being forced to self-isolate in line with Government guidelines. The manager was also without James Coppinger who missed out through illness but not COVID-19 related.
There were three changes with Jason Lokilo, Branden Horton and Omar Bogle coming into the starting XI. Bogle’s return did spark a change of formation with him partnering Fejiri Okenabirhie up front in a 4-4-2 while Reece James moved into midfield.
Posh went into the game needing to equal Lincoln City’s result in order to guarantee Championship football next season and they registered the first shot on target when Joe Ward’s effort from the edge of the box required a save from Louis Jones.
Ward followed up with three shots all blocked by Butler, but it only took ten minutes for him to open the scoring. He picked the ball up unmarked at the edge of the box and finished smartly inside the far post.
There was an almost immediate response from Rovers – Lokilo’s delivery from a corner kick found Butler at the back post but his header was cleared off the line by some Mark Beevers acrobatics.
Peterborough’s leading striker Jonson Clarke-Harris’ registered a few shots around quarter of an hour mark – the second of these looked destined for the back of the net but was denied by a Tom Anderson header. And the prolific goal scorer probably should have had an assist when he benefitted from a loose touch by Josh Sims and was able to drive at the Rovers’ defence - his ball found Ward who fired an effort off target.
Sammie Szmodics got a second for Posh on the 24th minute after Rovers played themselves into all sorts of trouble at the back. That goal sparked a series of fireworks and car horns being set off as the Peterborough fans starting the promotion party in the West Homes Stadium carpark.
On the pitch, however, the game slowed down with some of the home side’s tenacity fading out of the game a little and their chances were lashed off target while Rovers – whose chances were undoubtedly few and far between – were on target.
Lokilo picked up a loose clearance by the Peterborough defence – his run across the top of the box was a determined one, his effort was hit with venom and Dan Butler’s block left him winded. The Belgian winger was heavily involved minutes later when Rovers did get the goal – a fantastic assist with the outside of his foot set up Rovers’ top striker Okenabirhie who finished really well.
After scoring, Rovers started to show some creativity on the break and got forward well in numbers, but despite an improved end to the half – it was still Posh who went closest, rattling the crossbar direct from a free-kick deep in stoppage time.
Rovers started quicker in the second half and, once again, it was Lokilo – who was Rovers’ brightest spark all game – at the heart of the best of the play for the men in red and white. He looked to have won a penalty early when he hit the floor under the challenge of Dan Butler in the penalty box, but referee Scott Oldham disagreed and booked the winger for simulation and it was more direct play from him to set up a chance for Taylor Richards – who replaced Sims at half-time. The Brighton & Hove Albion loanee fired narrowly wide of the far post.
The Lokilo-Richards pairing combined again soon after – Lokilo got the better of Posh let-back Dan Butler and drove down the by-line, cut the ball back to Richards who finished really well from close range to draw Rovers level.
The Belgian then had a big chance of his own – Matt Smith’s sublime ball dropped into the path of the winger who struck a fierce effort on the half-volley only to be denied by former Rovers’ loanee Josef Bursik who had been brought to London Road via an emergency loan.
At the other end, Szmodics scooped the ball over the bar from close range after being played the ball by Clarke-Harris. The most surprising part of that, perhaps, being that the man with more than 30 goals this season didn’t choose to shoot when he the ball reached him.
Dan Butler’s strike from close hit Joe Wright – Posh thought it hit him in the arm, referee Oldham disagreed before both goalkeepers pulled off brilliant saves to keep the score level. Jones’ save to deny Beevers from close-range was a stunning reaction stop, while Richards fierce strike was stopped by Bursik before Tyreece John-Jules scooped the follow up over the bar.
Jones made another fantastic save to deny Ward from a free-kick who had been denied twice by the woodwork to ensure Rovers would take a point.