Bennett 55, Mackail-Smith 70
by RICK COWDERY
ON the face of it, this was not a result to raise more than a faint blip on the npower League 1 radar as the division's perceived whipping-boys were beaten by the league's whippers.
What the scoreline does nowhere near tell you is the measure of Argyle's dominance for much of a game which only went away from them and reverted to the formline when more miserable bad luck in this most miserable of seasons bit them in the posterior.
The Pilgrims comprehensively bossed the first half, starving Posh's goal-hungry strikers of any sort of decent ball and deservedly taking the lead when captain Carl Fletcher flicked home Simon Walton's 38th-minute free-kick.
Everything went belly-up after the interval when two injuries cost Argyle two goals.
The leveller by Ryan Bennett ten minutes after the break was controversially allowed to stand by referee Nigel Miller despite Rory Fallon having been poleaxed in the penalty area and clearly in need of medical attention.
The second, 15 minutes later from Craig Mackail-Smith, came while Argyle were again down to ten men, with Fletcher off the field receiving treatment for a foot injury that eventually saw the end of his participation in the game.
An injury-time penalty-save by Posh goalkeeper Joe Lewis, from Argyle substitute Luke Summerfield merely added salt into the Pilgrims' wounds.
When you have taken as many blows as Argyle have this season, another three like these should not come as any great surprise.
Argyle manager Peter Reid had eschewed the opportunity to not change a winning side, preferring to tweak the 11 that had started the 2-0 victory over Walsall seven days previously.
American Anton Peterlin was recalled to play alongside the apparently reformed Walton in the centre of a diamond-shaped midfield, with Fletcher at the base of the Pilgrims' rhombus and Kári Árnason at its apex.
Up front, Reid decided to partner Fallon with neither Joe Mason nor Rory Patterson, but with Yala Bolasie, scorer of four Argyle's last eight goals.
The selection did, however, mean that the Pilgrims began the game with only three players who had previously scored away from Home Park this season - Bolasie, Árnason and Stéphane Zubar, the trio having netted just four of the 22 goals scored by Argyle on the road.
Contrastingly, Posh's Scottish international striker Mackail-Smith went into the game with exactly 300% more home goals that Argyle's entire starting 11 had collectively scored away from Home Park.
Mackail-Smith's 16-goal tally represented a large chuck of United's breathtaking 60 home strikes, nine ahead of champions-in-waiting Brighton's next-best home haul and way ahead of everyone else in the division.
Brighton are the only team to prevent Boro from scoring at London Road, in October, 14 games ago, during what represented Peterborough's brief sticky home patch this campaign.
They lost the subsequent home game 5-1, to Charlton, but won eight and drew four of the subsequent 12 games, scoring 38 times and conceding 15. They drew their preceding home game 3-3 with Bournemouth after winning the previous two at a canter, 6-0 against Carlisle and 3-0 against Exeter.
Posh manager Darren Ferguson was obliged to make one change to the side that had achieved a draw at Huddersfield last time out, with Mark Little coming in for injured defender Grant Basey.
Argyle, whose only clean sheet away from Home Park this season came on the opening day of this sorry campaign, went close when Árnason's foraging in the Posh penalty area saw the ball break to Fallon, whose first-time volley was only just off-target.
A thumping shot from Bolasie was similarly narrowly wide of the mark as the Pilgrims made early hay in the balmy spring sunshine.
Walton's corners, such a refreshing weapon against Walsall, added to the Peterborough concern. His first, although badly struck, found its way to Zubar, whose powerful shot was deflected from goal - not entirely intentionally - by Bennett, and Fallon headed the subsequent, better struck, flag kick just over.
Posh's attacking instincts were hardly going to let them sit back and take this impudence and so it proved. After a period of probing, trying to find the angled run and slipped-through pass to make the most of Mackail-Smith and George Boyd's willingness, the latter fired off a shot which David Button pouched.
For the second game in succession, Árnason's endeavours caught the eye and Bolasie so nearly profited from the Icelander's low, curling ball across the six-yard box which failed to connect with his team-mate only because of Little's late intervening diving header.
Argyle's own preparedness to take the fight to their hosts paid dividends ten minutes before the break, and few in the largely silent London Road (silent, apart for the away end, naturally) could argue that the go-ahead goal was anything but deserved.
Jim Paterson, who had showed willing of his own to supplement the narrow diamond by providing attacking width from left-back, drew a foul from Boyd near the touchline midway in the Posh half.
Walton stepped up, and fired in a low free-kick, curling the ball towards goalkeeper Joe Lewis's near post. Fletcher, however, timed his run to beat the waiting Lewis with a deft flick for his second goal of the season.
Peterborough needed their super strikers to give them something - anything - and Mackail-Smith's eagerness to redress the balance saw him draw a full-length save from the previously untroubled Button.
That was, though, as close as they got before the half-time interval. After it, they came on strong, with substitute Lee Tomlin adding impetus, and Argyle needed to be strong in the spine.
One block in particular, from Árnason, showed the frankly incomprehensible commitment that exists among players that have not been paid this year.
That sterling attitude was undermined by a poor decision from referee Miller, who allowed Peterborough to continue playing while Fallon lay supine in his own penalty area, holding his head, a danger to himself and to others.
To add insult to injury, Bennett, the player that Fallon should have been watching, headed home Grant McCann's cross unimpeded for the equaliser. Miller all but admitted his error by failing to penalise Argyle for their next three fouls.
The goal changed the game. Of course it did. Mackail-Smith once again resembled a dog after a particularly juicy bone and it took double-teaming by Curtis Nelson and Karl Duguid to prevent him from capitalising on Lewis's quick release after an Argyle corner.
Peterborough went ahead midway through the half when Argyle again found themselves short-handed, skipper Carl Fletcher off the field after receiving a blow to the ankle.
Little made the most of the extra man to work an overlap down the right with the cross being converted by Mackail-Smith.
Fletcher did not reappear, with Summerfield appearing for the first time since August, but Argyle showed more guts and went within a whisker of equalising through Walton before he, too, was withdrawn.
The game ended with the team with all the goals grateful to reach the end against the team bottom of the table, hanging on by defending in numbers.
Not many teams have achieved that at London Road this season, but that is no consolation on a day when all Argyle's immediate rivals also dropped points.
Peterborough United (4-3-3): 1 Joe Lewis; 2 Mark Little, 5 Gabriel Zakuani, 16 Ryan Bennett, 6 Charlie Lee; 7 James Wesolowski (8 Lee Frecklington 63), 11 Grant McCann (capt), 14 Tommy Rowe (24 Lee Tomlin half-time); 9 David Ball (21 Arron Davies 78), 12 Craig Mackail-Smith, 10 George Boyd. Substitutes (not used): 4 Kelvin Langmead, 18 Chris Whelpdale, 26 Paul Taylor, 28 Paul Jones (gk).
Argyle (4-4-2): 31 David Button; 2 Karl Duguid, 35 Curtis Nelson, 36 Stéphane Zubar, 29 Jim Paterson; 28 Simon Walton (8 Rory Patterson 78), 4 Carl Fletcher (capt, 20 Luke Summerfield 71), 11 Kári Árnason, 21 Anton Peterlin (16 Joe Mason 86); 14 Rory Fallon, 19 Yala Bolasie. Substitutes (not used): 1 Romain Larrieu (gk), 23 Krisztián Timár, 34 Luke Young.
Booked: Árnason 66.
Referee: Nigel Miller.
Attendance: 6,723 (492 away).