The losing run shows no sign of abating and if Tuesday night’s game with Oldham is any indication, we are some distance from the end of this run. What a time it is then to playing Peterborough, famous for scoring loads of goals and currently second in the division.
It is crucial then that the duo of Reda Johnson and Frank Nouble can find themselves somewhere in the vicinity of the stadium for this fixture. This team appears to lack any semblance of character or fight without the two in the team. Powder-puff, ponderous, and increasingly, pathetic as a team unit without our captain and best striker. Whilst the loss of an inspirational captain and a physically powerful striker would be a blow to any team in this division, it has been surprising just how much it has affected this team.
So all will be well when Reda and Frank are back, that’s the theory at least. It’s kind of comforting to think that we can put a large part of our recent poor form down to the loss of two key players. Provided both are fit enough to play on Saturday, we will learn whether it has been a total coincidence or not that we have been desperately woeful as a result of injuries rather than just simply being crap.
The only player to emerge from that shellacking against Oldham with any credit is the youngster James Maddison. Whilst his goal from a free-kick appeared to be incredibly fortuitous, a weak effort taking a sizeable deflection off the wall, he might just be the most talented footballer ever produced by the club’s academy. We need to be careful not expect too much from him, too soon, however injuries and the poor form of others have handed him an opportunity to nail down a starting place at an incredibly young age. Maybe he just is that type of young player who is not phased by first-team football.
Should Nouble and Johnson attain full fitness in time for the Peterborough game, it will be pretty much a full squad for Pressley to choose from. It will then be a case of finding the formula that will provides defensive solidity whilst providing a threat in attack, thus far under Pressley the two seem to be mutually exclusive ideas. With sections of our fan-base losing patience with Pressley, it would take a lot of pressure away from his job if he were to avoid defeat, even better if we can beat Peterborough. Like many I desperately want Pressley to overcome this poor run of form as his vision is unique amongst Coventry City managers, hopefully this game can kick-start the sputtering Sky Blue engine.
Possible Line-Up (5-3-2): Allsop; Phillips, Willis, Webster, Hines, Haynes; O’Brien, Barton, Thomas; Maddison, Miller.
Last Time We Met
Last season’s ‘home’ meeting with Peterborough was an unforgettable game and probably the last great performance of the Leon Clarke-Callum Wilson-era. After being thoroughly out-played in the first-half, the Sky Blues were only a Shaun Jeffers goal behind heading into half-time. Posh keeper Bobby Olejnik then passed the ball to Leon Clarke who scored with a tap-in, 1-1.That joy was short-lived as the unstoppable Lee Tomlin danced through the Coventry City defence to give Peterborough a deserved 2-1 lead going into the break.
What happened next was completely impossible to predict given the dominance which Peterborough displayed in the opening 45 minutes. Leon Clarke played with a purpose rarely seen amongst those who have pulled on a Sky Blue jersey. First, he scored from a fumble from Olejnik not too long after half-time. He should have completed a hat-trick a couple of minutes later but was ruled offside. With the game reaching a close, Clarke played a slide-rule pass to Franck Moussa who made it 3-2.
The game ended in controversial circumstances as Peterborough claimed they had scored from a goal-line scramble, the referee decided not. Whilst the Posh were protesting, John Fleck played an excellent pass into space for Callum Wilson who was completely free of any defenders. Like he so often did, Wilson finished from the eventual one-on-one to make it 4-2 and a memorable Boxing Day had by all of those lucky enough to witness it.
In stark contrast, the following game was less dramatic. Early goal scored by Peterborough, header from a corner from one of the shortest players on the pitch, Sky Blues low on confidence, game over.
How Are They Doing?
Peterborough were gloriously erratic last season. winning 23, losing 18 and drawing just 5 times in the league. They did though win the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, thanks in part to one of Josh McQuoid’s two goals for the club. Despite reaching the play-offs, the season was regarded as a failure by many Peterborough fans.
This season has been an attempt to introduce some more consistency at London Road, although that always seems to be the task there. A solid start sees Darren Ferguson’s side in second place but three defeats in the past seven games shows that they are still fallible.
The loss of Britt Assombalonga to Nottingham Forest was a blow, the former Watford youngster was a goal machine at this level with an explosive burst of pace and trickery. In true Peterborough fashion, a couple of former non-league players have risen to the task of replacing Assombalonga’s goals. Joint top-scorers this season are Kyle Vassell (no relation to Darius) and Conor Washington. Vassell arrived from Bishop’s Stortford last season and struggled to make any impact in his first half-season with the club, this year though he has been a revelation after reaching Football League standard fitness levels. Washington was another who arrived half-way through last season, his four league goals last season were a decent return but the former Newport man has already surpassed that number this time round.
The star-man this season has been ex-Gateshead winger Marcus Maddison. A year ago he was on the fringes of the team at Gateshead before the arrival of Gary Mills as manager. Mills turned Maddison into one of the best players in the Conference last season as an Arjen Robben style winger who likes to cut inside and shoot. He can though be incredibly selfish as a footballer but his ability from free-kicks and long-range is simply peerless in the third-tier.
Heading into this game Peterborough were set to be missing two key defenders in Michael Bostwick and Jack Baldwin through suspension. The club have successfully appealed Bostwick’s sending off so the centre-back, who is also very talented in midfield, will be Peterborough’s ball-playing defender at the Ricoh Arena. Another centre-back to watch from Peterborough is Christian Burgess. A classy presence at the back, Burgess was a stand-out player for Hartlepool United last season in League Two and has made the step up to League One with ease, someone to keep an eye on in seasons to come.
A final word on a player who is yet to make a mark at London Road this season, Erhun Oztumer. Another in a long line of ex-non-league players in Peterborough’s squad, Oztumer is interesting in that he is 5 ft 3 and scored 28 goals for Dulwich Hamlet last season in the 7th tier from midfield. You wonder whether a player so short would be able to make such an impact in League One but he has used from the bench in recent weeks and can be an electric presence if he can get close to replicating his form with Dulwich (for more read here).
Possible Line-Up: (3-4-3) Alnwick; Burgess, Bostwick, Santos; Smith, Anderson, Payne, Newell; Maddison, Washington, Taylor.
We’re getting to the stage now where we are in such bad form that we could just produce a freak performance and surprise everyone, including ourselves. By their very nature it’s hard to predict when those performances will happen. It could come in time for this game against Peterborough, it might be weeks or months away. If we do upset Peterborough it will be because a number of things have changed, most likely one of those will be called Frank Nouble and another Reda Johnson. Whilst Peterborough under Darren Ferguson are hard to predict, they will relish playing a Coventry City side currently with little presence in attack or defence.
My prediction for this game is very much with my sensible hat on. A 2-1 defeat for the Sky Blues.