Another home game lost in farcical circumstances with another performance lacking in intensity for 90 minutes. The way this team veers from complete comfort to complete disarray has been the theme of the season and if we do go down, it will be because of that carelessness that was once again on show at the Ricoh Arena last week.
The important thing though is to not dwell on the disappointment of missing out on what would have been a third consecutive win and one that would have taken the pressure off some big remaining fixtures. Too often we have seen mistakes lead to goals conceded, goals conceded leading to defeats and defeats leading to more defeats. There isn’t time to prattle around feeling sorry for ourselves, it’s pick yourself up and go an again time.
Given the way the relegation battle has completely folded in on itself like an accordion over the past two weeks, this tough away trip to Peterborough falls into the category of at least ‘must not lose’. It’s also not inconceivable that we’ll need all three points just to maintain inertia in the race for survival. If it didn’t before, every game is important right now.
Still, a week’s rest gives the first pause in Tony Mowbray’s reign gives the new manager time to really work with the squad and implement his methods. We have seen glimpses of what Mowbray should eventually bring to this football – bright, attractive, attacking football. Currently though, the natural tendency is towards cautiousness, panic and fear. It remains to be seen whether there’s enough time for Mowbray to institute his methods to keep this team up but if we do stay up, at least it will be on our own terms rather than the turgid affair last season descended into.
With no new loan signings being added to the team, the key players for the rest of the season look to be the experienced heads of Reda Johnson, Marcus Tudgay and, possibly, Andy Webster. With the first two still injured and the latter the third choice centre-back, this away game at Peterborough will be a test of the mental fortitude of players that have often been found wanting in that department this season.
Jim O’Brien looked a much more effective playing a Ji-Sung Park-style, scrappy attacking midfielder role against Doncaster last week and if we can keep him in that area of the pitch for 90 minutes, we give ourselves a better chance of winning. With Barton and Nouble as our wide players, that defence that made so many shocking errors last week will have to step up whilst hoping that the players ahead of them can do the business this time.
Possible Line-Up: (4-2-3-1) Burge; Willis, Pennington, Martin, Stokes; Ward, Fleck; Barton, O’Brien, Nouble; Samuel
Last Time We Met
How much earlier would Steven Pressley had been sacked had he lost our last meeting against Peterborough? Seven league games winless, 2-0 down at half-time and no longer with the excuse of being without his two most influential players in Reda Johnson and Frank Nouble. If there was fair justification for Pressley to lose his job before the game, his position would have been near untenable had the final whistle blew on the 45th minute.
However second-half goals from Ryan Haynes, Jim O’Brien and the unstoppable, on that day, Frank Nouble helped force a remarkable comeback that had seemed to have come from absolutely nowhere. As the Peterborough defenders bounced, dumbfounded off Nouble for the coup de grace third goal to clinch a vital win, it had seemed that the Sky Blues were finally clicking back into gear to mount an assault back up the table.
How Are They Doing?
That defeat came at around the beginning of the end for Darren Ferguson’s second spell at Peterborough United. The Posh are yet to appoint a new permanent manager but have instead allowed youth-team boss Dave Robertson to audition for the role and he has won five from his first six games in charge. Extraordinarily for Peterborough, Robertson’s success has been built on rock solid, basic defending which has seen his team concede a miserly three goals in just under a month.
Peterborough’s attacking players have largely failed to live up to the flair usually expected at London Road. The strikers Conor Washington and Luke James have largely been misfiring, although have showed signs of improvement along with the rest of the team of late. The main danger man will be Marcus Maddison, a languid winger who can compensate for his selfish tendencies with stunning long-range goals both in open plays and directly from set-pieces. Given our recent struggles with direct free-kicks, it wouldn’t be surprising to see his name on the scoresheet.
With first-choice centre-backs Gabriel Zakuani and Ricardo Santos unavailable for this fixture, Christian Burgess and Shaun Brisley will have to step up. Burgess, once a signing at Middlesbrough by Tony Mowbray, is an elegant, but somewhat error prone, ball-playing centre-back. Brisley is more run-of-the-mill centre-back who has struggled to nail down a starting spot in nearly three seasons with the club. In goal, Ben Alnwick has been one of Peterborough’s best players this season and regularly produces points-winning performances.
Peterborough have also added three players on loan deadline day with Bradford left-back Alan Sheehan, Leicester right-back James (son of Nigel) Pearson and recent Sky Blues loanee Luke Williams. Given the amount of goals that we have once again conceded to ex-players, I would be surprised of bookies were even taking bets on Williams scoring. Just to make sure that they do score against us, Sheehan is another threatening set-piece taker.
Hopefully some the opposite of two wrongs making a right will be in place here by the way that Peterborough have added players specifically designed to target our weaknesses.
Possible Line-Up: (4-2-3-1) Alnwick; Smith, Burgess, Brisley, Sheehan; Payne, Bostwick; Taylor, Maddison, Newell; James.
On paper, a contest between a play-off chasing team in their best form of the season against a relegation battling side in largely indifferent form should be no contest. Where the game will be won and lost though will be on our ability to score goals versus Peterborough’s ability to keep them out. If we can take an early lead, as well as add to it, Peterborough’s struggles in front of goal could see this game go against the form book.
Still, you would imagine that Peterborough will be fired up for this home game as, unlike us, they can rely on a positive home atmosphere and the results that follow. I just have a strange feeling that we might cause something of an upset here though, 2-1 win for the Sky Blues.