Preview: Peterborough United

There can’t be many scenarios in which bringing on extra defensive players engenders a come-from-behind win, but Wednesday’s game against Fleetwood Town proved to be such a case. Was it a unique circumstance or something that can be forward in to the months and weeks to come? This upcoming away trip to the freewheelin’ Peterborough United is really going to put some of the learnings from Wednesday night under the microscope.

Expected Line-Up

Possible Line-Up

Leaving aside the 5-3-2 system that we shifted to in the second-half on Wednesday night, it feels the most significant change was the added experience and physicality that Kyle McFadzean, Maxime Biamou and Liam Kelly provided. It was perhaps an important lesson for Mark Robins in the intangible value that experience provides.

Robins is likely to be tempted into sticking with what worked against Fleetwood, although the biggest barrier from doing so is the fitness of Maxime Biamou, who looked clearly fatigued towards the closing stages of his 45-minute stint. With Jordy Hiwula possibly out for this game, Matt Godden seemingly injured for a spell too, not being able to start with Maxime Biamou raises something of a quandary.

Gervane Kastaneer is probably the obvious choice to come in, but in a game where the work-rate of everyone in the team will be important, it doesn’t seem the best idea. Aside from bringing in David Bremang from the under-23 team, a possible alternative may be to start with Callum O’Hare just behind Amadou Bakayoko. If it doesn’t work, and presuming we’re still in the game, it at least means Biamou can be brought on from the bench rather than leaving us short if Biamou starts and breaks down again.

Another possible benefit of that is that it means that Jordan Shipley retains his place in the side, who might otherwise have been dropped out of the starting XI fairly harshly. Elsewhere in midfield, an assured return to league action on Wednesday night for Liam Kelly feels enough to earn him his starting role in the holding midfield role ahead of Liam Walsh.

Last Time We Met

Off the back of a fortuitous win against Fleetwood Town back in March, we travelled to London Road hoping to build momentum in our play-off bid. That looked to be optimistic during a first-half which Peterborough United dominated with Marcus Maddison pulling the strings.

The turning-point of the game proved to be a smart Amadou Bakayoko finish just before half-time from which Peterborough seemed utterly shell-shocked by. A dominant second-half performance should have seen as put the Posh to the sword, but it took a wind-assisted Lee Burge punt to Bright Enobakhare to secure the victory.

The Opposition

Manager – Darren Ferguson

Brought back to the club last January to to undo the work of Steve Evans and get the team playing the kind of attacking, free-flowing football Peterborough United are synonymous with, Ferguson threatened to mount a late play-off charge last season but has benefited from a summer to build his own team with Peterborough now purring at the top of the division.

Aside from a few early season hiccups where defensive errors undermined some excellent attacking play, Peterborough have played with a fear-inducing level of swagger and penetration. Set-up in a 4-4-2 diamond formation centred overwhelming teams in their own half, Ferguson’s side are the division’s top-scorers by five goals, having thrashed Accrington Stanley 4-0 on Wednesday night.

Possible Line-Up

Who To Look Out For?

Peterborough United’s front three has been in irresistible form this season, guaranteeing at least a goal a game. Playing at the tip of the diamond, Marcus Maddison is on seven goals and seven assists, while the front two of Ivan Toney and Mohamed Eisa are both into double figures for goals already.

Maddison is not only an excellent technician who strikes the ball wonderfully and has pin-point delivery from anywhere on the pitch but that is allied with excellent off-the-ball movement – where he floats from one side of the pitch to the other, wherever there is space – which makes simply getting to him just as difficult as stopping him.

Both Toney and Eisa possess raw physical talents – Toney in his physical presence and Eisa with his pace – but are also technically excellent and intelligent with their movement. Toney is an absolute nuisance to deal with and will force our defence to expend a lot of effort in dealing with him, while Eisa offers that threat in behind, benefiting from the space Toney and Maddison create.

Further back, the diminutive Louis Reed at the base of midfield is the kind of player who really run a game. On the right of the diamond is Josh Knight, on loan from Leicester, who started off as a centre-back but has become a dynamic box-to-box midfielder since joining in January. On the left is George Boyd – a key player in Peterborough’s original rise into the Championship – who has excelled in a more withdrawn role than he has typically played in his career, offering technical assuredness and ball-carrying drive.

Areas To Exploit

While there are areas of Peterborough to exploit, the challenge is dealing with and getting past their energetic midfield and attack before you can begin working on ways to get at them.

With a relatively slow central defensive pairing, a system built around dominating teams in their own half and a player at the base of the diamond a stronger creator than he is a defender, there should be opportunities to hit Peterborough United on the counter-attack. Although just how much pace and accuracy we might have as a counter-attacking threat in this game with if Jordy Hiwula is out injured remains to be seen.

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