Talk is cheap. Chairman Darragh MacAnthony and manager Darren Ferguson both spoke eloquently ahead of last night’s (September 18) clash with Bristol City at London Road, but it’s substance rather than spin Peterborough United fans want to witness right now.
Ferguson even spoke positively after Championship defeat number six, a particularly miserable 2-1 loss against the poorest side seen at London Road (apart from Posh of course) this season, but, as he said himself, he is the manager. He has no choice but to try and be positive in public. It doesn’t necessarily mean he believes it.
If he says now, with 40 games still to go, Posh are likely to be relegated, he’d earn excellent marks for honesty and accuracy, but no marks at all from the club’s accountants and publicists.
“Stats-wise it’s been an awful start to the season,” Ferguson announced last night which rather misleadingly hinted that the Posh performances have been worth more than the zero points they have mustered.
Posh were equal to Leicester for 45 minutes on the opening day of the season, outplayed Millwall for 10 minutes at home and bossed a defence-minded Birmingham for the second-half at St Andrews, but it’s not as though numerous chances have been spurned or crucial decisions have gone against them.
Posh were the better side for eight minutes last night. Unfortunately it was the eight minutes of added time after Lee Tomlin had converted a soft penalty. It was too little much too late and even the delayed passion failed to generate any goal-scoring opportunities leaving City ‘keeper Tom Heaton to reflect on a personal performance which consisted of picking up one soft shot from substitute Emile Sinclair (to be fair Bobby Olejnik had a similar night)
It might have been different if Tomlin’s first-minute dipping volley from 25 yards had landed in the back of the net rather than on the roof of it, but ifs and maybes are no use to Posh right now.
Ferguson restored Gaby Zakuani, Nathaniel Knight-Percival and Kgosi Ntlhe to the back four and to be fair Posh coped comfortably defensively for 56 minutes. It was a terrible game to that point devoid of any tempo or flair, but Posh were probably happy with that give the recent horror of Turf Moor.
But then calamity struck. Right-back Mark Little, who had performed pretty well until then, failed to spot City goalsneak Sam Baldock lurking on the edge of the Posh penalty area and promptly passed the ball to him. Baldock finished that and scored again six minutes later while Posh were still reeling.
That was effectively that. There could no way back for this Posh team. The announcement of so much added time (treatment to Greg Cunningham, the victim of a shocking challenge from Tyrone Barnett, caused the delay) caused audible groans from the fed-up members of the Posh crowd.
Prominent heads will certainly roll ahead of the weekend visit of Wolves. George Boyd, who is in danger of undoing six glorious years of service at London Road, and Tomlin, a master of conceding possession with fancy flicks, will probably be among them, but it’s not as though top-class Championship players are waiting to replace them.
As one eminent media personality commented, during an hour-long wait for Ferguson, ‘if you sign Macclesfield Town, you end up as Macclesfield Town’ referring to the three former Silkmen in the Posh squad.
It’s a harsh comment given the success Posh have had in recruiting from the lower divisions, but it looks horribly truthful at this early stage of the season.
Of course Posh, just over 5,000 were present at London Road last night, have no option but to sign players from the likes of Wrexham, Stevenage and Southend, in the hope that they can take the step up in standard in their stride. It was perhaps inevitable in such a tough division that the policy wouldn’t always work.
For now Ferguson will tinker with his squad (re-arranging the deckchairs on the Titanic springs to mind) and it’s probably worth pairing Macclesfield maestros Barnett and Sinclair up front as the latter’s pace might at least enable him to get on the end of the former’s flicks, a tactic from the past, but then nothing else is working.
What positives there were stemmed from Knight-Percival’s composure on his Championship debut, a strong first-half from Mendez-Laing and Grant McCann’s willingness to get on the ball, while others hid away. Boyd is now playing so poorly he might struggle to get another contract from Posh, never mind one from a bigger, better club.
MacAnthony’s plea before the match included a request for the players to ‘man up’, but he probably meant the sort of robust, physical play that Michael Bostwick showed at times, rather than the awful tackles from Little and Barnett that would probably have yielded red cards if a more skilful referee had been in action last night.
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