Championship report: Peterborough United are currently staring at some figures that will draw empathy from Google investors.
Almost a quarter of the Championship season has passed and Posh have six points following yesterday’s (October 20) last gasp defeat at Watford. That’s right six measly points and if that rate is maintained Posh will finish the season with 25 - a sum that will guarantee bottom spot even if half of the division fall into Administration and suffer deductions. They’d still be relegated comfortably if a couple of teams wents went out of business.
So, if I may state the obvious in the style of Alan Shearer on Match of the Day, massive improvement is required. Less obvious is how that will be achieved because there are few signs of the necessary upsurge in form and results.
Manager Darren Ferguson found a way to be competitive, away from home at least, by shedding the team’s four-year tag of the Football League’s ‘entertainment kings’ and employing as many defenders as attackers. In contrast to every other season under Ferguson’s management a lack of goals now looks likely to hinder progress rather than a lack of clean sheets.
The manager was still insisting an hour after Watford had deservedly won this game with a 90th minute penalty that this is the strongest squad he’s ever built at London Road.
In terms of boasting 20-odd players of similar standard he’s probably right, but that standard is not the Championship. Where is the player likely to score the 15 goals that could keep a team up in this league? Unless Lee Tomlin wins his place back and Posh win a dozen penalties between now and May he isn’t there.
In goalkeeper Bobby Olejnik and central defender Nathaniel Knight-Percival, Ferguson appears to have recruited well in the summer, but his two big-money buys of 2012 are proving troublesome to the manager’s reputation as a talent-spotter.
The decision not to substitute million-pound man Tyrone Barnett drew jeers from the Posh fans yesterday. The striker’s languid style makes many supporters question his attitude and he was again an anonymous figure here once Watford’s three central defenders had worked out where his headed flicks would land.
Michael Bostwick, an apparent £800,000 summer capture from Stevenage, is another attracting disparaging comments at games and on internet forums. No-one questions his determination or commitment, but he’s slow-witted in possession and lacks accuracy in his passing - the improvement in that department when Grant McCann arrived on the hour mark and Bostwick moved into the back five was dramatic.
Posh competed okay in a first-half that passed with few noteworthy incidents apart from home defender Tommie Hoban striking the top of the crossbar with a free-kick from wide out.
Both teams employed 3-5-2 and effectively cancelled each other out which is a kind way of saying it was as boring as a Serie A match (no surprise there with so many Italians involved at Watford) but with far less technical ability.
Watford enjoyed a purple patch for 20 minutes around the hour mark when little striker Fernando Forestieri started to torment Posh. Forestieri could have played international football for Argentina or Italy (he chose the latter) and Posh were fortunate that his Messi-like dribbling was ruined by some Balotelli-like finishing.
Twice he faced up to Olejnik and twice he failed. He shot badly wide from the first attempt and his second, a lazy dink over the ‘keeper, was walked off the goal-line by Shaun Brisley.
In this spell of domination impressive Chelsea loanee Nathaniel Chelobah also hit the base of the post and forced a superb save from Olejnik with a curling shot destined for the top corner.
Posh also threw bodies in the way of shots in the penalty area, but somehow they weathered the storm and managed to finish the contest looking the stronger, physically at least, side.
They created one scoring opportunity 10 minutes from time and it was a glorious one. Substitute Saido Berahino, who is a likely starter in the next match, delivered a superb cross which sadly landed on the head of George Boyd eight yards from goal.
Boyd played well again here, but heading is not a strong suit. He made a good connection, but the ball flew straight at Watford ‘keeper Manuel Almunia and, despite playing out much of the final minutes in Watford territory, Posh never came close to scoring again.
Still the first 0-0 draw in 132 Football League matches would have been perfectly acceptable, but even that bonus was lost in the last minute.
McCann’s casual attempt at a backheel pass on the edge of the Watford penalty area set the home side off on the counter attack, but they looked to have lost the opportunity when a cross was played straight to Posh midfielder Kane Ferdinand on the outskirts of his own box.
But, inexplicably, Ferdinand moved towards his own goal, lost possession to Watford substitute Alex Geijo and then clumsily tripped him up to concede the most obvious of penalties.
Another sub Matej Vydra promptly smashed the ball into the back of the net to confirm a ninth defeat in 11 Championship outings. Worrying statistics, worrying times for all at London Road.
Posh: Bobby Olejnik, Mark Little, Craig Alcock (sub Grant McCann, 60 mins), Shaun Brisley, Nathaniel Knight-Percival, Tommy Rowe (sub Kgosi Ntlhe, 46 mins), Michael Bostwick, Kane Ferdinand, George Boyd, Tyrone Barnett, Emile Sinclair (sub Saido Berahino, 67 mins). Substitutes: Barry Richardson,Lee Tomlin, Gaby Zakuani, Danny Swanson.
Watford: Manuel Aluminia, Lloyd Doyley, Fitz Hall, Jonathan Hogg, Daniel Pudil, Marco Casseti, Almen Abdi (sub Matej Vydra, 72 mins), Tommie Hoban, Troy Deeney (sub Alex Geijo, 86 mins), Nathaniel Chalobah, Fernando, Forestieri Yeates (sub Mark Yeates, 87 mins). Substitutes: Jonathan Bond, Sean Murray, Ikechi Anya, Adam Thompson.
Goal: Watford - Vydra (pen, 90 mins).
Cautions: Posh - McCann (foul), Knight-Percival (foul), Ntlhe (foul)
Watford - Deeney (foul), Pudil (foul), Almunia (time-wasting).
Referee: Geoff Eltringham.
Attendance: 15,950 (1,415 Posh).