When the half-time ‘entertainment’ is the highlight of the game it’s safe to say Peterborough United have problems that require urgent attention.
Indeed it would be a major surprise if 14 year-old Charlie Armitage, who sent a ball sailing 50 yards straight into a skip to win a cool £250, hasn’t already been measured up for a first-team kit. Peterborough United have been expert at delivering rubbish in recent matches - not so good at delivering that level of passing accuracy.
Posh have a huge issue within their squad - one that will certainly keep them out of the play-off places - and one doesn’t need the mental agility of Rachel Riley to work it out. The numbers speak for themselves and they are damning. One goal in the
last five matches and that arrived courtesy of a wicked deflection off an opposition defender.
There is hesitation in blaming current manager Dave Robertson because he inherited a shot-shy set of strikers, but if Posh were serious about finishing in the top six surely players with creative ability and attacking strength should have been sought on loan transfer deadline day rather than a couple of full-backs to act as back-up and a strolling ‘number 10’? None of the loanees made today’s matchday squad of 18 which, considering current form, is rather bizarre.
Fortunately for Posh they were facing a team with even greater attacking problems. Walsall keep possession easily, but they play at such a slow tempo and with so little imagination in the attacking third they also find scoring difficult. The visitors have grabbed just four goals in their last 10 League One games making 0-0 such an obvious scoreline, Posh should have flogged match tickets to insomniacs as well as schoolkids.
This is the third meeting in succession that Posh and Walsall have drawn a blank against each other and, until teenager Harry Anderson appeared on the scene in the second-half, the home side were never in danger of breaking that run. Anderson, a half-time substitute for injury-plagued Jon Taylor, headed a Gaby Zakuani cross wide 20 minutes from time and forced Walsall ‘keeper Richard O’Donnell to tip a fierce drive behind for a corner. He also sent over a couple of fine crosses that went unread by team-mates.
David Norris also forced O’Donnell into a save after latching onto a Michael Bostwick pass in the first-half as did Luke James late on, but that was about that for the Walsall numner one who still made three more saves than Ben Alnwick at the other end of the pitch.
Walsall hogged a lot of possession and created many promising attacking positions, but when Michael Cain (not a lot of people knew he played for Walsall) wasn’t firing wide from distance, his team-mates were either dithering and dallying until Zakuani, Kgosi Ntlhe and Michael Smith tackled them, or delivering dreadful crosses.
Posh played with tremendous commitment. The tackling of Bostwick, Norris and Ntlhe was of the thundering kind, but Posh fans spoilt by free-flowing, free-scoring football for most of the Darragh MacAnthony era are now being starved of excitement and they don’t like it.
Robertson tried to alter current trends by making six changes to his side that suffered a Bad Friday defeat at Scunthorpe. He also ditched his 4-4-2 formation for something he described as 3-5-2, but looked suspiciously like a 3-1-4-2 set-up. Whatever it was, and whatever the plan was, perhaps only the coaching staff, the players and Baldrick would know, as the general style of play was little different to previous weeks.
Marcus Maddison returned to the starting line-up, but fluffed pretty much every line he had, while Aaron Mclean’s decline is showing no sign of slowing. Luke James was an anonymous presence until he latched onto an outstanding Ntlhe pass late on and forced O’Donnell into some work.
Defensively Posh were sound and, while Zakuani’s mastery of the Posh penalty area made him a worthy man-of-the-match, Smith and Ntlhe deserve credit for performing well in positions they wouldn’t call their first choice.
But to win games - and Posh probably have to win their remaining five to keep alive their play-off hopes - goals are required and it’s hard to see where they will be coming from.
Robertson is striving hard for that improvement and this week’s wheeze is to invite a boxer into the training camp for some team-bonding. If he can transfer some punch to the Posh forward players it will be a worthwhile exercise.
Posh: Ben Alnwick, Michael Smith, Kgosi Ntlhe, Gaby Zakuani, Michael Bostwick, Jack Payne, David Norris, Jon Taylor (sub Harry Anderson, 46 mins), Marcus Maddison (sub Joe Newell, 78 mins), Aaron Mclean (sub Conor Washington, 63 mins), Luke James. Unused substitutes: Dion-Henry Curtis, Shaun Brisley, Erhun Oztumer, Ricardo Santos.
Walsall: Richard O’Donnell, Ben Purkiss, James Chambers, Andy Taylor, James O’Connor, Romaine Sawyers (sub Sam Mantom, 68 mins), Jordy Hiwula-Mayifuila (sub Anthony Forde, 68 mins), Michael Cain, Adam Chambers, Kieron Morris, Jordan Cook (sub Amadou Bakayoko, 86 mins). Unused substitutes Paul Downing, Criag MacGillivray, Liam Kinsell, Ashley Grimes.
Cautions: Posh - Bostwick (foul).
Walsall - O’Connor (foul).
Referee: Darren Handley 6
Attendance: 6,711 (210 Walsall).