Peterborough United manager Grant McCann has shrugged off a midfield availability crisis to back his side to beat League One play-off rivals Southend at the ABAX Stadium tomorrow (February 21, 7.45pm kick off).
Posh will be without suspended pair Anthony Grant and Chris Forrester and injury-victim Gwion Edwards for the visit of the sixth-placed Shrimpers. A win for Posh would move them level on points with tomorrow’s opponents.
McCann does have midfield options. He has not ruled out an earlier return than expected for broken-jaw victim Michael Bostwick and in today’s (February 20) pre-match press conference he pointed out Dominic Ball’s role as a holding midfielder during Rangers’ march to the Scottish Championship title last season. If Ball switches position, it could enable central defender Jack Baldwin to return to the starting line-up.
More natural midfielders Leo Da Silva Lopes, Brad Inman, Calum Chettle and Martin Samuelsen are also available to play.
McCann is confident of a strong showing no matter who he selects.
“It’s the best position we’ve been in at this stage of the season for the last three seasons,” McCann stated. “And we are determined to make it count. If someone had said at the start of the season we’d be three points off the play-off places with 14 games to go I’d have been delighted.
“Winning one, losing one, is not what I wanted at the start of February, but someone up there is looking after our promotion chances. We keep getting ourselves into a position where we can challenge for the top six and not quite getting there, but many other teams are doing just the same.
“Southend have had a similar season to us. People say they are having a good season, but if they are than so are we, as we can catch them with a win tomorrow.
“It’s a massive week for us with two home games against close rivals and if we can pick up the six points we will finish the week in a great position. Home games will be key between now and the end of the season.
“We have two six-pointers against Southend and Rochdale (February 25) coming up, but they are games to enjoy and to look forward to, rather than fear.
“We’ve played well in our biggest games this season and I expect us to play well again tomorrow. We are the fifth highest-ranked team in terms of chances created so we just need to start converting a few more.
“It’s not ideal having to make at least three changes to the starting line-up, but we are well off for midfielders. I have had a conversation with the physio and with Michael Bostwick, but we have to be careful with him.
“Dominic Ball can play in midfield which he did for Rangers last season and Leo Da Silva Lopes has shown this season what a good player he can be. Callum Chettle is another option.”
McCann expects to see a huge improvement in his team’s discipline tomorrow. Captain Forrester was sent off for foul and abusive language in the 2-0 defeat at Walsall on Saturday (February 18), while goalkeeper Luke McGee was cautioned for dissent.
“Our discipline has actually improved this season,” McCann added. “One of the first things I had to do as manager in the summer was sit in front of the FA because we picked up the most yellow cards in the country last season.
“But there were things going on at Walsall like my goalkeeper fighting with my centre half that I didn’t recognise and I don’t want to see again.
“We’ve addressed the discipline issues in-house this morning and they are done and dusted.”
McCann declined to say whether or not Forrester would lose the captaincy as a result of his red card. Michael Smith has stood in for Forrester at times this season, but McCann also declined to confirm if that would be the case again.
The result of a scan on the leg injury Edwards sustained at Walsall will be made public after tomorrow’s game.
Southend could make changes to their in-form team. Centre-back Anton Ferdinand is expected to miss out through injury, while Nile Ranger could start up front.
Under 18s can gain admission to the game tomorrow for £1.