MATCH PREVIEW: Posh will unite while they are under siege

Jack Baldwin could return to the Posh side for the visit of Oxford.
Jack Baldwin could return to the Posh side for the visit of Oxford.

Peterborough United manager Grant McCann reckons a siege mentality will unite his under-achieving side.

Posh host Oxford United at the ABAX Stadium tomorrow (March 11, 3pm) in what many will see as a must-win game for a team fading rapdily from the League One play-off picture.

Posh top scorer Tom Nichols is expected to start against Oxford.

Posh top scorer Tom Nichols is expected to start against Oxford.

Indeed it’s that pessimism McCann will use to bring his side together for a final push over the last 10 matches. The manager and his players are not giving up hope of extending the season beyond April.

“I was talking to Millwall manager Neil Harris after our game recently,” McCann stated. “And he told me he uses the fact that everyone hates Millwall as a tool to bring his players together.

“We’re in a similar position as everyone has written us off since January. We need to develop a siege mentality as well as use the criticism we’ve been getting as motivation.

“I’ve told the players everyone will have an opinion on them and on the team as a whole. That’s the industry we are in and it’s up to us to either ignore what’s said or to change those opinions.

Posh striker Craig Mackail-Smith will chase his 100th club goal against Oxford.

Posh striker Craig Mackail-Smith will chase his 100th club goal against Oxford.

“We have had a good week’s training. We had a day without the ball on Tuesday when we worked as groups on a series of physical challenges. It was all about teamwork and the lads loved it.

“I want that teamwork to show itself on the pitch for the rest of the season. We need to get our togetherness back rather than have individuals worrying about themselves.

“I want our identity to return for the last 10 games. Regardless of the system we play, the philosophy at this football club will remain the same. We are about moving the ball quickly, about playing entertaining and attacking football, and about scoring goals.

“We need a settled side and a settled formation. We need to return to the way we were playing before Christmas. We still have the players to suit the way we were playing then.”

Central defender Jack Baldwin is available tomorrow after completing a two-match ban, but McCann admits two regular, as yet unnamed players, are struggling to make the Oxford match because of injury.

Craig Mackail-Smith and Tom Nichols are expected to start together up front. Mackail-Smith is still chasing that 100th Posh career goal.

McCann has watched Oxford twice recently and he’s been impressed with a side promoted from League Two last season.

“Oxford are positive, quick and they have good energy levels,” McCann added. “They press the ball really well and they’ve had a great season at a higher level. They have the games in hand to get themselves into the promotion race.

“But as usual we are more concerned about how we play. We will start the game in good spirits. We’ve had two disappointing results, but they were against two of the best teams in League One (Millwall & Bradford) and we pushed them both close.

“I was happy with the way Tom and Craig played together last weekend. Craig has been great for us since he stepped into the building and I’m 100 per cent sure he will get that 100th goal soon and once he does he will go on a scoring run.

“The players know how important the last 10 games are. I’ve told them all they are playing for their jobs, even if they are currently sitting on a two-or-three-year deal.”