Peterborough United aim to give their suffering supporters a boost by beating Oldham in a League One fixture at the ABAX Stadium tomorrow (February 23, 7.45pm).
Manager Graham Westley admits his side ‘owe the fans’ after two dismal displays in a row left the Posh play-off hopes hanging by a thread.
A 4-0 home defeat at the hands of Bradford City (February 13) was followed by a 3-0 loss at Millwall last Saturday (February 20) to leave Posh eight points and six places off the top six.
A win tomorrow could move Posh back into the top 10, but three points is not the only item on Westley’s agenda.
“We have a responsibility to entertain our fans,” Westley stated. “If we are not scoring goals and playing entertaining football then our fans will not be enjoying the experience of watching us.
“We certainly owe our fans one. We let them, as well ourselves, down in our last home match and they won’t have enjoyed seeing us at Millwall either.
“We know our job and we love our job. We want to get back to the exciting, entertaining football that we were delivering earlier in the season.
“The management and the playing squad spent a lot of time together yesterday. We did a lot of soul-searching and we are working hard to put the bad times behind us in order to concentrate on the good times that might still be ahead.
“To be fair to the players I liked what I saw this morning, but actions will speak louder than words. I fancy us to play well tomorrow and I fancy the good football will be back soon enough.
“We’ve had a mini pre-season here. We lost Jermaine Anderson, Callum Elder and Conor Washington for various reasons and we’ve brought half-a-dozen young players in and tried to get them to hit the ground running.
“We have signed players, who in time, will become the real deal, but we’ve seen the consequences of rushing them in. They are not players with hundreds of league games under their belts.
“I wouldn’t say we are lacking in hunger, confidence or desire though. We’ve probably witnessed one or two players get taken in by the massive praise and hype they received after the two games in the FA Cup with West Brom.
“No matter what a manager does, a young squad will often hear that praise and their feet will leave the ground, They then forget the basics and if you do that football has a habit of hurting you.
“There are basics in football that you must have to complement the good football. You need a strong work ethic and you need to win your tackles and personal battles. Against Millwall we made just seven tackles which just isn’t Peterborough United. Against Chesterfield recently we made 92 interceptions, against Millwall we made just 33. That is a ridiculous deficit.
“The players have enjoyed the good PR, but now it’s time to get back to doing the basics right and ensuring the good results return.
“We’ve been losing to top six sides and sides in very good form, but we’ve been edged out in most of those games. We’ve under-performed in a couple of matches, but we’ve had a tough run of fixtures.
“But we are back at home tomorrow and we have our first opportunity to please our fans and to get back into the top 10. We intend to take it.”
Westley gave no clues as his team selection tomorrow, but it’s likely striker Lee Angol will return to the starting line-up and that midfielder Chris Forrester will miss out. Central defender Michael Bostwick starts a two-match suspension meaning Jack Baldwin can expect a recall.
On-loan left-back Harry Toffolo was taken off at half-time for tactical reasons at Millwall rather than because of injury. Westley has defended his decision to send on untried teenager Jordan Nicholson for his debut ahead of Marcus Maddison in Toffolo’s place.
“I normally get asked why I am playing Marcus Maddison at left-back, but this time I get asked why I’m not playing Marcus Maddison at left-back,” Westley added. “It’s often horses for courses, moments in time, but I make decisions based on what I’ve seen in training and in reserve matches. I make decisons based on all sorts of things and I just felt Jordan was the right player to go to at that time.
“And he did fine. His retention of the ball wasn’t great by League One standards, but he got forward from left-back, he got into the penalty area and he almost scored his first goal. Jordan will be a very good player in time.
“I don’t like to talk about injured players. The situation changes from minute to minute, from to day to day, but I like to keep my cards close to my chest.
“Chris Forrester took a nasty knock towards the end of the Millwall match, but there was nothing too serious injury-wise from that game. One or two with knocks might miss out tomorrow though.”