Peterborough United manager Graham Westley has urged his side to end their ‘top five’ jinx by beating Burton Albion in a League One match at the ABAX Stadium tonight (January 26, 7.45pm).
Saturday’s (January 23) 2-1 defeat at new League One leaders Gillingham means that Posh have collected just two points from seven matches against the current top five.
But Westley believes he saw enough in the performance at Priestfield to remain convinced that Posh will gain promotion.
Westley said: “We’ve struggled against the top five in the division. That’s a fact. We’ve lost at Burton, Coventry, Walsall and Gillingham and we lost at home to Wigan. None of those teams have suggested they are a lot better than we are, but we need to make those fine margins work in our favour.
“We have a young team who perhaps can become better in terms of game management. We need to make refereeing decisions go in our favour for a start as we should have had a penalty at Gillingham and there was a foul on Chris Forrester ahead of their winning goal.
“But we completed 351 passes to Gillingham’s 192 and we had 25 attempts at goal to their 19. So who deserved to win? Us probably, but Gillingham were more clinical and that was decisive.
“I am still very comfortable with where we are as a team though. If you ask me now if we will get where we want to be at the end of the season I would say yes. That means going up.
“We’ve had a double whammy with missing a last-minute penalty one week and then losing at Gillingham the following week, but we have a great opportunity to bounce back against Burton.
“We know if we win we will be back in the top six and that’s all the incentive we need.”
Westley reports no fresh injury worries. In fact Michael Bostwick might return to the squad tomorrow, although most likely as a substitute.
New signings Shaquile Coulthirst, Harry Toffolo and Adil Naba will all be involved, but Westley would not say how many team changes, if any, he would make. He’s suggested a need for patience as he tries to mould the team into an effective strike force following the departure last week of top scorer Conor Washington to QPR.
“I’m not under-estimating what losing Conor means for the team,” Westley added. “Our new players performed well at Gillingham. Harry Toffolo covered more ground than any other player in the team, while Shaq Coulthirst was outstanding, probably our best player.
“But the players have to get used to each other again. As an example there was a moment in Saturday’s game when Shaq came close to Erhun Oztumer to get the ball because he didn’t realise that Erhun is good enough to play him through off the shoulder of the last defender.
“That’s stuff we will put right on the training ground. It’s a case of moulding another exciting team, but the players capable of getting us promoted are still at the club.
“The team I will put out will be the one I think will beat Burton. Burton will present a different set of problems to Gillingham. They play in a different shape and they have different strengths. They are a very good side who won promotion last season so they know how to win important matches.
“This game is more important to us than them though. After tonight we will have played most of the top sides twice, but I wouldn’t put too much relevandce on that because teams fighting relegation will be tough to beat as well.
“Michael Bostwick could be available, but I’m unlikely to risk him. He’s too influential a player, he’s too important for us to take a chance on.”
Posh go into tonight’s game in seventh place, 13 points behind top two Gillingham and Burton. Burton even have a game in hand.
Posh are guaranteed to return to the top six with a win (barring a ridiculously big win for Sheffield United at Blackpool) as sixth-placed Millwall don’t play tonight.