Peterborough United manager Graham Westley insists his players will learn the lessons from today’s (January 16) disappointing 0-0 draw with out-of-form Southend at the ABAX Stadium.
The visitors reacted to three heavy defeats in a row by fielding a very negative line-up against the team that started the day as the top scorers in the Football League. Their smothering tactics worked a treat as Posh failed to create any clearcut chances until they were awarded a hotly-contested 97th-minute penalty for an alleged foul on substitute Marcus Maddison.
Unfortunately Chris Forrester, who won a squad penalty competition designed to find a replacement for injured regular penalty-taker Michael Bostwick, saw his kick easily saved by Southend ‘keeper Dan Bentley.
The draw - the first 0-0 of the season for Posh - left Westley’s men in sixth place, but seven points behind fifth-placed Wigan and just one point ahead of seventh-placed Sheffield United.
Westley said: “I expected Southend to be very determined, very well organised and very hard to break down after the run of results they’ve just had. It was always going to be a hard game as Southend have good, experienced players and a good, experienced manager.
“Their focus was on a clean sheet. They made the midfield very congested and they were right on top of us whenever we had the ball in the centre of the pitch.
“In the first half it looked like a game between a very experienced side and a very young side. We looked a little bit intimidated by the occasion and the opposition. They were around the ref, they played well as a unit and they stifled us very successfully.
“Nothing they did surprised me, but we struggled to play against it. We had to stay patient and try to keep passing in the hope that the ‘press’ that they were employing wore off. It did in the second-half when we kept the ball better and stretched them a little bit more, but defensively they remained very strong and they made it difficult for us.
“Their goalkeeper was the busier, and we probably had good possession statistics, but it’s all about putting the ball in the back of the net and we failed in that respect.
“Of course we almost pinched the win with a last-gasp penalty, but the kick rather summed up our performance. It was a timid strike of the ball, a lacklustre effort, an almost apologetic attempt to score and to be honest 0-0 was probably a fair result.
“We held a competition within the squad to see who would replace Michael Bostwick as penalty taker and Chris won it, but it’s a bit different in the heat of the moment, in the last minute of a tight game.
“But one missed penalty shouldn’t be held against Chris. That can happen to anyone.
“All season we have been presented with challenges and we have risen to them and overcome them. I am confident that’s what we will do again.
“Young teams are always learning. Our next lesson is to come up with a gameplan to beat teams who play like Southend.”
Left-back Kgosi Ntlhe made his first Posh appearance since August as a second-half substitute. The South African international required an operation on a toe injury.
Posh have another tough League One game at third-placed Gillingham next Saturday (January 23) and that match is swiftly followed by a home match against leaders Burton Albion on January 26. Burton won impressively at Coventry today.