ALAN SWANN’s Peterborough United comment: Posh are feared at League One level which is handy, players are emerging from the shadow of the front three, 17 year-old is the real deal, sort the set-pieces out and a strange, but true statistic
The cheers rang out long and hard after Peterborough United’s hard-fought 0-0 draw at Bristol Rovers yesterday (December 21).
Not from the visiting camp after their depleted squad had battled to a welcome point at the team just below them, a point that moved Posh into the automatic promotion places in League One.
No, most happiness was etched onto the faces of Rovers’ fans.
‘A great point against the best team we’ve played against,” said one fan stood right behind the press box as he high fived his neighbour.
One didn’t have the heart to tell him what a great chance this was to beat a Posh team missing seven first-team squad regulars and with six teenagers on the substitutes’ bench, three of whom have yet to make their Football League debut.
And Posh rarely displayed the attacking fluency which has graced many a performance this season, something manager Darren Ferguson was quick to grumble about after the game.
Rovers’ reaction - and their third manager of the week Kevin Maher touched upon it in his post-match press conference - just shows what a tall reputation this Posh team has amongst its peers. It can’t be a bad thing to carry such an aura.
In all probablity only Josh Knight and Mark Beevers of those currently incapacitated would be certain starters in the 3-4-1-2 formation Posh employed yesterday, but losing Siriki Dembele’s usual impact from the bench and George Boyd’s experienced presence are undoubted handicaps.
Other things we learnt from yesterday...
1) Dembele is a loss, but my goodness Ricky-Jade Jones looks a serious prospect. It wouldn’t be the greatest surprise to see him starting regularly soon, a prospect that should ensure Mo Eisa keeps his eye on the ball.
It can be easier coming on than starting, especially for a player with blistering pace, but 17 year-old Jones already looks more than an impact sub.
His first involvement saw him scorch past Rovers centre-back Rollin Menaeyse and instantly a Rovers side who had been on top in the second-half were on the back foot. As Posh co-owner Dr Jason Neale remarked, ‘it was like a scene from the Matrix, the Rovers defenders looked like they were moving in slow motion.’
2) Ferguson moaned about the final ball yesterday, but in defence of Marcus Maddison, Ivan Toney, Dan Butler and Joe Ward, a decent cross is hard to deliver when there are so few Posh bodies in the penalty area.
In the last 20 minutes Toney twice sent over terrific crosses, but only Jones and three defenders were in the penalty area.
The current Posh system should enable wing-backs to get in the penalty area, but Maddison also needs to work harder to move forward as he would be near impossible to mark. There isn’t a player in the team you’d prefer a ball to fall to 15 yards from goal.
3) The front three have understandably attracted most of the attention this season, but others are starting to get the recognition they deserve. Louis Reed and Frankie Kent to name but two and Niall Mason looks like one of those valuable players comfortable in many positions.
4) Ferguson is absolutely right not to get carried away by his side’s move up to second place. The faltering Ipswich team as well as Rovers, Oxford and Fleetwood would all move above Posh if they win their games in hand.
It was actually still a fairly a good day for leaders Wycombe even though they lost for just the second time this season as their seven-point lead is still intact.
Ferguson will be desperate for his injury worries to ease. Three tough matches in seven days after Christmas v Doncaster, Rotherham and Lincoln, will probably require some squad rotation that just isn’t available at the moment. No matter who is available, expect Jones to start at least one of them.
5) Posh need to improve their set plays. Ferguson rightly described them as ‘awful’ yesterday which is bizarre when Maddison has such a superb record of goal assists.
6) It’s one of those curious facts that matters very little in the grand scheme of things (Posh are still second after all), but Ferguson’s men have yet to beat a side currently in the top 11 of League One.