Peterborough United can dare to dream if they listen to their goalkeeper, stick with this playing formation and become more ruthless as there is strength in depth and only two organised, functional teams above them
Peterborough United goalkeeper Christy Pym pretty much stated the obvious after the 1-0 win over Bolton Wanderers yesterday (December 14), but his words also suggested the team are desperate not to repeat recent mistakes.
Pym identified home form and clean sheets as keys to the League One promotion bid and the statistics back him up.
Since that awful 3-1 home defeat at the hands of Fleetwood on the opening day of the season, Posh have won seven and drawn two of their nine League One matches at the Weston Homes Stadium, taking an impressive 23 points out of a possible 27.
Last season Posh won just nine home matches out of 23 which spoilt their promotion-winning away form. The three promoted teams last term, Luton, Barnsley and Charlton had the three best home records in the division.
Similarly, guess which three teams kept the most clean sheets last season? Yes, the three promoted teams.
Posh kept 10 League One clean sheets last season. They already have eight this season so the signs are promising.
Other things we learnt from yesterday’s match...
1) Posh are now comfortable in two playing formations. The midfield diamond has served Posh well, especially at home, and the 3-4-1-2 formation seen in the last two matches has been effective.
Manager Darren Ferguson reckons he’s switched systems to suit an injury-ravaged squad, but it wouldn’t be a great surprise if he sticks with three centre-backs even when Marcus Maddison, George Boyd and Josh Knight are fully restored to action. Knight will presumably replace Alex Woodyard, but Boyd could become one of several understudies for Maddison.
Defensively, and yes, an impotent Bolton forward line hardly tested them, Posh look more secure, particularly captain Mark Beevers who also performed better when a Bolton player in a three at the back formation. Frankie Kent might become the issue as he’s a right-footed player, playing on the left, but he was good yesterday as was Niall Mason on the other side after his early introduction to the game.
Posh also have players suited to wing-back roles, namely Joe Ward and Dan Butler, the latter backed up his fine display at Portsmouth the other week with another decent display.
2) Bolton, who will be hot favourites to win League Two next season, should have been battered yesterday. Posh didn’t play great in the first-half, but still created three chances that were easier than the one Ivon Toney converted. It seems a strange thing to say about the top scoring team in League One, but they will need to be more ruthless against better sides.
3) Ivan Toney’s goals-per-scoring-chance ratio must be immense. If he was playing for a team who kept the ball better (Posh had 53% possession against the bottom team) he would be a shoo-in to reach 30 League One goals.
4) Toney and strike partner Mo Eisa were featured on the BBC’s Football Focus programme yesterday when they insisted there is no rivalry between them in the goal-scoring stakes. Eisa might review his opinion after a certain goal for him, after Serhat Tasdemir’s superb run, was thwarted by the ball hitting Toney standing in the six-yard box!
5) There are signs that the strength in depth of this Posh squad is better than many of us thought. Tasdemir could be a top player for the future. His first start in the Football League featured some fast feet and plenty of strength. He lacks the speed off the mark to get away from opponents so he will need to move the ball quicker in future, but it was an encouraging effort.
6) Ipswich manager Paul Lambert made me chuckle recently when claiming a big club like his deserves better referees. Lambert needs to realise he is in League One now, a place where even competent officials are a rarity. Peter Wright was all over the place at Posh yesterday. His judgement on what constituted a foul was baffling, but commonplace in the third tier.
7) Posh can dare to dream this season. There is no Luton Town knocking around League One, nor a Barnsley, two excellent footballing sides. Top two Wycombe and Ipswich are no more than functional and organised and can be chased down. If Posh can get through the busy festive programme unscathed and still in touch at the top they can push on, with the help of a couple of January signings of course!
It’s a big game at fourth-placed Bristol Rovers next Saturday (December 21), but Rovers could be about to lose their inspirational manager Graham Coughlan to a League Two club which has to be a huge negative.