FEATURE: The show so far, and how to make it better for Peterborough United
Most League One teams have reached the 20-game mark so time for an assessment of the Peterborough United season so far.
Alan Swann records his points of interest from the ABAX Stadium and throws in a few suggestions of his own to help Posh reach the top six.
Posh are seventh which is a decent place to be at the start of December.
Okay they are a few too many points adrift of the top six, but chairman Darragh MacAnthony predicted in August we wouldn’t see the best of this team until the New Year. Let’s hope he is right.
One concern at this stage is I don’t see any of the current top six collapsing in a heap, with the exception of Shrewsbury who already have a bundle of points, 11 more than Posh and they have a game in hand.
Pressure does do funny things to teams though and Posh must be the ones applying that pressure by putting together their first decent run of form since the opening month.
The knockers, of which there are many, try and claim seventh place is a poor effort in a ‘poor’ league.
This is nonsense of course and probably due to the over-achieving Shrewsbury team sitting in second place.
Wigan and Blackburn, who will finish in the top two, are high class League One teams, Scunthorpe are annual challengers for promotion, while Bradford City and Charlton have the advantage of big fan bases.
If Posh do win the League One play-offs in May, will anyone really care that Shrewsbury’s success made the division look distinctly average? You can only beat what’s in front of you.
Posh start every season at a big financial disadvantage to at least half a dozen clubs.
Because of that financial disparity (check the latest accounts if you don’t believe me), Posh have to make ground in other areas and management/coaching is a key one.
I’d give Grant McCann 6/10 so far this season, but I would stick with him, as long he proves he is still learning.
His change of formation for the start of the season worked a treat with four goals scored in each of the first two away matches despite a lack of experience in the squad of the wing-back position, but opponents plan efficiently these days and Posh have often struggled tactically since teams worked out McCann’s new system.
The timing of substitutions has often affected performances in a negative way.
The manner of the draw at Charlton in the last League One match was heart-breaking, not helped by poor substitutions, although if Ricky Miller had run the ball into the corner when given the opportunity in the final minute rather than shooting optimistically at goal, the pointless introduction of Michael Doughty would have been ignored by us all.
But the performance at The Valley was actually most encouraging. Posh defended with great discipline and were terrific on the counter-attack. This now needs to be the norm rather than a surprising one-off.
It’s worrying that Posh haven’t won back-to-back games in any competition since winning the last four matches of August.
It’s also a concern Posh haven’t won an away game in League One since trouncing a useless Cobblers team on August 26.
But more worrying is the disturbing habit of losing to struggling teams in terrible form, a couple of whom didn’t even have a manager.
Posh need to attack every team with pace and tempo from kick-off. Don’t let the likes of Gillingham and Oldham settle into games while the ball is passed slowly square and backwards by your defenders.
Taking the lead against teams with little confidence would probably lead to victory.
Posh actually have a decent spine to their squad which makes the regular shoddy displays more baffling. Both goalkeeper are good, Steven Taylor, who no longer looks like a gamble on a player with a poor injury record, and Ryan Tafazolli are strong centre-backs, Anthony Grant has been a revelation in midfield, while Jack Marriott’s recruitment from the Luton substitutes’ bench was a masterstroke.
Add outstanding wide players Marcus Maddison and Gwion Edwards and this is a decent team on paper, but one that needs another striker, although I wouldn’t rule out an impact just yet from the ‘Bretton Batistuta’ Miller.
The jury is still out on Danny Lloyd, but the close-season recruitment wasn’t bad. Doughty started the season well. Signing Miller for nothing after a remarkable goalscoring season was a no-brainer.
But McCann has been hamstrung by a long-term injury to Junior Morias, Miller’s demons and the collapse in form of Chris Forrester.
If Posh do intend to recruit in January a central midfielder to help the outstanding Grant is key (although Forrester has flickered into life lately), preferably one capable ofmaking an impact in the opposition penalty area.
Posh must hang onto Marcus Maddison and Gwion Edwards in January, although when looking at the latest accounts, player sales became more understandable.
Of course most fans want to see promotion pushes rather than worrying balance sheets and selling either of those players would be like waving a white flag for the season.
Edwards’ presence is vital as it takes so much pressure off Maddison. If Edwards had played at Rochdale, the man-marking of Maddison would probably have been overcome.
Posh will get by defensively. Even if Bond returns to Reading, Conor O’Malley looks a more than capable League One goalkeeper.
A different sort of striker would help Marriott, and a Kieffer Moore-type would love playing with Maddison.
The current squad is capable of mounting a run at the play-offs, but they are currenty too reliant on their Edwards/Maddison/Marriott axis.
Adequate cover isn’t there if one of them is out of action (or sold).
Posh fans active on social media should read the latest accounts and stop trolling the chairman after every defeat or poor performance.
The club looks small-time when the man who has kept Posh out of the bottom division for the longest period in the club’s history (10 years and counting) and who has bankrolled most of the top 10 highest Football League finishes in the club’s history is attacked by sad supporters.