Peterborough United have enjoyed an outstanding start to the League One campaign, but improvement is still needed to maintain it
The wise men in football tell us not to bother looking at league tables until 10 games have been played.
Peterborough United reached that point yesterday (September 29) sitting prettily in second place with an impressive seven wins from 10 League One games. They are four points clear of short-odds title favourites Sunderland who they meet at the Stadium of Light on Tuesday (October 2).
Automatic promotion it is then surely? Particularly as a team assembled virtually from scratch in a summer recruitment binge are bound to improve as the season wears on, aren’t they?
Sadly football never works like that. History is littered with super starts followed by mediocre mid-terms and end-of-season collapses. It’s happened enough at London Road for fans to enjoy the moment, but to keep wild dreams in check.
Posh have delivered some great results so far. Just as pleasingly they’ve produced some wonderful entertainment and scored some great goals, but mostly on their travels. A 4-4-2 formation that has worked superbly away from home might need a tweak or two in games at the ABAX Stadium where opponents sit deeper, outnumber Posh in midfield and reap the obvious benefits an abundance of possession, plus generous allocations of time and space, any professional player would enjoy.
Posh could easily have lost their last three home matches. Doncaster passed them off the park, Portsmouth powered their way to victory, and yesterday Blackpool were a dreadful open goal miss from inflicting a damaging defeat on a Posh team that had taken the lead twice.
Blackpool are only mugs in their boardroom. The players arrived protecting an 11-game unbeaten run in all competitions and with a miserly defensive record of no goals conceded in four away games, but they don’t win that often and teams serious about promotion would fancy beating them after taking the lead, twice. A strong finish to the game which saw a terrific 97th-minute half volley from full-back Jason Naismith brilliantly turned over the bar by visiting ‘keeper Mark Howard shouldn’t disguise the fact that Blackpool would have been most unlucky losers.
The visitors played some excellent football on the breakaway, but they were allowed to by a Posh team bristling with attacking intent which left defensive midfielder Alex Woodyard with far too much ground to cover, and far too many runs to keep an eye on. Blackpool’s playmakers simply advanced towards retreating full-backs and passed the ball inside them. Their first equaliser just before the hour mark arrived that way, although Nathan Defouneso was apparently offside before he crossed for Armand Gnaduillet to tap home.
Blackpool were miffed to be behind at the break to Rhys Bennett’s close-range header from a Siriki Dembele cross. They should have scored first through Delfouneso and they struck the crossbar with a Curtis Tilt header from a corner, but their leveller turned a drab, error-strewn first hour into a breathtaking end-to-end encounter which saw two high tariff goals firstly from Posh substitute Mark O’Hara from the edge of the penalty area and moments later from Delfouneso from similar range.
Posh striker Ivan Toney had rattled the crossbar before O’Hara’s goal and at 2-2 Jordan Thompson missed a sitter at the far post after another sweeping Blackpool move.
O’Hara’s powerful athleticism made a big difference to Posh as did Toney when he forgot about fancy first-time flicks and started using his physique.
But was this stuff of champions? Nowhere near it to be honest, but it has still be an outstanding start to the campaign.
Posh: Aaron Chapman, Jason Naismith, Colin Daniel, Rhys Bennett, Ryan Tafazolli, Alex Woodyard, Jamie Walker (sub Jason Cummings, 80 mins), Marcus Maddison, Siriki Dembele (sub Joe Ward, 76 mins), Matt Godden (sub Mark O’Hara, 62 mins), Ivan Toney.
Unused substitutes: Mark Tyler, Callum Cooke, Josh Yorwerth, Louis Reed.
Blackpool: Mark Howard, Ollie Turton, Ben Heneghan, Curtis Tilt, Marc Bola, Jay Spearing, Callum Guy (sub Michael Nottingham, 72 mins) , Liam Feeney (sub Ryan McLaughlin, 77 mins), Nathan Delfouneso, Armand Gnanduillet.
Unused substitutes: Miles Boney, Paudie O’Connor, John O’Sullivan, Joe Doodoo, Marc Cullen.
Goals: Posh - Bennett (27 mins), O’Hara (64 mins).
Blackpool - Gnanduillet (59 mins), Delfouneso (66 mins).
Cautions: Posh - Maddison (foul), Walker (foul), Daniel (foul), Bennett (foul).
Blackpool - Spearing (foul), Heneghan (foul).
Referee: Carl Boyeson 7
Attendance: 6,269 (266 Blackpool).