A decision that has come back to bite the Peterborough United boss, but a defeat that wasn't all down to one man, plus one positive tale
But we’re surely at the point now where Posh goalkeeper Nicholas Bilokapic needs to be taken out of the firing line for his own good?
I wouldn’t necessarily interpret Ferguson’s post-match comments after the 5-2 drubbing at Wycombe Wanderers on Saturday about ‘sticking by Nick’ as confirmation the Aussie Under 21 international will start against Port Vale at the Weston Homes Stadium on Tuesday. Indeed I’d dare to suggest he meant the opposite and supporting a struggling player in this case will involve shielding him from the spotlight for a bit, for the next three months probably.
If only Jed Steer hadn’t hokey-cokeyed out and back in at Posh last month, he’d presumably have stayed in the starting line-up where his calm experience would have been helpful for a young side having a bit of a wobble.
Ferguson’s desire not to unsettle Bilokapic after promising him his place back when Steer looked like he’d gone would have been commendable in mid-table football, but it just felt wrong with an automatic promotion place to fight for. It’s a decision that has quickly come back to bite the boss. Playing your best available goalkeeper should be a given.
Steer is 10 years older than Bilokapic and currently a far better ‘keeper. His four Posh starts yielded 10 points and 3 goals conceded. The last three games without Steer have yielded no points and 10 goals conceded. Those numbers are not all down to the goalkeepers, but it’s a crucial position and it would be a surprise if the Posh defence hasn’t lost confidence in a number one who twice passed the ball to grateful opponents to concede goals yesterday.
Ferguson’s comment of ‘there’s something about young goalkeepers the fans don’t like’ was also misplaced. Players could be 18 or 40 and they’d be lauded for playing well and criticised when playing poorly. That’s all part of the game.
OTHER TALKING POINTS FROM WYCOMBE 5, POSH 2…
1) Of course goalkeeping errors are always magnified and Bilokapic wasn’t the only under par performer at Wycombe. Only David Ajiboye, in the second-half, and half-time substitute Ryan De Havilland came out of this match with any credit, although sub Malik Mothersille’s pass to help create the second Posh goal was a thing of beauty. There has been a lot of talk recently about Posh finding their own uneven playing surface difficult, but they passed the ball appallingly on the best pitch in League One yesterday. Even simple five-yarders were going astray as an apparent collective lack of confidence took hold.
2) There was logic to the team changes made by Ferguson. In the absence of three wingers, including two of the best three players in the squad, wing-backs to supply Jonson Clarke-Harris with crosses seemed like a cunning plan. Unfortunately it backfired and Posh didn’t score their goals until reverting to their usual formation. It’s time to accept this team has evolved beyond even a great goalscorer like Clarke-Harris and an impact substitute's role is all he should hope for until he leaves in the summer.
3) The team has sprung a defensive leak as well. They’ve conceded an average of two goals a game in the last nine outings. Their 39 goals conceded is the highest total in League One’s top 10. And there have been some daft concessions in recent games. Some statisticians have recorded four own goals in the last two Posh matches, Ronnie Edwards delivered a horrible mis-kick at Charlton, while the Barnsley home game in the last game of December featured two horrible errors similar to what befell them at Wycombe.
4) It’s now one win and 10 defeats in 14 League One games for Posh at Wycombe. Their only success arrived 21 years ago. It’s a depressing record against a small club, with few fans (fewer than 4,000 home supporters were in attendance yesterday so it’s hardly an intimidating atmosphere at a picturesque ground) who hardly ever finish above Posh unless the EFL invent some crazy rules to determine final league positions. Wycombe had won two of their previous 18 League One games before yesterday and yet they swatted Posh aside again.
5) Form is fickle. Posh have now lost three League One matches in a row after losing just one of their previous 22. It’s a worry, but it can change back quickly. Posh have nine of their 15 remaining games at home and two of them are coming up, against Port Vale on Tuesday and Blackpool next Saturday, both of whom are poor travellers. Six points from those games and the League One table will look much rosier. The expected return of Ephron Mason-Clark and Kwame Poku can only help.
6) One lovely story from Adams Park was a debut as a late substitute for striker Pemi Aderoju who started the season at Biggleswade FC in the Southern League Central Division One, one rung below Stamford AFC. Posh chairman Darragh MacAnthony tipped the 20 year-old to make his first-team debut this season and he has. Ferguson also praised Aderoju in his pre-match press conference, especially as ‘it was obvious he had received no professional coaching.’ It’s some rise and his first touch of the ball was a header from a corner which was goal-bound until it struck a defender, Now that would have turned a good story into a great one.