ALAN SWANN’s Peterborough United talking points from a 1-0 defeat at Preston North End: ‘The perfect guests for struggling hosts, defensive vulnerability and ineffective forward play is a bad combination, someone find Jack Taylor...and now for the set-piece, hard presing kings of the Championship

Before this game, I was told by someone who should know that starting fast and getting in front would be the key to Peterborough United winning at Preston North End yesterday (August 21).

Sunday, 22nd August 2021, 9:33 am
Siriki Dembele of Peterborough United wriggles his way past Jordan Storey and Daniel Johnson of Preston North End. Photo: Joe Dent/theposh.com.

Confidence would apparently drain from a set of players who were sitting at the bottom of the Championship table having lost their first three games. 
And the Deepdale faithful would turn on their players. After all there was already a planned supporters’ protest after the match.

A repeat of the form shown against the Cardiff Giants would have sufficed for Posh. The robust defending (for 80 minutes at least), the intricate passing though midfield and the dash and power of the forwards would propel Posh into the top half of the table which would represent an outstanding start to the season.

Instead Posh proved to be perfect guests. They started so slowly and so sloppily they gave Preston all the encouragement they needed. Confidence was quickly restored, the home fans stayed onside all afternoon and despite a second half Posh rally (to be honest it would have been near impossible to have played as badly as they did before the break) Preston were worthy winners, and by a far greater margin than 1-0, while Darren Ferguson’s side were left labouring in 17th place with every chance of slipping further down the table next Saturday (August 28) when a rampant West Bromwich Albion visit the Weston Homes Stadium.

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Harrison Burrows of Peterborough United puts pressure on Patrick Bauer of Preston North End. Photo: Joe Dent/theposh.com.

Other talking points from Deepdale...

1) West Brom are the hard pressing, set-piece kings of the Championship. In other words the worst possible opponent for a Posh team who struggle against both. Sadly the Baggies won’t be the only second tier team to have noticed Posh vulnerability. Even an out-of-form Preston team exposed obvious frailties, winning the ball in and around the Posh area twice in the opening minutes as attempts to play out from the back floundered down the left where Josh Knight didn’t look any more comfortable than Mark Beevers in possession. Predictably the first chance to swing in a free kick from a dangerous position led to the only goal as tall centre-back Patrick Bauer (a hard man not to spot) rose unchallenged to power home a header from the edge of the six yard box. Posh ‘keeper Christy Pym got hands to it, but would surely have been better served leaving his line to meet a cross swinging in dangerously to his goal? Fortunately Preston didn’t have a long throw man and they didn’t win a corner until 20 minutes from time when they won five in a row because Posh failed to in a single first challenge. The new Posh set-piece coach (Andy Butler was cleared of blame by manager and goalkeeper after the game) will have to be a miracle worker to get a team of physically outmatched players competing at dead ball situations. Posh have conceded seven goals this season and only two at Luton on opening day didn’t originate from a free-kick, a corner or a long throw.

2) Is the Posh struggle against set-pieces a result of poor recruitment? The power, size and sheer strength of Championship sides shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Posh even spoke of bringing in a bigger, stronger goalkeeper to challenge Pym (who was excellent at times yesterday) in the summer before plumping for Ipswich Town’s reserve goalkeeper. Dai Cornell is certainly bigger, and he played very well in his only appearance so far in the Carabao Cup, but Pym appears to have a firm grip on the number one shirt.

3) Posh defenders were troubled by the different challenge of mobile forwards yesterday. To see Scott Sinclair racing through onto a simple straight ball that defeated a five-man backline was worrying. Pym saved the day, but more often than not that sort of chance will be gobbled up this season.

Sammie Szmodics of Peterborough United in action with Sepp van den Berg of Preston North End. Photo: Joe Dent/theposh.com.

4) Despite the odd glimmer of Siriki Dembele’s class and quality, Posh were poor going forward at Deepdale. The tempo was far too slow before the break, Joe Ward had his hands full trying to cope with the running power of Preston’s impressive wing-back Josh Earl, Harrison Burrows was knocked off the ball too easily and Jonson Clarke-Harris was way down on the levels he reached against Cardiff. The stats from the game are damning. Posh won one corner in the final minute and didn’t even get the chance to take it. They registered two shots on target with home goalkeeper Daniel Iversen making his one save in the 95th minute. The other was blocked on the line after a brilliant solo run from Dembele was ruined by the weakness of his shot. According to the BBC Posh had 57% possession which tells us how ineffective and lacking in creativity they were on the ball.

5) Dembele was surrounded as soon as he got the ball yesterday and when he wriggled free he was often hacked down. Teams know he’s the likeliest source of a Posh goal and will plan accordingly.

6) A black mark for Preston midfielder Ryan Ledson whose first half scream and roll around in apparent agony after a strong Dembele challenge was presumably a blatant attempt to cause trouble for the Posh star. It was a foul, but Ledson then realised he was the set-piece taker, so he couldn’t be forced to leave the field after treatment, so jumped to his feet with embarrassing alacrity. Thankfully refeee Dean Whitestone was wise to the tactic and didn’t punish Dembele at all. Whitestone was excellent yesterday apart from allowing Preston to take a free kick dome distance from where the offence occurred which almost led to a second goal.

7) What is going on with Jack Taylor? He’s had a ‘chance’ of playing in four of the five competitive matches so far and is yet to make the substitutes’ bench. He’s needed. He’s big for a start.