ALAN SWANN’S TALKING POINTS: ‘We should be panicking, is Jack Taylor THAT good? No form at either end of the field, maddening Madley and will the lack of January signings come back to haunt Posh?’
Posh manager Darren Ferguson might not be panicking - outwardly at least - but that doesn’t mean the rest of us who have the club at heart can’t feel extremely concerned.
On the surface sitting second in League One with 10 matches to go, and just three points off top spot with a game in hand, is not a bad place to be, especially as six of those matches to come are at the Weston Homes Stadium, a place where opponents have feared to tread for most of this season.
But football is about the present and the future as much as the past, and current form of five points from six matches plus a tough-looking fixture list to come compared to some of their promotion rivals should make us grateful there’s still a 10-point buffer to the last of the play-off places.
Posh were awful in losing 3-1 at Bloomfield Road last night (March 23). Never mind they were outplayed for the second time this season by a talented Blackpool side, it’s the fact they were outfought by a tactically superior outfit who played with far more spirit and aggression that should really set the alarm bells ringing.
I’m sure Ferguson is inwardly worried - his rant at referee Bobby Madley which earned a yellow card last night, which although understandable, was not the behaviour of a man in control of his emotions. He has to stay positive after dismal performances to keep up appearances, but he’s experienced enough to know he’s currently managing a side with no confidence, as well as little form, at either end of the pitch.
The next six weeks is a big test for a manager who has shown generous faith in players who haven’t performed well since the start of March.
The second-half at Rochdale on Saturday was worrying. The 90 minutes last night just added to that concern.
OTHER TALKING POINTS...
1) Ferguson finished his press conference last night by declaring he had a lot of thinking to do about selection for Saturday’s home game with Accrington Stanley (March 27). He’s said that before this season and the team hasn’t then changed. Ferguson was furious with his players after throwing away certain victory at Rochdale and yet the same starting line-up took to the field three days later. It’s not quite Einstein levels of insanity (‘doing the same things and expecting different results’), but it must be soul destroying for those players Ferguson might yet have to turn to. Clearly the manager is certain he knows his best 11 and he’s reluctant to budge from it no matter how much evidence to the contrary piles up. But in truth would Niall Mason, Harrison Burrows, Mo Eisa or Ricky-Jade Jones really improve thing? I suspect, apart from Burrows, the answer is no.
2) Is Posh midfielder Jack Taylor really so good the team can’t function without him? He was the only first-choice player missing last night and his reputation, which was already immense, is growing by the matchday. Taylor has missed the last six matches which have yielded five points and three of those arrived courtesy of playing Portsmouth at the perfect time. He was also absent from the dismal 2-0 defeat at Crewe in November and he went off in the first-half of the dreadful performance and loss at Shrewsbury in January. Certainly Ethan Hamilton, who stepped into Taylor’s shoes well until his senseless red card against Hull, has lost form. When he went off last night, Ferguson sent on a full-back and a wide left player which must have been galling for Louis Reed who did okay when Posh beat Pompey, but who hasn’t stepped onto the pitch since.
3) If Posh do fail this season the lack of transfer activity in January is bound to be raised by critics.
Blackpool were missing eight senior players last night and yet still fielded a slick, committed side, one good enough to win quite comfortably. Could you imagine a Posh side with eight senior players missing? It wouldn’t be a good one. Blackpool raised a few eyebrows in League One last summer with the sheer volume of signings they made. It’s turned out to be a masterstroke.
4) Posh goalkeeper Christy Pym’s form has crashed and burned. The mistakes are piling up and it could be his current struggles are affecting the rest of the defence. In three of the last four League One games Posh have let in three goals after not letting more than two goals in a game for the first 32 matches of the campaign. Pym has been at fault for crucial goals in five of the last seven matches and last night’s blunder was mishandling a corner which led to a penalty and Blackpool retaking the lead early in the second half. It sounds like Ferguson will keep faith in Pym this Saturday, but it could be his last chance.
5) Posh were no better at the other end of the pitch last night. Blackpool fielded a fourth-choice centre-back and a right back in the centre of their defence last night and yet Jonson Clarke-Harris and co could make no impact on proceedings. The top scorer has just a goal from a penalty to his name in the last six outings. Key men are losing form at just the wrong time.
6) I did note the ease with which Rochdale players reached the edge of the Posh penalty area on Saturday before usually firing high and wide. Blackpool top scorer Jerry Yates found himself in a smilar position in the 59th second last night and duly punished Posh with a fine strike. The ease with which Blackpool reached the Posh penalty area unchallenged last night was disturbing.
7) Bobby Madley lost his place on the Premier League refereeing list for non-football matters, but he won’t be returning there anytime soon judged on this performance. He didn’t even caution Pym for handling the ball outside the area in the clearest case of deliberate handball you could possibly see and he presumably should have sent Hamilton off after awarding a penalty against him for the same offence as he was behind the scrambling Pym at the time. Posh should have had a penalty late on which even the ethusiastically partisan iFollow commentators seemed to accept. Late on Madley insisted Posh retake a throw in deep in their own half even though they’d thrown the ball backwards. The very next throw in of the game a Blackpool player ‘stole’ at least 10 yards towards halfway and play just continued. Trivia I know, but it highlighted a maddeningly inconsistent performance.