'Better than expected'- A review of the first third of Peterborough United's 2023/24 season
According to Posh boss Darren Ferguson, his side has now entered the grind phase of the season, which runs through to February.
In his words, following defeat at Wigan: “The first third, you start the season with adrenaline, the pitches are lovely, the sun’s shining and everyone is up for the start of the season.
“The end of the season, spring comes and the pitches start to get better and the sun comes out.
“From here to February is the grind. We have to get as many points as we can, how we get them, I’m not bothered. Just get the points to take us into the last third with a chance, regardless of the performances.
With Posh now into the second third, the PT looks back the at first (first 16 league games) so the 5-0 demolition is not included.
In Posh’s first 16 league games, they won 8, drew 4 and lost 4; scoring 26 times and conceding 18, amassing 28 points to sit in 4th.
At the same point last season, Jonson Clarke-Harris had already helped himself to 11 league goals.
He still topped the first third charts this time around but on just four goals, joint with Kwame Poku and Ephron Mason-Clark.
In a season which began with expectations that Posh would be taking a step backwards to push on again the future, Posh exactly matched the points tally of the 2022/23 side; their 28 even came from 9 wins, 1 draw and 6 defeats.
Remarkably 22/23 Posh also sat fourth, having scored 31 and conceded 19. They trailed leaders Plymouth, while the current Posh side sat seven points back from Portsmouth.
So, remarkably similar.
THE TOP PERFORMERS
Ronnie Edwards has been class personified at the back for Posh, making the fact that no clubs from above forced through a move in the summer even more of a surprise.
Hector Kyprianou has also grown significantly as a player in an area where it was feared that Posh would be significantly weaker considering the losses of Jack Taylor and Ollie Norburn.
I’m not sure any Posh fan knew he had goals in his locker too but he sat just one behind the joint scorers on three and there were some classy first-time finishes in there too against Charlton and Barnsley.
It is harsh to dig out a 21-year-old keeper stepping into the number one shirt at a new club in the summer but in a season where Posh have played reasonably well for the large part, the one slight chink in the armour at the moment looks to be the goalkeeper.
On the whole, Nicholas Bilokapic’s shot-stopping has been good and his short distribution has benefitted Posh on more occasions than it has fans watching from in between their fingers, however, goals conceded where he should have done better that spring to mind are Northampton away, the opener at Portsmouth, of course both goals at Salford and the opener at Wigan, although his defence left him horribly exposed on that occasion.
I’m sure there were many fans who didn’t expect to see David Ajiboye again after he was farmed out on loan former side Sutton at the end of the last campaign, however, he has launched himself this season.
He impressed Darren Ferguson in training ahead of the play-offs, something he voluntarily chose to return for, and has now earned a place in the hearts of the Posh faithful.
Aji-Boom has put in some electric performances out wide with his almost old fashioned way of playing, staying out wide and using his pace; something very valuable to Posh now that Ricky-Jade Jones is preferred as a striker.
Where is the Ephron Mason-Clark of last season?
He has looked a shadow of his former self this season and at one point even lost his placed on the left wing to Jones. This started an ill fated run where he was tried as both a number ten and a centre forward to little success.
The stats say he scored nine regular season goals last campaign, compared to four so far but his impact on games has certainly diminished and the stars of Jones, Poku and Ajiboye have shone much brighter so far.
Posh showcased their best football of the season so far in one of their toughest matches away at Blackpool. For 60 minutes, Posh were excellent and, despite the wobble, to leave Bloomfield Road with four goals and three points was an impressive feat.
Another big away win came at Barnsley. After beating both Reading- we didn’t know how bad they would be then- and Charlton, we were starting to think, hang on how good actually is this new team? They provided quite an answer at Barnsley with a stunning ten minutes in which three more than deserved goals were slammed in to come from 1-0 down.
Seeing Posh fans come together for a fan-arranged minute’s applause in memory of Darren Ferguson’s late mother the 84th minute at home to Lincoln was heart-warming.
Losing to the Cobblers, enough said.
Throwing away an excellent chance to go deep in the League Cup by giving up a 2-1 lead against Mansfield, which led to Fergie’s extraordinary ‘bottlers’ rant. Posh would have played Exeter away for a place in the quarter final. What could have been…
Travelling all the way to Carlisle on a Tuesday night only to see a fluke deflection fly into the bottom corner in the final minute of the game.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
The first third should be classed as better than expected given the notable summer departures and the unproven nature of their replacements.
Posh have found their feet remarkably quickly and sit fourth despite a number of obvious areas for improvement i.e. game management, finding a consistent goalscorer, and shoring up the goalkeeper position.
Posh sit fourth in what is clearly a weakened league this year and have every reason to believe they can stay there if these issues are addressed and Ronnie Edwards is replaced!