COMMENT: Foolish footballers, unlucky to find a ref willing to apply the laws properly, set-piece play is awful at both ends, don’t overlook an excellent first-half display and Posh are still top on PPG so things could be a lot worse!
Footballers can be very foolish.
They are capable of making rash decisions which have dreadful consequences as Posh midfielder Ethan Hamilton proved in last night’s top-of-the-table clash with Hull City at the Weston Homes Stadium (March 9).
Just what Hamilton was thinking when he decided to leave the ground to try and win the ball from Hull full-back Lewie Coyle would test Sherlock Holmes’ powers of deduction. Hamilton was already on a yellow card, the ball was in an innocent part of the pitch and Posh were palpably the better side, although not in front.
In one reckless act the night was transformed. Referee John Busby, who was excellent throughout, took his time before brandishing a deserved second yellow card and Hull ended up strolling to a 3-1 victory.
On another day Hamilton might have avoided his first yellow card in the 15th minute as not all referees punish a player’s first foul early in the game, but the only misfortune Posh could really claim was finding themselves, unusually for League One, with an official willing to apply the laws of the game properly.
Those of us who watched a Posh side’s hopeless hour-long attempts to score past nine men at MK Dons a few years back when Grant McCann was manager hadn’t quite given up hope at the interval, but the Tigers boss had better players on the pitch this time and they ruthlessly killed the game off within 15 minutes of the second-half.
As he should, Ferguson held back from condemning Hamilton publicly, but the former Manchester United man ruined two and a half very promising personal appearances with one moment of madness.
OTHER TALKING POINTS FROM LAST NIGHT...
1) Hamilton’s red card has bigger ramifications. Posh have already lost their best central midfielder in Jack Taylor for several more weeks and now his impressive understudy won’t be available for the key home game with Portsmouth next Tuesday (March 16). One assumes Louis Reed will step up, but as defender Niall Mason was sent on ahead of him for the second half last night, his confidence and self-worth can’t be high. Ferguson’s presumably wanted a ball-winning player in the middle, but Mason’s limited passing range couldn’t help Posh get out of their own half, a fact that didn’t alter until they were two goals behind.
2) The final scoreline was a disappointment, but an outstanding start to the game shouldn’t be overlooked. Posh were rampant in the opening quarter and very good in the first half as a whole and, given the standard of the opposition, it was the best Ferguson’s side have looked for some time. The formation switch back to three centre-backs with wing-backs worked a treat as Posh found plenty of space out wide and the front three of Jonson Clarke-Harris, Siriki Dembele and Sammie Szmodics looked a massive handful for an unconvincing backline. Hull were impotent apart from the excellence of George Honeyman’s set-pieces, one of which led to an undeserved equaliser. Hamilton’s red card changed things instantly though. Szmodics was understandably sacrificed, but Posh offered very little going forward without him. Posh lost their boldness, Dembele stopped running at defenders and, despite plenty of effort, the attacking threat disappeared altogether leaving Hull to coast through the second-half.
3) Set-piece misery is a recurring theme, at both ends of the pitch. The first Posh corner of the game was a good one that found Nathan Thompson unmarked at the far post, but the rest were all met by Hull heads or a goalkeeper’s hands, or were horribly overhit. When down to 10 men set plays became even more important and Posh did have a few in a handful of promising positions, but the delivery was always awful. Ferguson was also disappointed to concede to a free-kick when Hull centre-back Reece Burke got between Posh defenders Mark Beevers and Nathan Thompson to loop a header over Christy Pym.
4) A Posh defence that had looked rock solid throughout February has now conceded five goals in two matches. A poor piece of goalkeeping and a set-piece did for Posh at Burton and last night a set-piece and a penalty were conceded. Kent was a little unlucky intially with the penalty as he slipped after making an interception, but his attempt at a recovery tackle was rash. Given the firepower at his disposal, Ferguson believes clean sheets are the key to a Posh promotion so an instant return to form at the back is essential
5) Key unavailabilities can’t be used as an excuse by Posh, as much as they will miss Taylor and Hamilton. Third-placed Lincoln have picked up four points from two tricky matches without their best two players (Jorge Grant & Liam Bridcutt), while fourth-placed Sunderland have been winning games and keeping clean sheets despite a defensive injury crisis.
6) Obviously it wasn’t a title decider last night, but it was undoubtedly one of the key matches of the League One season. A draw would have been a decent result, but despite a beating, Posh are still in terrific shape. They are still top on PPG for a start! Hull are arguably in better shape though. Grant McCann’s men now only have one midweek game left this season which is a real advantage on the rest of the division. Posh have four Tuesday matches still to play putting more stress and strain on tired bodies. But, while Posh don’t play on Saturday, Hull are at home to Oxford which is no gimmee. A draw would leave Hull four points ahead of Posh who would have three matches in hand ahead of their next game at home to Pompey. Posh should expect to drop out of the automatic promotion places on Saturday as Lincoln host rock-bottom Rochdale, but clearly there is much to play for, although the sight of rapidly-approaching Sunderland in the rear view mirror is a concern. Sunderland are not in League One action again until visiting Accrington next Wednesday (March 17).