COMMENT: Why Luton Town are a problem for Peterborough United complaints, deadly loan signings killing Posh, substitution delays and a decisive week ahead for survival chances
Posh officials have swapped summer sayings ‘trust the process (chairman),’ ‘thrive, not just survive (manager and chairman),’ and ‘we’ll never have a better chance of staying up (director of football),’ to many mentions of uncompetitive budgets in recent weeks as relegation from the Championship continues to loom large.
That’s fair comment of coursee. The gulf in financial weight can make the Championship lop-sided in a competitive sense.
But Luton shop in the same player market as Posh. They have a lower average attendance in the Championship than Posh this season. In the Hatters squad, which until yesterday was seventh in the division, are players signed from Morecambe, Accrington Stanley, Walsall, and even the Scottish Premier League.
Success in the second tier is not just about money - obviously it helps - but those without it need expert recruitment, coaching, management and organisation.
Coventry City and Blackpool are other teams excelling in relation to their monetary muscle this season whereas Posh still have a decent chance of staying up almost entirely because of the financial misdemeanours and off field shenanigans of less well run clubs.
Talking points from Posh 0, Preston North End 1...
1) The loan market is even more vital than ever in Covid times and here Posh are at a significant disadvantage when it comes to competing with the bigger, richer Championship clubs. A cracking winning goal from on-loan Aston Villa striker Cameron Archer for Preston North End was enough to deliver a Championship victory at the Weston Homes Stadium yesterday (February 12), while the on-loan Posh forward, Callum Morton, sat unused on the substitutes’ bench. Posh tried to sign Archer before he ended up at Deepdale. Finances would have played a part no doubt. Posh were also undone by the quality of Cardiff City’s loan players last Wednesday, but there was promise from their own borrowed players yesterday. Reece Brown was good and Hayden Coulson looked sharp. Bali Mumba needs to play on the right though, but Nathan Thompson was excellent in that position against Preston. One suspects Mumba and Coulson were brought in to play as wing-backs, but Posh are unlikely to deploy that formation until Mark Beevers is fit again.
2) Substitute use is a key management skill these days. Preston improved when Ched Evans replaced ineffective top scorer Emil Riss-Jacobsen midway through the second half and Scott Sinclair was sent on as a wing-back in a most positive move by visiting boss Ryan Lowe. Accepting Coulson is far from fully match-fit it was understandable Mumba came on for him, but Posh had forward players galore on the bench and didn’t employ any of them until falling behind. Posh hadn’t created anything in the previous 20 minutes (a 30 yard free kick from Joe Ward that smashed into the crossbar wasn’t really a chance as such) so fresh legs could well have made a difference. Jonson Clarke-Harris did a reasonable job yesterday, but Morton could probably have done something similar, and at a far greater pace.
3) The result always colours opinion. If Kwame Poke had managed to convert from close range, Ward’s free-kick had been an inch lower, or Ward’s shot after a fine one-two with Jeando Fuchs hadn’t been well saved, Posh might well have won and manager Darren Ferguson would have seen his tactics lauded. Instead accusations of negativity cried out post-match. The only different starting selection to give a more positive slant to his approach would have been Jorge Grant for one of the three midfielders and he has struggled badly this season. Sammie Szmodics and Jack Marriott are not exactly demanding inclusion ahead of Kwame Poke on any obvious evidence from this season. A fit Jack Taylor would have suited the system yesterday. Posh had many shooting chances from around 20 yards, but no-one with the confidence to have a go.
4) Sadly it will be very hard to dominate teams with the players at the manager’s disposal. There is very little flair or defence-splitting passing ability in the squad, now that Siriki Dembele has left to score 95th minute winners for promotion chasers, which can negate the pace of Morton, Ricky-Jade Jones and Marriott. Staying in games and hoping for a break might be the best option as frustrating as that can seem for a club with a strong recent reputation for attacking football.
5) Posh won an early corner yesterday. The wind was swirling so a chance to test a goalkeeper with an inswinger? Nope. Posh took it short and ended up dropping the ball in the sidenetting. Posh did at least defend the set-pieces better.
6) And yet, incredibly, survival remains in Posh’s own hands. It’s important it still is this time next week after games against Reading and Derby County. If Posh are still in the bottom three at 5pm next Saturday that could be game over.