Have Peterborough United been rumbled? Can the strikers keep carrying the rest of the team? Questions manager Darren Ferguson must be pondering
One cold statistic summed up Peterborough United’s day at Bloomfield Road (November 2) where hosts Blackpool had three shots on target and yet scored four goals.
Lord only knows what the Posh fab three up top thought about it. They all scored again - despite pretty ropey levels of service - and yet they finished on the losing side of a 4-3 scoreline. Mo Eisa, Ivan Toney and Marcus Maddison have now scored more goals between them (33) than any other TEAM in the top four divisions bar Manchester City, but Posh fans would probably have left the game yesterday concerned about what is becoming a traditional slump in form and fortunes as soon as the clocks are wound back.
Manager Darren Ferguson admitted before the game that his team’s weaknesses - presumably he meant a fragile centre-back pairing, an inability to keep the ball effectively and no width - would be common knowledge around the circuit and sure enough Blackpool overcame availability issues at the back to play effectively with wing-backs, while leaving giant striker Armand Gnaduillet to cause havoc up front.
The hosts still offered enough evidence as to why they often find goalscoring hard. Shots from good positions sailed wide and Gnanduillet’s heading accuracy was dreadful, but Posh helped them out with two avoidable own goals from Niall Mason and Dan Butler, while rookie referee James Oldham, a man apparently swimming way out of his depth, awarded them a most generous penalty at a key moment right at the start of the second-half and just two playing minutes after Toney had headed Posh level at 2-2 from a suspiciously offside-looking position.
Oldham’s approach to simple foul detection and what constituted a cautionable offence was random throughout. He could easily have sent home midfielder Jay Spearing off for an awful lunge at Butler in the first-half and Posh irritability levels towards him on the pitch and in the dugout area rose as the game progressed.
Ferguson understandably bashed Oldham after the game as the official also disallowed a Toney ‘goal’ in the second-half for handball when a chest was reportedly used, but he correctly dumped most of the blame for a second loss in 14 League One matches on players who conceded one goal by letting a long goal-kick bounce in a dangerous area and another from their own corner. Goalkeeper Christy Pym’s flap at a harmless driven cross from the left helped Pool score their other goal.
Posh never actually played with much fluency going forward, but Eisa shot them in front with a loopy effort from inside the area, Toney netted with a close range header following a fine Butler cross and Maddison struck from the penalty spot after a clumsy attempt to yank Mark Beevers’ shirt from his back. It’s a concern that centre-back Beevers was more effective as a late striker than he was at the back. It was the captain’s header in added time that fell kindly for Eisa inside the area late on, but the 12-goal striker couldn’t find a last-gasp leveller for the second successive Saturday.
It’s likely Eisa and co won’t be able to carry the rest of the side for an entire season - Posh have conceded more goals than any other team in the top half of the table as well as four teams in the bottom half - so Ferguson has some serious thinking to do before a Bonfire Night game in Shrewsbury.
It wouldn’t be the greatest surprise to see a switch to three centre-backs and wing-backs for that game.
Posh: Christy Pym, NIall Mason (sub Siriki Dembele, 65 mins), Dan Butler, Frankie Kent, Mark Beevers, Louis Reed, Josh Knight, George Boyd (sub Serhat Tasdemir, 85 mins), Marcus Maddison, Ivan Toney, Mo Eisa.
Unused substitutes: Aaron Chapman, Nathan Thompson, Joe Ward, Idris Kanu, Rhys Bennett..
Blackpool: Jak Alnwick, Ryan Edwards, Ben Heneghan, James Husband, Callum MacDonald, Jay Spearing, Matty Virtue (sub Callum Guy, 80 mins), Armand Gnaduillet (sub Joe Nuttall, 89 mins), Liam Feeney (sub Ollie Turton, 82 mins), Sullay Kaikai.
Unused substitutes: Jack Sims, Rocky Bushiri, Ryan Hardie, Sean Scannell..
Goals: Posh - Eisa (13 mins), Toney (45 mins), Maddison (pen, 71 mins).
Blackpool - Mason (og, 28 mins), Gnanduillet (42 mins & pen, 47 mins), Butler (og, 74 mins).
Cautions: Posh - Butler (foul).
Blackpool - Husband (foul), Spearing (foul).
Referee: James Oldham 4
Attendance: 7,619 (402 Posh).