Blackpool, who came up with Posh last season, hadn’t won for seven games, had lost their previous three and hadn’t scored in the last four. A win for Posh, and they even had the boost of an early goal, and they’d only be five points behind a team seemingly in freefall at the halfway point of the season.
Instead, to the surprise of no regular Posh traveller, the hosts hit back to win 3-1. They’d only scored three goals in their previous seven matches put together. They scored three here with only 40% possession including two in quick succession in the final stages of the contest. Blackpool also created a couple of great chances that went begging, while Posh overplayed and displayed a lack of quality as soon as they approached the home penalty area to ensure, just as at Preston, Sheffield United, Middlesbrough and Reading, they helped improve the mood of struggling teams.
If Posh can’t win at Blackpool in a game where the first goal should have been crucial where will they win? Barnsley on Easter Monday is the only possibility unless there is a big shift in performance level.
OTHER TALKING POINTS...
1) Posh played okay here, certainly by their own standards away from home. As Blackpool boss Neil Critchley said after the game the midfield diamond suits the Posh midfielders and they took control of possession in the second half, but unless a couple of forwards with pace as well as ability arrive to help Siriki Dembele the struggle looks set to continue. After his match-winning heroics off the bench in the previous match, and the general ineffectiveness of Sammie Szmodics, it was understandable manager went for Jonson Clarke-Harris to start this game up front, but he interrupts as many attacks as he enhances and lacks the mobility to either run in behind or get on the end of crosses. Jack Taylor ran past him to try and reach substitute Kwame Poku’s superb late cross when fatigue might well have been a factor.
2) Blackpool boss Critchley made two substitutions 20 minutes from time as his team struggled to make an impact in the second-half. Fresh legs enabled a better press and both players scored. Posh, for all their possession rarely looked like scoring and yet made just one substitution. Szmodics, Joe Ward and Joel Randall all offer something different and all can run and close down defenders which, on an iffy playing surface, would surely have created more problems for the home defence. Posh were outshot 15-9 and only two efforts were on target, the goal and a Taylor header in the 95th and final minute. A regular grumble this season.
3) The diamond should stay, but it’s certainly an option to switch the positions of Taylor and Jorge Grant. Taylor doesn’t appear to enjoy playing with his back to goal at the tip of the formation and his passing was generally poor yesterday. His athleticism might serve him and the team better on the right with Grant’s superior technical and passing ability more use closer to the opposition goal.
4) A 1-1 draw would have been a satisfactory return. It would have maintained momentum from the previous weekend and as it happens it would have closed the gap on Hull (still the team most likely to be caught by Posh) to three points. Blackpool’s second goal four minutes from time started with a very fortunate deflection into the path of Keshi Anderson before Sonny Carey sidefooted home his first senior goal, but where was the marking? Who was tracking the runner? Who was close enough to block the shot? It was a late mental collapse compounded inevitably by a dreadful loss of possession in a dangerous area for the third goal. The Posh full-backs were regularly exposed by a 4-4-2 formation. The ball gets passed beyond Nathan Thompson too often, while Joe Tomlinson is a player learning his trade at a brutal level and found Everton loanee Josh Bowler a real handful in the first-half. Centre-backs Josh Knight and Ronnie Edwards passed the ball very well yesterday - the former’s through ball for Dembele’s goal was a beauty - but ugly defending is also a necessity as is the composure to see a game out.
5) Posh will leave the bottom three if they beat Reading at home on Boxing Day, if that game takes place of course. A delay would be good and bad for Posh. They have two games against bottom-half teams left this year (they are due to travel to Birmingham on December 29) before embarking on a horrendous January programme so they should be keen to play them. On the other hand if new signings are arriving to freshen up and strengthen the squad in January it would be two extra games they could play in. On balance Posh should probably do all they can to carry on.