Peterborough United must win these individual battles to beat Portsmouth

Peterborough United players must win soome big personal battles if they are to beat Portsmouth in their big League One promotion battle at the Weston Homes Stadium on Saturday (March 7).
Ivan ToneyIvan Toney
Ivan Toney

The Peterborough Telegraph has picked out three important clashes.

IVAN TONEY v SEAN RAGGETT

The return of ‘Superman’ (aka Ivan Toney) is a blessed relief as Posh picked up just one point from the two games he’s just missed through suspension.

Mark BeeversMark Beevers
Mark Beevers
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He is the best player in League One, never mind the best striker, and if he is refreshed rather than rusty he is the most likely match-winner on either side.

There’s not a lot Toney can’t do. He wins headers, he’s technically good, he brings others into play and he can finish from any distance with head or foot.

His battle with Pompey defender Christian Burgess, a player who appears to have improved considerably since his Posh days, was eagerly anticipated, but the centre-back picked up his 10th League One booking of the season last time out and is now suspended for two matches.

Pompey are sure to be well organised defensively by knowledgable manager Kenny Jackett and he is likely to ask on-loan Norwich defender Sean Raggett to step up and keep an eye on League One’s top scorer. Raggett is a big powerful man and is sure to make life hard for Toney.

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It will be an interesting battle in the Posh penalty area as well. Raggett will be a big threat at set-pieces and Toney is the best defender of them in the Posh squad.

NATHAN THOMPSON v RONAN CURTIS

To the less experienced eye this ought to be a mismatch. Pompey winger Ronan Curtis has speed and flair, characteristics Posh defender Nathan Thompson doesn’t have.

But Thompson did a decent job on the gifted Irishman in the first game at Fratton Park in December, although he tested the patience of the referee that day before collecting his inevitable caution.

Thompson played as an orthodox right-back that day, but is expected to be the on the right of a back three on Saturday which might make his job harder as he won’t be able to get close to Curtis when the winger receives the ball.

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Thompson will need help from wing-back Joe Ward whose speed is unquestionably a defensive asset, but whose positional play can be suspect.

Posh will hope Curtis has to keep an eye on Ward for long periods rather than the other way around, but Pompey will doubtless sit deep anyway and play on the break.

Thompson is savvy enough to overcome a speed disadvantage and, as a former Pompey player, he knows Curtis well. One extra problem for Thompson and Ward is the on-loan arrival at Pompey of left-sided defender Steve Seddon. He is a terrific attacking player so the battle on this side of the pitch will be fascinating.

MARK BEEVERS v JOHN MARQUIS

It’s fair to say Portsmouth haven’t seen the goalscoring return they could reasonably have expected from summer signing John Marquis (the same could be said of Mark Beevers at Posh). Marquis has just 11 League One goals after hitting 22 for a gifted Doncaster side last season.

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But, rather surprisingly, Marquis has often been played in a slighty deeper role behind another less naturally talented striker, usually Ellis Harrison.

Marquis is tipped to play right up top on Saturday which means skipper Beevers will have to be on his game. Marquis won’t win the aerial battle, but he will drift into postions that could make Beevers uncomfortable as he waits for the usually excellent delivery from Curtis or Seddon.

Beevers has not convinced every Posh fan of his worth this season, but he’s certainly more comfortable since manager Darren Ferguson switched to three at the back and plonked his captain right in the middle.

Beevers has a huge role to play until the end of the season. He’s the one player in the squad who has won promotion from League One before. His experience and calmness needs to rub off on others if Posh are to fulfil their ambition of a return to the Championship.