Posh really should be planning for life in League One right now, but thanks to the financial misdeeds and subsequent points deductions of others they remain within striking distance of safety. Indeed win at Birmingham City on Tuesday (January 25) - a team they outclassed at London Road earlier this season - and they catch Reading up while retaining a game in hand.
It’s a remarkable reality really. Watching Posh on the last two weekends - and away from home all season - and you wonder how they could possibly win another game. They defended soundly at West Bromwich Albion yesterday, albeit a little desperately at times, and yet the trustworthy BBC registered a staggering 27 efforts on debutant Steven Benda’s goal to add to the 22 Coventry managed in the previous game. Given those numbers losing 4-1 to the Sky Blues and 3-0 at the Baggies actually suggests a team getting off lightly.
Add that to an attack of alarming impotence (no efforts on target and only one off target yesterday) and it’s a recipe for disaster, or at least relegation.
Posh fan James Mayley, an analytics expert, reports in the last two matches Posh had an XG (expected goals) against of 6.03 compared to 0.5 xG for. In layman’s terms that is about as uncompetitive as you can be as you are neither creating anything nor preventing scoring chances against you.
Stranger things have happened in football of course and maybe one win would lift the gloom and unlock hitherto unseen talents. That’s one massive ‘maybe’ though.
1) So what was the gameplan yesterday? Was 0-0 the height of Posh ambitions? It certainly looked that way which was disappointing. ‘Sacrificing how you want to play,’ was how Ferguson described a shift in Posh policy for this particular game. On the surface Posh should have no expectations at a team playing in the Premier League last season with all the financial benefits that brings, but West Brom are ponderous and predictable tactically and they played a high defensive line that could have been exploited by a more positive approach. The Baggies hadn’t won in four games. In that run they had failed to beat relegation haunted Barnsley and Cardiff City and yet they ended up swatting Posh aside by three goals.
2) Three centre-backs (even if two of them hadn’t played since November 24) made sense against a team who like to fling crosses into the opposition penalty area and generally Posh defended well for 79 minutes, but one doubts the formation will be repeated again as wins are required. Promotion chasing teams at this level will always create chances, but West Brom were restricted to two clearcut opportunities before they opened the scoring from a set-piece. The Baggies were ponderous in possession, but they had so much of the ball in so many good areas of the pitch it seemed inevitable they would score eventually. Posh couldn’t get out. Their wing-backs barely ventured beyond the halfway line. Simple passes went astray and the long hoof in the direction of Jonson Clarke-Harris rarely looked like paying off. Posh need speed as well as quality up top. Let’s hope new striker Callum Morton, who is available on Tuesday, turns out to be a world beater and that Jack Marriott’s body holds up.
3) Substitutions played a massive part in the game. Posh were done no favours by the departure of home striker Daryl Dike who missed chances and offered nothing in general play, but his replacement Grady Diangana was on a different level altogether. His movement immediately caused problems. He scored from one of two assists delivered by fellow replacement Callum Robinson. In contrast Posh lost composure at the back when teenager Ronnie Edwards was forced off. The introduction of Sammie Szmodics and Marriott were positive moves by Posh at 0-0, but they missed Jonson Clarke-Harris’s presence when defending corners and after he’d departed West Brom promptly opened the scoring from one.
4) One of the most damning aspects of this season is a complete failure to learn from mistakes. It’s been Groundhog Day with late goals conceded, set-piece goals conceded, goals conceded in clusters, losses inflicted by teams in poor form and the failure to force opposition goalkeepers into even a single save. All happened again yesterday.
5) Do Posh ever win a 50/50 challenge? On every occasion yesterday when the ball was contested in tight midfield areas a home player wandered away with the ball.
6) And so the Posh mini league now has just five teams, and two of them are only involved because they’ve had points taken off them for misdemeanours. Posh can forget Hull City who have moved 10 points clear of the relegation zone after back-to-back wins against two of the top three without conceding a goal. Posh could only dream of pulling off those sort of results. Other teams’ incompetence is keeping Posh in touch, but that won’t continue for ever. Posh have only ever had fewer points than 19 after the first 25 games of a second tier season once before. They had 18 in the 2009-10 season and finished on 34 points, 15 points from safety.
7) Posh were allowed four substitutes yesterday as Edwards departed with concussion. This meant West Brom were also allowed to use four substitutes even though they suffered no concussions.