Posh beat Bristol Rovers - currently the 18th best side in League Two - 2-1 in a third round FA Cup tie at the Weston Homes Stadium yesterday (January 8). They could have won 6-1 and considerably boosted morale and confidence, and yet they could also have drawn 3-3 and endured more disappointment in a season which has seen more than enough frustration and misery.
Posh boss Darren Ferguson seemed fed up in his post-match debrief. Ferguson is far from foolish enough to believe this display was a sign of better times ahead. He’s seen it all before. Posh were good enough to beat a struggling lower division side, but with a level of performance which would yield only a heavy beating in the Championship.
Posh hadn’t played for 21 days, but it was moot point yesterday as Rovers had seen no action in almost a month. Indeed missing this many chances, managing the latter stages of the game so poorly and defending with this much uncertainty was pretty worrying given the January fixtures Posh are about to encounter.
1) A weakened visiting side and a high defensive line gave Posh the opportunity to create numerous scoring chances which has hardly ever been the case in Championship matches this season. Ferguson picked the right forward partnership for the game with Sammie Szmodics replacing Jonson Clarke-Harris as Siriki Dembele’s partner and his mobility troubled the Rovers defence all afternoon. Szmodics opened the scoring thanks to his willingness to chase and played a big part in the winning goal. He was a man-of-the-match candidate thanks to his boundless energy, but it would still be a major surprise if Posh didn’t step up their search for a new forward this week. Szmodics missed a lot of chances in this game. Posh are creating so few chances in Championship matches they need a much more consistently ruthless goalscorer.
2) Callum Morton’s loan at Fleetwood Town ended yesterday leaving the 21 year-old free to move elsewhere. Posh are still to confirm or deny interest in the former Cobblers forward which suggests he is a target given how the chairman likes to shoot down inaccurate rumours/stories. Whether or not he’s good enough is another matter. His goalscoring record in the lower divisions suggests not, but then Dwight Gayle’s scoring record at Dagenham & Redbridge wasn’t great before he stepped up two divisions with Posh.
3) Whoever comes in to play up top, they will need better service from the current midfield. Oliver Norburn’s pass for the first goal was good and the passes of Joe Tomlinson and Dembele which forced decent saves from Nathan Thompson and Jorge Grant efforts were very good, but too often passes were overhit, underhit or simply inaccurate. Obvious passes out wide where Posh threatened all sorts of mayhem were not seen. Even Dembele didn’t correctly hit two simple passes to Szmodics which would have led to tap-in goals.
4) I’m seeing nothing to suggest Jack Taylor will be a hit at the tip of the midfield diamond. He’s not comfortable with his back to goal and he doesn’t see passes quickly enough. He’s not even shooting. Please play him on the right and give Jorge Grant a go at the tip, or even Dembele if Posh find another striker before next weekend.
5) New loan signing Bali Mumba has obvious quality and speed. His winning goal was brilliantly taken. He will definitely improve Posh as an attacking force even from full-back. It will be interesting how he copes defensively as he’s not the biggest and he was beaten a couple of times yesterday by a long ball over his head. He’s a most encouraging recruit though, but a handful of others are also required for Posh to have any hope of survival. It will also be interesting to see if Posh sign another full-back and then whether or not Nathan Thompson’s place comes under threat. Thompson is rightly popular with fans because of his obvious commitment to the cause and his ability in possession, but the midfield diamond exposes him defensively and he has developed a habit of chasing the ball inside and leaving space behind him on tyhe flank.
6) Posh hadn’t seen referee Andy Davies before this season even though he is a regular second tier official. To be fair his penalty decision against Posh didn’t look as bad when viewed on screen as it did live as goalkeeper Dai Cornell was still edging forward when colliding with Rovers forward Anthony Evans, but some of his other decisions were simply bizarre, including ruling out Rovers’ last-gasp goal. I struggled to see what the foul was. Posh may well have got away with one there.