Peterborough United talking points: ‘One complete performance all season, Clarke-Harris was missed more in his own penalty area, poor decision-making, a risible refereeing decision, Dembele needs to be greedier and will Beevers replace Edwards?’

Almost a quarter of the Championship season has passed and Peterborough United are sinking towards the bottom of the table because they cannot get things right at both ends of the field in the same game.

By Alan Swann
Sunday, 3rd October 2021, 6:31 am
Updated Sunday, 3rd October 2021, 6:54 am
Nathan Thompson of Peterborough United is tackled by Joe Williams of Bristol City. Photo: Joe Dent/
Nathan Thompson of Peterborough United is tackled by Joe Williams of Bristol City. Photo: Joe Dent/

Only in the 3-0 home win over Birmingham City last month did Posh look a constant threat going forward, while also looking rock solid at the back.

The last two home games have typified the Posh season so far. They were defensively strong, but powderpuff in attack while holding leaders Bournemouth to a 0-0 draw on Tuesday. Four days later they were full of aggressive attacking intent against Bristol City, but horribly vulnerable defensively in slipping to a 3-2 defeat.

Statistics don’t always deliver a true picture of a game, but they did yesterday (October 2). Posh enjoyed 59% possession, but managed just three efforts on target (including two goals), two from outside the penalty area. City did much more with far less. In a game Posh dominated for long spells, goalkeeper Dai Cornell was still one of their better players such was the accuracy and penetration of the visiting forward players. They mustered 16 shots, six on target and looked like they would create a chance every time they ventured forward.

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Oliver Norburn of Peterborough United battles with Matthew James of Bristol City. Photo: Joe Dent/

Posh played with enough passion and desire to claim victory would have been deserved, but unless they find a quick remedy to their failings in both penalty areas it could be a long and painful season.


1) Absent striker Jonson Clarke-Harris was missed in both penalty areas (arguably more so in his own box), but not missed at all anywhere else on the pitch. Without him Posh strung passes together at a much greater tempo to create numerous outstanding crossing positions, but unfortunately, without a physical presence to attract the attention of defenders and attackers, they were forced to try and ‘thread the needle’ on the floor with their final ball from out wide and they couldn’t quite pull it off despite several close calls. Clarke-Harris won’t play in the next three matches and it will be interesting to see if Posh can use greater mobility to cause more problems away from home when there could be more space to exploit. They might be better served playing Sammie Szmodics further forward than Siriki Dembele next time out. Dembele needs space in front of him to show his best.

2) The Posh decision-making when attacking has been poor too often this season. How many times, even when under the cosh against top sides like West Brom and Bournemouth, have they wasted great attacking positions with weak, or just downright wrong, passes? It happened regularly yesterday. Posh often want to pass when they should shoot, most obviously when substitute Idris Kanu burst into the penalty area 10 minutes from time and instead of hammering the ball goalwards he tried a pass to a non-existent teammate. Szmodics showed what can happen when you take a punt from outside the area with his glorious first goal, but Posh ignored plenty of other opportunities to let fly which is negligent when you have quality strikers of the ball like Jack Taylor and Dembele in your squad. It used to be popular to berate Dembele’s selfishness in possession, but now he is the likeliest route to a goal by some distance. maybe he should become greedier again.

3) Posh are currently so reliant on their home form, a defeat like this one feels particularly painful. Posh were again very competitive, urged on by some terrific support, but they won’t climb away from trouble unles they can show the same character away from home.

4) It’s a small sample admittedly, but David Coote’s rise to the rank of Premier League referee has baffled regular Posh watchers. One can only assume he was given a low-key Championship match yesterday as he’s not been performing well in the top-flight. He wasn’t particularly bad here, but his decision to caution Dembele late in this game for a foul for a challenge on the goalkeeper was risible. There seems to be an instruction this season for referees to check how seriously a player is injured before showing a card and visiting goalkeeper Dan Bentley certainly milked his moment. As for the lack of a late penalty decision when Harrison Burrows went down in the area, on first viewing it just looked like a 50/50 call which went againt Posh.

5) Will the strength of teenage star Ronnie Edwards become a weakness? Edwards, who is not the quickest, has been pressed strongly in the last couple of games as his love of playing out from the back no matter what the circumstances is seen as something to exploit, and one sloppy loss of possession almost led to a first-half City goal. Posh have now let in more than two goals per game (23 in 11 games) and four more than any other Championship team which is a recipe for disaster. Captaon Mark Beevers will return for the next game at Middlesbrough and it will be interesting to see who he replaces.

6) Posh set-piece play at both ends of the pitch remains poor. It’s a small team so innovation is required rather than a hopeful cross into the penalty area.