PETERBOROUGH UNITED TALKING POINTS: ‘The team everyone wants to play, mentally weak and making the same mistakes, crucial turning points and why history is already against Posh’
Posh graciously kick-started the seasons of Preston North End and Sheffield United before last night (September 14) and now they’ve given a Reading team with a crippling injury list a major boost. It was a donation as well. More self-inflicted wounds in what already looks like a long, grim battle against relegation.
After watching two nervous teams create very little between them for an hour it came as a major surprise they managed to score four times, even with, statistically speaking, the worst two defences in the division on the pitch. That Posh eventually conceded three of them, including two in quick succession, was however entirely predictable.
Of course Posh have endured worse starts and rallied impressively. The last time they played at Championship level in the 2012-13 season they lost their first seven matches, but is there a Lee Tomlin, Grant McCann or Dwight Gayle in the current squad, players capable of having a big influence on the toughest matches?
And that team were still relegated, albeit in cruel fashion, as has every Posh team to start slowly in the second tier.
Posh won two of their first 10 matches in 1993-94 and they didn’t win any of their first eight matches in 2009-10 and ultimately returned to League One. Of course it would be foolish to write off a squad that has seen a fair few injuries themselves, but history is already against them.
OTHER TALKING POINTS FROM A 3-1 defeat at Reading...
1) This was a more demoralising defeat than the 6-2 drubbing at Sheffield United on Saturday. The Blades looked sharp. They had quality players on view and they won’t be slopping around near the bottom of the Championship for long. Posh shouldn’t really be expecting to beat them. But Reading were timid, lacking in ideas and looked as though they were as keen to avoid defeat as they were to win until they took the lead and Posh caved in. The absence of many of their better players gave Reading an excuse though. Posh tried to play on the front foot and enjoyed plenty of the ball (52% possession over 90 minutes) but the pace of play was too slow and the quality of final ball too inaccurate to unsettle a team leaking goals for fun and who lost a centre-back to injury on the stroke of half-time. This was the perfect time to play Reading and Posh blew it because of their own shortcomings including what appears to be a collective mental weakness as much as two quality strikes from home players.
2) Every game has a turning point and there was a big one just before the break. Oliver Norburn’s superb volley from 20 yards appeared destined for the top corner of the Reading net until back-up goalkeeper Luke Southwood appeared to fingertip it over the crossbar. It was a wonderful save and one with massive consequences. A goal then would have filled Posh with confidence and presumably deflated the equally out-of-form hosts.
3) Goals change games so turning point number two was the failure of Jonson Clarke-Harris to execute a simple pass from inside his own half just after the hour mark. His desire to make amends led to a 25 yard free kick for Reading which Championship top scorer John Swift promptly despatched with style. Three minutes later it was 2-0 and effectively game over. There is a lot to admire about the attitude and spirit of Clarke-Harris, but he’s not great technically and not a player you want to see receiving the ball in his own half as he loses possession too easily.
4) It was a surprise to see Posh line-up in a 4-4-2 formation. It’s not one manager Darren Ferguson has employed very often, but it worked well enough. Defensively they were solid (the second Reading goal was the only time a defence was unpicked all night) and fielding two forwards was a positive plan against struggling opponents. The midfield pair of Conor Coventry and Norburn combined effectively, although the tempo of the passing picked up noticably when Jack Taylor replaced Coventry. Taylor’s failure to start a single match this season has been a major contributing factor in a poor start.
5) It never looked like a vintage League One last season and tellingly the three promoted teams now occupy three of the bottom four places in the Championship. Champions Hull haven’t even managed to score a goal since thumping Preston away from home on the opening day of the season. They must be pleased to have a home match against Posh next month. Posh will go bottom if Nottingham Forest beat Middelesbrough at the City Ground tonight (Wednesday).
6) Ronnie Edwards was the best player on the pitch last night. He is unafraid to accept the ball under pressure because he has confidence in his ability to work in tight spaces and still find a teammate with a positive pass. He might struggle defensively against the more physically imposing teams (and Birmingham are next up at London Road), but boy he’s a super-cool and confident player.
7) Runs like Posh are on (four defeats in a row) often end when you least expect it. Posh ended that seven-game losing streak at the start of a season eight years ago with a 3-1 win at table-topping Hull City when Emile Sinclair was the unlikely hat-trick hero. Maybe we should keep the faith for a bit longer.