Peterborough United were outplayed, outthought and outmuscled in the Land of the Giants, but there was a positive to be found amidst unremitting dross

Peterborough were outplayed, outthought and outmuscled by Rotherham United yesterday (December 29), but there’s always a positive to be found, even in the midst of such unremitting dross.

Monday, 30th December 2019, 6:00 am
Updated Monday, 30th December 2019, 6:17 am
Alex Woodyard of Peterborough United tackles Michael Smith and Matt Crooks of Rotherham United. Photo: Joe Dent/theposh.com.

If Posh were hesitating about January signings, and if they really are serious about promotion, back-to-back heavy festive defeats would surely have convinced them of the need to send for the cavalry. As an added bonus potential suitors weighing up bids for Ivan Toney and Marcus Maddison might now be tempted to keep their wallets closed.

Posh haven’t scored for three games now. Toney has looked ordinary as the service to him has dried up, a fact probably not unconnected to Maddison’s weak constitution which kept him away from the 4-0 bashing at Rotherham yesterday (December 29).

What those two and Mo Eisa achieved for the first few months of the season now looks quite extraordinary. How did they keep scoring in a team which can find stringing passes together so difficult? The Posh midfield was pressed relentlessly from the first kick-off and simply could not function under pressure.

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Frankie Kent of Peterborough United is sent off by the match referee Andy Haines. Photo: Joe Dent/theposh.com.

A depleted Posh side was always going to find life hard in the Land of the Giants (Rotherham are a team of powerful players of six foot and more), but their feeble capitulation in the second-half was still rather dispiriting. The 3-0 home reverse at home to Doncaster on Boxing Day was a freaky scoreline and so was this one as a few more goals wouldn’t have flattered the Millers such was their all-round dominance.

Posh boss Darren Ferguson could be heard verbally flaying his players at half-time and his team were still level then. His language at the end of the game was even fruitier after a four-goal second half which also also saw a red card for Posh defender Frankie Kent for two justifiable yellow cards in five minutes. Home defender Joe Mattock was also dismissed later on for for an act of barely credible stupidity as he appeared to stick the nut on Toney, but Rotherham added two more goals after that.

Three of the Rotherham goals arrived from set-pieces, a source of continual irritation for Posh who rarely threaten from a corner. Two of the home goals were scored by Posh players, Dan Butler and Joe Ward, just to compound the misery in the visiting dressing room. Ward had been sent on at half-time for Harrison Burrows as Ferguson belatedly realised the most physical team in League One was no place for a pair of 17 year-olds. Ricky-Jade Jones also started, but the service to him, Toney and George Boyd in Maddison’s number 10 role, was pitiful all afternoon.

Quite why Ferguson returned to a midfield diamond rather than sticking with the 3-4-1--2 formation which had helped grind out a 0-0 draw in their previous away outing was a question that went unasked after the game, but the decision looked optimistic before the game and certainly when catching an eyeful of the sheer size of the home line-up. Instead of being joined by returning captain Mark Beevers, Rhys Bennett was dropped to the bench when his height alone might have made some difference.

George Boyd of Peterborough United shouts in frustration as Rotherham United celebrate scoring their fourth goal. Photo: Joe Dent/theposh.com.

Ferguson wanted his side to pass the ball around the Rotherham ranks, but ball retention is hardly a strength of Alex Woodyard and, currently, of Harrison Burrows whereas Louis Reed has morphed from Michael Platini to Fabian Delph inside a fortnight.

Ah well at least Posh chairman Darragh MacAnthony seemed to recognise the need for new blood after the game. His Twitter time-line after a Posh defeat should carry an XXX rating as well as a Government health warning.

It’s very possible that Posh could slump from an automatic promotion place to place among the also-rans in three matches unless a dramatic improvement is seen at Lincoln City on New Year’s Day.