POSH TALKING POINTS: Eight years to climb the mountain, six months to fall back down, Ferguson’s poor Championship numbers, suspect formations, horrible errors, one class player and only four certain starters for the big game
It was an eight year slog to get Peterborough United back to the Championship.
Six months later and some must be wondering whether or not it was worth the effort, or the sweat, the pain, the tears, or the disappointments along the way. Elation at finally climbing the mountain has quickly been replaced by trepidation. Optimism has been replaced a severe dose of realism. Hope has been replaced by fear.
Following Posh on the road this season is an act of self-harm, an excercise in masochism. After last night’s 4-0 drubbing at Blackburn Rovers, 10 away games have yielded just one fortunate win (against a poor Hull City side who have now won three on the spin) and nine mostly well deserved defeats. Posh have scored five goals and failed to score at all in seven of the matches. They’ve conceded 28 goals, the most in the division by 10!
To think there are Posh fans who have experienced every minute of this torture while also navigating the hell on earth that is English roads after nightfall. They are heroes (or fools), one and all, and they have yet to turn on either the manager or his players. That might change of course if this Saturday’s home game against the only team with a worse playing record than Posh this season, Barnsley, doesn’t go well.
OTHER TALKING POINTS FROM LAST NIGHT.
1) The recruitment question is not going to go away. Some have already stopped trusting the process, but another issue is the failure to root out those League One promotion winners who were likely to find the Chanpionship too tough. Extended contracts were handed out to virtually an entire squad which was an unecessary reward on top of some generous contractual bonus payments. Loyalty is great, but a more ruthless approach should perhaps have been adopted. Posh boss Darren Ferguson has done it in the past most notably when axing fans’ favourite and decent all-round player Charlie Lee straight after the Old Trafford play-off win in 2011. Christy Pym, Dan Butler, Mark Beevers and Frankie Kent were among those to sign longer deals in the summer and all have disappointed this season.
2) Even those players some might have expected to take the step up in their stride like Jack Taylor, Jonson Clarke-Harris and Sammie Szmodics have not shown their best form in a season that is just four matches from the halfway point. Was the gulf in standard between League One and the Championship seriously underestimated by the powers that be?
3) Darren Ferguson’s record as Posh manager in Championship matches reads: P127 W34 D28 L65. He’s lost almost twice as many games as he’s won in the second tier. He has a win percentage of 26.8. He’d be the first to admit he should have done better. It’s doubtful he’s become complacent because he was described as ‘bullet proof’ by the club’s ownership recently and by the award of a new three and a half year contract earlier this month. Like his players, he needs to step up though. As he said in his post-match press conference last night it’s his job to sort the current problems out before it’s too late.
4) The decision to start with three centre-backs again last night was baffling. The Beevers/Butler axis on the left is seen as vulnerable by opponents and they are right. The failure to change the formation for the entire 90 minutes was also baffling and the sign of a stubborn streak in the manager. No part of the Posh team was functioning last night. Changing players made no difference, changing the formation might have done. We’ll never know for sure, but it was surely worth a go. Posh were excellent playing a flat back four against Fulham, the best team in the Championship, on November 6, but that formation hasn’t been seen since.
5) But Ferguson couldn’t be expected to legislate for the horrific individual errors that led to all four Blackburn goals. That’s down to the players concerned: Kent (and whoever was responsible for giving the crosser too much time to deliver the ball), the normally reliable Nathan Thompson, whoever was supposed to be marking Darragh Lenihan and Oliver Norburn. Those errors were caused by poor individual skills and a lack of awareness not a suspect formation.
6) Siriki Dembele must tear his hair out after a game. Virtually every moment, no matter how fleeting, of invention or creativity Posh deliver usually has the gifted forward at its heart. He started the only positive attacking move of the first-half with a delicious pass inside a full-back to Joe Ward and he set up gilt-edged opportunities after the break for Szmodics and Clarke-Harris with passes of great quality and perfect weight, neither of which were taken. Dembele is also the most likely to finish a chance. He would be forgiven if he started passing less, and dribbling and shooting more. In fact that would be desirable.
7) Posh team selection for the Barnsley game could be telling. Ferguson stated after the game last night the second half was an audition to find fighters and strong characters. Dai Cornell, Thompson, Norburn (he had a sickness excuse last night) and Dembele might be the only certain starters.