Positives for Peterborough United were hard to find

There are usually positives if you look hard enough. You might also find an excuse or two, even after a drubbing of the like Peterborough United experienced at Luton Town yesterday (January 19).

Sunday, 20th January 2019, 6:50 am
Updated Thursday, 7th February 2019, 6:00 pm
Posh goalkeeper Aaron Chapman's reaction to a 4-0 defeat at Luton. Photo: Joe Dent/theposh.com.

Posh remain in sixth place thanks to a late goal 120 miles further north up the A1. And, er, that was probably it as far as comfort is concerned unless relief that the Hatters didn’t double their four-goal tally counts. At 4-0 with 25 minutes to go and, with Posh looking horribly exposed defensively and non-existant as an attacking force, an even heavier defeat looked likely before Luton settled for saving themselves for the tougher challenges to come.

Luton are very good and in magnificent form. It’s over four months since they lost a League One match and almost a year since they were beaten at Kenilworth Road with points at stake. They are slick in possession, rugged at the back and score goals galore. They play a system, and have players, that will easily withstand the shock of losing a top manager so suddenly which involves high-tempo passing and super-fit and fast full-backs who somehow overlap for fun without leaving noticable defensive holes behind.

So playing with 10 men against them for over an hour is professional suicide as Posh proved yesterday which is where the excuse can be found.

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Peterborough United Manager Steve Evans watches from the Luton directors box alongside chairman Darragh MacAnthony. Photo: Joe Dent/theposh.com.

Ten years ago Ryan Tafazolli’s lunging tackle close to the halfway line wouldn’t have been a foul. Taking the ball first was all that mattered in those good old days before players became so soft it wouldn’t be the greatest surprise to discover diving, squealing and surrounding the officials in order to gain their favour was actually practised on the training ground.

Unfortunately, unless you are Vincent Kompany, the game has changed for defenders. Contact with an opponent must be avoided at all costs. You must at least appear to be in complete control when throwing yourself into a challenge or suffer the consequences. At first viewing - the only one over-promoted Premier League referee David Coote gets of course - a red card under the current laws looked inevitable, although when the action is slowed down Tafazolli looked unfortunate. The result of an appeal already lodged with the FA is hard to call, but whether or not the red card decision actually affected the result is less debatable.

True, between Luton’s opening goal in the eighth minute and the red card, the home side became extremely sloppy and Posh worked their way into a couple of promising positions, but teams that can pass, move and finish with precision will always cause Steve Evans’ men problems.

Since that excellent start to the season, Posh have found it difficult to offer midfield protection to a defence that is far too easily pulled out of position. Thankfully for the future at least only Luton and Barnsley tend to play that way regularly and they are no longer on the fixture list. Luton caught Posh flat-footed at the start and if challenged one suspects they would have emerged from their sloppy spell to create further chances.

Posh midfielder Callum Cooke shoots at the Luton goal. Photo: Joe Dent/theposh.com.

Luton striker James Collins has struggled at League One level in the past, but then he’s probably not been on the end of such a high level of service. He bagged a hat-trick here from inside the area all from right wing passes. Luke Berry scored a ridiculously simple fourth goal after waltzing unchallenged into the Posh penalty area. Substitute George Moncur did something similar later on and was only denied a debut goal by a brilliant goalline clearance from Ben White. White at least finished what had been a rather torrid full League Posh debut with a flourish.

Of course football history is littered with valiant 10-man rearguard actions. Keeping things tight and defending in numbers can cause anxiety to a team expected to spend most of the game on the front foot. That didn’t happen here. Posh conceded a second goal straight after the red card and offered minimal resistence thereafter which made Evans’ post-match positive comments about his players rather surprising.

Individuals are no longer being blamed for defeats, although the temptation to single out Siriki Dembele for failing to track his man for the first two goals must have been enourmous.

Posh: Aaron Chapman, Jason Naismith, Daniel Lafferty, Ben White, Ryan Tafazolli, Callum Cooke, Kyle Dempsey (sub Alex Woodyard, 46 mins), Siriki Dembele (sub Joe Ward, 29 mins), Marcus Maddison, Lee Tomlin (sub George Cooper, 46 mins), Ivan Toney:

Unused substitutes: Matt Stevens, Matt Godden, Conor O’Malley, Louis Reed.

Luton: James Shea, Jack Stacey, Matt Pearson (sub Alan Sheehan, 77 mins), Sonny Bradley, James Justin, Alan McCormack (sub George Thorne, 69 mins), Andrew Shinnie (sub George Moncur, 69 mins), Pelly Ruddock-Mpanzu, Luke Berry, Kazenga Lua Lua, James Collins.

Substitutes: Dan Potts, Aaron Jarvis, Lloyd Jones, Harry Isted.

Goals: Luton - Collins (8 mins, 28 mins & 53 mins), Berry (66 mins).

Sending off: Posh - Tafazolli (serious foul play).

Cautions: Posh - Maddison (foul), Toney (foul).

Luton - Pearson (foul).

Referee: David Coote 7.

Attendance: 10,055 (1,031 Posh).