TALKING POINTS: Does Fergie really trust the back-up boys? Formation change needed to get Burrows in,first-half frustrations, it’s amazing what hard work and organisation can achieve, the pack are closing in, but Posh are still in a great place
Not for the first time at a pre-match press conference this season Darren Ferguson has talked about freshening the Posh side up and then failed to do it.
Why should he to be honest? Any criticism of selection can be stymied by a check of the League One table. Until yesterday’s (March 6) disappointing 2-1 defeat at Burton Albion Posh were top of the table. They are now only off the top on goal difference with two games in hand on the side above them who they tackle at Fortress London Road on Tuesday (March 9, 7pm kick-off).
But there are 14 matches to go and only two months to fit them in. Winning sides feel fresher and full of running, but can the same players really be asked to keep ploughing (a relevant word given the state of their home surface) on through three game spells every eight days?
The suspicion remains Ferguson really doesn’t trust the back-up boys, that the many public utterances saying the opposite, are designed to keep frustrated players on board. That approach might need revising soon, although it’s hard to see much changing for Tuesday’s big top-of-the-table clash against Hull.
Ethan Hamilton, one of the better players again yesterday, has shown what can be done when opportunity knocks and Harrison Burrows was again lively when he appeared for the final 25 minutes and a first senior goal must have been a boost to his self-confidence.
OTHER TALKING POINTS...
1) For Burrows to start on Tuesday, Posh would probably have to revert to three centre-backs and wing-backs. Against a Hull side that can be expected to play positively that’s a possibility, although it might leave Mark Beevers exposed against Mallik Wilks. Burrows certainly looks ready to start, although coming on as a substitute against tiring opponents can often be deceptive. Ferguson mentioned Burrows’ other favoured position is as a ‘10’. That would be a bold move against a Tiger side who have won their last three matches without conceding a goal.
2) Posh have now taken a lead into half-time just once in the last 12 League One matches, against Crewe on February 6. They’ve only scored a goal before the break in one other game in that dozen, against Ipswich Town. It’s a meaningless statistic when you keep winning, but in tight games like yesterday’s when the first goal was always likely to be important it becomes a concern. Posh were well on top in the opening quarter, but rarely looked like scoring apart from when Jonson Clarke-Harris slipped as he prepared to pounce on a rebound and this time a rock solid defence and goalkeeper couldn’t bale the attacking players out. Posh have been in front in just 11 of their 32 League One games at half-time and they’ve gone on and won nine of them and drawn just two, at MK Dons and Lincoln, which shows how dangerous they are when they get their noses in front.
3) To see reliable Posh goalkeeper Christy Pym make such a bad error at Burton came as a shock yesterday, but Burton also worked the ball into the area and delivered a cross far too easily. Pym’s error will be highlighted, but it was a poorly defended attack all round.
4) Posh had half a dozen corners in the opening 25 minutes yesterday. They only looked like scoring when the ball dropped to Ethan Hamilton 12 yards from goal, but his shot was well blocked. Posh rarely make the first contact from their own set pieces. It’s been a huge disappointment all season.
5) It’s amazing what hard work and defensive organisation can achieve. Burton are a limited team in possession, apart from lively wideman Jonny Smith. They throw the ball into the area when they can and they are creative at set-pieces, but there is very little link up play or passing quality. And yet they’ve won seven of their last nine League One matches to shoot four points clear of the relgation zone after looking relegation certainties when Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink turned up to start his second spell as manager at the Pirelli Stadium in January. Posh had 18 shots on goal yesterday and less than half made their way past a defence willing to throw themselves into blocks. Former Posh player Michael Bostwick was excellent at the back. Posh only have six away matches left and they could just have faced their hardest given a tight pitch and opponents who couldn’t have been in much better form.
6) The lack of movement in the opposition penalty area can make crosses look worse than they actually are. Joe Ward sent some bad ones in, but he also sent over some low skidders which are designed for forwards to get across their marker and flick at goal. Ferguson was audibly frustrated by the failure of the Posh forwards to make that run. As Ferguson stated in his post-match press conference yesterday substitute Mo Eisa’s movement was better than any other attacking player, but his miserable run in front of goal continued as he missed two decent chances late on.
7) For once in recent weeks, results elsewhere didn’t favour Posh. Sunderland are picking up the pace at a good time (although narrow home wins against a poor Swindon side and an injury-ravaged Rochdale team might be misleading) as are Hull (three wins against modest opposition), while Doncaster have collected six points from two home matches since Darren Moore left to manage basket-case club Sheffield Wednesday. The only certainty this season is positions flip-flopping on a regular basis, although given the toughness of Posh’s final four matches they should aim for a buffer between them and the rest before they get to the game against Doncaster (twice), Lincoln and Charlton.