TALKING POINTS: Peterborough showed the grit of champions against Portsmouth but strap yourselves in Posh fans there are many twists and turns to come yet
Posh showed true grit to come away with the three points in a big match at home to Portsmouth despite not playing well in a game that was a poor spectacle.
It has become such a cliche in football these days that winning when you don’t play well is a sign of champions and if we’re to believe that, last night was a good sign for Posh.
Both sides contributed to a turgid affair that was ultimately decided by a goalkeeping mistake when visiting keeper Craig MacGillvray inexplicably punched Harrison Burrows’ corner in off his own defender Rasmus Nicolaisen. Posh created next to nothing in what Fergie described as a ‘horrible game,’ which probably deserved to end 0-0.
All that matters though is the three points though and Posh dug deep to hold onto them to keep the promotion push well on track Posh fans should steel themselves for the run-in to come despite all looking rosy in the garden once again. The three-game winless run is over and Posh sit just three points behind Hull in top spot with two games in hand, with Lincoln once again losing, as it looks like their promotion challenge is finally starting to falter.
This comes after last week when Ethan Hamilton’s red card and the subsequent defeat had let Hull bolt off into the distance as a resurgent Sunderland, with the bounce of new ownership, closing in from behind. Posh fans should do their best to remain level-headed, however, and remember that there are 12 games left; 12 more chances for ups and downs. It is clear there are no stand out teams in this league, add Portsmouth to the list of clubs Posh fans have been decidedly unimpressed by after meeting them. Hull only looked like scoring after being gifted opportunities by Posh, the wheels look to be coming off at Lincoln with one win in seven, Sunderland’s ‘resurgence’ is built on wins against poor sides such as Swindon, Rochdale and out-of-form Portsmouth, Doncaster are two wins from ten and now without Darren Moore, Charlton were exposed are mere thugs and have lost Lee Bowyer, who so clearly shaped the team in his image and Ipswich have the boost of a talented manager in Paul Cook but can he really get much out of a poor group of players?
All of this means no one will be putting together a run to storm clear at the top, you can point to major holes in all of the squads, Posh included, so the best thing Posh fans can do is keep hold of those energy reserves, no win means they are over the line, no loss means the dream is unattainable, this is not going to be over until 5:00pm on Saturday May 8.
OTHER TALKING POINTS:
1) Posh have become adept at changing formations throughout games, rarely does a game go by where Posh have not deployed the three and four at the back at some point. Fergie got the change spot on again tonight. Portsmouth were so passive in the first half and he recognized that a third centre-half was wasted and that was the time to put the foot on the gas and try to take the lead, which Posh were able to do and hang onto when the inevitable Portsmouth onslaught came in the second half. Credit must go to the versatility of the players but also to the manager for making the calls. Although it could be argued the formation needing to change shows it was wrong in the first place, it depends if the glass is half full or half empty I suppose.
2) Everyone loves that deep satisfaction that comes from a win when you know you perhaps didn’t deserve it but one thing that can’t be overlooked tonight was the lack of creativity without Sammie Szmodics. Fergie allayed fears he faces a lengthy lay-off after the game but only rates him as 40% likely to face Rochdale on Saturday. Posh’s passing lacked sharpness and accuracy as they tried to break Portsmouth down, a fact not helped by the ever worsening pitch, and MacGillvray had a quiet night other than the mistake of his own making. Fergie will need to find a solution for when Posh face resolute defences who will see taking a point off Posh as a major result, a blueprint excellently demonstrated by Burton.
3) Will Posh regret not strengthening in January? A lot of the patting on the back for this result has come from the fact Posh were without key players but let’s forget it was only two first teamers, Taylor and Szmodics, and with this ridiculously compact season that will be the norm, if not more for most teams, and it is a concern how quickly this Posh squad hits the bare bones. The return of Reed to the fold was sold to the fans as something as good as a signing but he had to be substituted for full-back Niall Mason last night when Portsmouth piled forward and drove right through the Posh midfield like it wasn’t there. The questions of the back-up boys remain as strong as ever.
4) Harrison Burrows has a future at this level, this much is clear, it just remains to be seen in which position. His set-piece delivery was as good as we’ve seen this season, albeit a very low bar, and he very nearly scored himself but for a brilliant saving tackle on the line by James Bolton to prevent a tap-in. Fergie has said previously that his best position is as a number 10 and he gave him that chance. If Burrows is to prove his manager’s faith is justified, the areas he needs to improve on are his physicality and his ability to get on and keep hold of the ball and dictate play, He is 19-years-old though, time is on his side.
5) It was a rare-off night for the division’s joint top scorer, Jonson Clarke-Harris, who didn’t even get a sniff of goal. He was often isolated against Portsmouth’s three big centre halves, he never gave up the fight but wasn’t able to get into the game. It is unlikely to be a coincidence that this happened in a game where he and Dembele had much more distance between them. The pair have clearly developed an excellent understanding and complement each other well. With rumours circling around pre-match that Szmodics was injured, many were expecting Clarke-Harris to be paired with Eisa but the fact he remained on the bench is surely the death knell for his Posh career. His form has hardly warranted a start to be fair to the manager and he came no closer to opening his league account for the season, his best effort was a weak shot straight at the keeper. It was just very telling that a 19-year-old was thrown into a crucial game in a position he hadn’t been used in before ahead of a £1m striker.