He opted for the latter tactic after a 3-0 Championship humbling at Swansea City yesterday (October 30). The boss will be aware of his team’s limitations and sensitivities and crucifying them in the media would serve no purpose. Spirits must be kept up as they try and find a formula that delivers a positive result on the road.
But suggesting Posh fans will see this sort of limp performance from time to time this season (he might as well have said in most away games) as his team come to grips with a division where they will be cast as plucky underdogs rather than League One ‘Big Dogs’ was surprising. Blackpool, promoted through the League One play-offs last season behind second-placed Posh, are now occupying a play-off place.
The word ‘plucky’ hints at fighters and battlers though, rather than meek acceptors of fate. Telling Posh fans they should expect to suffer at the hands of a team who started the day just three points ahead of their own side having lost more games than they’d won seemed defeatest as well as disappointing. Posh treated Swansea as though they were Barcelona at their best and a more ruthless opponent sensing such weakness by awed opponents could easily have won this game 6-0. The home side were that dominant from start to finish. Yes, Swansea play great football and can pass a team to death. They started this game with the best possession stats in the division, gained against some teams who press together constantly rather than occasionally as individuals. Two simply created goals, unopposed by what is now statistically the worst defence in the top four divisions (30 goals conceded in 15 matches), in the opening 13 minutes must have had contrasting effects on mood and confidence, but it didn’t appear to upset Posh who barely landed a tackle, or even a tactical foul (apart from the admirable Nathan Thompson), to break up play and the pattern of the match.
OTHER TALKING POINTS...
1) Ferguson was right to point out how difficult Swansea are to play against. The hosts are good enough to pass trough a press and if you sit off them they will also find a way to hurt you. There would have been a strong gameplan worked on during a free week leading up to this match, but the players made it look there wasn’t. At times Idris Kanu would make a valiant, but unsuccessful attempt to put pressure on an opponent, but no-one backed him up. Sammie Szmodics is always a willing presser from the front, but Siriki Dembele is less enthused by that side of the game. It looked messy and disorganised from the minute captain Mark Beevers followed his man into the Swansea half in the second minute and didn’t have time to get back into his own penalty area before the home side had taken the lead in the 82nd second. By then Harrison Burrows had lost his man, Ronnie Edwards didn’t move to try and stop the cross, or take up a position where he might have intercepted a centre, and wing-back Jake Bidwell just beat the chasing Kanu to the ball for a tap-in. An horrendous start said the manager, but a template for the rest of the ‘contest’ unfortunately.
2) Ferguson was surely wrong to take off Burrows just as one minute added time was shown by the fourth official. Sure the teenager’s defensive limitations were horribly exposed by marauding wing-back Ethan Laird, but not leaving the change until the half-time interval was baffling and it didn’t look like an injury was involved. It would have dented Burrows’ confidence and Swansea boss Russell Martin was told in big screaming headlines that Posh would switch to a flat back four for the second half. Oh and Swansea promptly scored a third goal before the break while Posh were re-organising. It wasn’t a result-changer, but it was certainly a strange move.
3) Beevers became a better player during his lengthy absence because of injury and comments about the experience and calmness he would bring were understandable. But he isn’t playing very well. He can look awfully exposed defensively on the left side of three centre-backs and his uncertainty on the ball was ruthlessly exploited by a Swansea side who always tried to rush him. Inevitably he either went backwards, transferred the pressure to Burrows with a short pass or chipped the ball in the air towards Dembele in the hope he would beat Ryan Bennett to a header.
4) Let’s be honest, but for a skied penalty at Hull City Posh would probably be staring at eight away defeats out of eight. Sometimes Posh have wilted late. Yesterday they folded early. It’s just putting too much pressure on the home form even if performances so far at the Weston Homes Stadium have been brilliant compared to the stuff seen on the road.
5) Joy after two wins in a row was understandable, but there was a little too much hubris with fans and media men called out publicly by players and officials for having opinions the club felt were disagreeable. A head down approach is a better idea until safety is secured as comments are saved, remembered and often come back to haunt you. Those delivering the criticism care, but they are worried about what they are seeing away from home.
6) There are always positives if you look hard enough and (apart from a set of results which kept Posh five points clear of the drop zone) the return of Jonson Clarke-Harris was one. He looked sharp, he looked trimmer than when he was last seen and, just as importantly, he looked up for the scrap. The performance of Kanu yesterday showed how turning impressive substitute appearances into strong starting performances can be difficult, but Clarke-Harris much have a chance of starting against Huddersfield on Tuesday. If nothing else it gives the defence someone to aim for if they can’t play out.
7) It was £40 on the supporters coach yesterday with an adult ticket price of £27.50 so with extras close to a £100 day trip to watch a game that was over in 13 minutes. Posh owe the 400 or so who made that trip to Swansea a performance on Tuesday.