TALKING POINTS: ‘Why it was two points dropped for Posh, why Fergie’s men need to get up this season, why Jack Taylor wasn’t missed and why an excellent referee might have rejected a strong penalty appeal’
Posh might well have accepted a draw at Oxford United if it had been offered up before the League One game last night. They should feel frustrated at a 0-0 draw this morning though (March 3).
It was a pleasing game of football to watch and very well refereed by Alan Young who wasn’t fooled by attempts to deceive and kept the game flowing at all times. Both teams played a passing game, worked hard and didn’t resort to any of the crudity seen at the Weston Homes Stadium at the weekend.
Oxford keep the ball well. They enjoyed 69% possession according to the BBC statisticians and yet they had all the bite of a tortoise in and around the Posh area. Christy Pym made one save all evening and that was a routine stop when Oxford top scorer Matty Taylor shot at goal from a tight angle.
Taylor hasn’t scored in 11 games now. Oxford have scored one goal in their last five matches. They haven’t scored in their last three home games so a team there for the taking, albeit one challenging hard for the play-offs.
This would have been a much tougher fixture three weeks ago. For a Posh team in prime form and scoring freely this was a great opportunity for a seventh win in a row and an even greater lead at the top of the table, but they were thwarted by a goalkeeper who made key saves at either end of the match.
Posh weren’t great with the ball last night, but they created enough to have won comfortably.
OTHER TALKING POINTS...
1) Jack Taylor’s absence from the matchday squad would have been a concern before kick-off. The top-class midfielder has been a star of the recent run of winning form. He’s one of the last players Posh would want to be without in any game, never mind a tricky one like Oxford away. Yet he wasn’t missed thanks to an outstanding display from his replacement Ethan Hamilton. Hamilton was sharp from the kick-off, winning tackles, intercepting passes and rarely giving the ball away. He does go backwards a lot after winning the ball, but his superb long ball that sent Siriki Dembele gallopping clear midway through the second-half deserved to lead to a goal. Instead Dembele knocked the ball too far past goalkeeper Jack Stevens and left himself too acute an angle to score. Hamilton’s performance was most encouraging. He should stay in the side at Burton on Saturday (March 6) even if Taylor is fit, something we will hopefully discover his morning. It’s only fair to remember Oxford were worse hit by injuries than Posh. They had three key men (Winnall, McGuane and Henry) missing while Elliot Lee went off before half-time.
2) All that’s good and bad about Dembele was on show last night. He found space easily in the opening quarter, but spoilt promising forward runs with poor choices of pass. He also dribbled brilliantly to the goalline, but attempted to score with a complicated flick rather than tee up one of two teammtes waiting for a tap-in. And yet, with Sammie Szmodics quiet, Dembele always looked the most likely to create a goal and he did set up second-half chances for Joe Ward and Jonson Clarke-Harris in the second-half before racing clear to miss a great opportunity himself.
3) In years gone by a misfiring Posh forward line would lead to certain defeat. Not these days. Posh have a reliable back line and a fine goalkeeper. Posh were focussed and well organised enough to hold Oxford at bay very comfortably despite the home side’s dominance of possession.
4) Oxford threatened most after Posh had given the ball away deep in their own half. Dembele can be a problem for his own side when receiving the ball in Posh territory, while Reece Brown was caught in possession twice quite close to his own penalty area. It’s a peril of playing out from the back. We must assume manager Darren Ferguson believes the reqwards are greater than the ricks, but it doesn’t look like it at times.
5) It looks vital Posh get promoted this season. League One big guns Sunderland and Ipswich are stirring thanks to new owners and talented managers. Posh currently have a healthy lead over both clubs and a much better first-choice starting XI than either of them. But Lee Johnson and Paul Cook will be class acts in League One and if they are backed with hard cash they will start next season as hot favourites to win the title (not that it’s impossible for either of them top go up this season).
6) Referees have been copping it from all sides this season so it’s only right last night’s match official Alan Young is praised for a fine performance. His foul detection (and his ability to ignore the over-theatrical tumble) was first rate. He still managed to upset Posh boss Darren Ferguson by failing to award Posh a penalty when Mark Beevers was hauled down at a first-half corner, but Young might have missed it as he was following the flight of the ball.