The big individual battles which could well decide a massive match between Peterborough United and Lincoln City
Second-placed Peterborough United host third-placed Lincoln City in the big game of the day in League One tomorrow (May 1, 3pm).
Posh need a point to secure automatic promotion, while Lincoln need a point to seal a place in the end of season play-offs.
Here the individual battles that could settle a massive match.
JACK TAYLOR V JORGE GRANT
Lincoln City’s recent form has understandably improved since the return from injury of some key players, most notably their club captain Grant. He’s been a class act all season and claimed the winning goal - his 16th of the season and fourth in his last five outings - at Shrewsbury on Tuesday. Grant is comfortable in any midfield role. He can act as a quarterback and he can influence the play further forward. He has formed an excellent midfield partnership with experienced campaigner Liam Bridcutt and summer signing Conor McGrandles. McGrandles and Bridcutt do the dirty work which enables Grant to flourish. He was outstanding in the 1-1 draw against Posh at Sincil Bank in January apart from skying what would have been a match-winning penalty.
Jack Taylor is a shoo in to start for Posh on Saturday, but who partners him is a tricky decision for manager Darren Ferguson. Taylor has been described by his manager as ‘the best midfielder in League One.’ Plenty of bias there, but Taylor appears to be the complete midfield package. He can tackle, he can pass and he can score goals. Posh won just two out of seven League One matches when Taylor was forced out of action by injury earlier this year which highlights his value to the side. If Reece Brown recovers from his hamstring issue he will be favourite to start alongside the main man. But struggling Doncaster found room to play and threaten Posh on Tuesday and Brown’s return won’t necessarily solve that problem. Ethan Hamilton’s energy and power or Louis Reed’s passing ability are the alternatives.
SAMMIE SZMODICS V LIAM BRIDCUTT
Posh star Szmodics has been a top performer in home games at the Weston Homes Stadium since the turn of the year and he will need to step up again if promotion is to be achieved on Saturday. Posh will want goals and assists (he has a combined tally of 21, the most of any Posh player this season), but he might need to perform another critical role by harrying and harrassing talented veteran Liam Bridcutt. Bridcutt likes to dictate the Lincoln tempo which can be quick or patient depending on the situation, but if Posh can get around him on their difficult playing surface they can rush him into errors. Szmodics might just be the best placed to do that and he is certainly not afraid of the extra work it will entail.
Bridcutt is another Lincoln player to have returned from a lengthy injury absence and he played just 45 minutes of Tuesday’s win at Shrewsbury presumably to sharpen him up for Saturday’s big game. Bridcutt likes to get in a referee’s ear and he took advantage of a hopeless official in the match against Posh at Sincli Bank when he committed multiple fouls after an early caution and yet was allowed to stay on the field. He won’t be able to get away with so much this weekend. Saturday’s referee is John Busby, who was impressive when Hull won at Posh last month, and has issued six red cards this season. Szmodics’ ability to find space and make well-timed runs into the penalty area has led to a strong return of 16 goals this season. He can cut a frustrated figure when his runs are not spotted by teammates though. Hopefully they will be on the same wavelength in Saturday’s big game.
NATHAN THOMPSON V MORGAN ROGERS
Rogers is only 18, but he’s taken the hurly burly of League One in his stride. He has scored six goals for Lincoln in his first taste of regular men’s football after moving to Sincil Bank on loan from Manchester City in January, although he has not netted since a three-game scoring streak at the beginning of March. Rogers tends to operate on the left which will likely bring him into direct opposition with right-back Nathan Thompson if Posh employ their 4-2-3-1 formation. And what a battle that would be between a precocious, highly-skilled and quick winger and a wily old defender, one of the stars of the Posh season. Lincoln will doubtless have noted how much trouble Charlton wide man Liam Miller gave Thompson last weekend, especially after the Posh man collected an early booking. It would be a surprise if Morgan isn’t sent out to test Thompson early on. Thompson likes to snap into tackles though and he will try and dominate and intimidate the younger, less experienced man. Thompson’s partnership down the right with Joe Ward is a key one for Posh. The pair combined for the opening goal against Doncaster on Tuesday, but it’s important the pair look after the ball safely. Lincoln are a quality counter-attacking side with a superb away record so Thompson won’t want to get caught too often, too far up the field. Rogers has great natural speed and is very aware of teammates, although he will find the Posh pitch difficult. Siriki Dembele, another talented winger, noticably struggled once the surface started to cut up on Tuesday night.