FEATURE (Part One): Do Peterborough United have the players to enjoy a successful season?

Anthony Grant of Peterborough United in action with Nathan Delfouneso of Blackpool - Mandatory by-line: Joe Dent/JMP - 18/02/2018 - FOOTBALL - Bloomfield Road - Blackpool, England - Blackpool v Peterborough United - Sky Bet League One EMN-180220-163856002
Anthony Grant of Peterborough United in action with Nathan Delfouneso of Blackpool - Mandatory by-line: Joe Dent/JMP - 18/02/2018 - FOOTBALL - Bloomfield Road - Blackpool, England - Blackpool v Peterborough United - Sky Bet League One EMN-180220-163856002
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The bell has rung and Posh have started the last lap of their League One promotion push.

The bookies appear to have written Grant McCann’s men off. Sadly, so have many Posh fans.

Steven Taylor of Peterborough United cant hide his disappointment at full-time - Mandatory by-line: Joe Dent/JMP - 27/01/2018 - FOOTBALL - ABAX Stadium - Peterborough, England - Peterborough United v Leicester City - Emirates FA Cup fourth round proper EMN-180128-105825002

Steven Taylor of Peterborough United cant hide his disappointment at full-time - Mandatory by-line: Joe Dent/JMP - 27/01/2018 - FOOTBALL - ABAX Stadium - Peterborough, England - Peterborough United v Leicester City - Emirates FA Cup fourth round proper EMN-180128-105825002

That’s despite £1.4 million of investment since last summer from passionate chairman Darragh MacAnthony. He believes his squad is good enough for a top six finish at least.

Is he right? Certainly McCann is now spoilt for choice in some areas and here in part one of this feature we cover the defence and midfielders. A second part covering the attack and the management will appear online later this morning.

DEFENDERS

Steven Taylor has been great for most of the season, but I was pleased to see him left out of the side at Blackpool. Posh defend too deep at times, particularly at home, when opponents are pretty much invited to have the ball.

Chris Forrester of Peterborough United takes on Michael Timlin of Southend United - Mandatory by-line: Joe Dent/JMP - 06/12/2017 - FOOTBALL - ABAX Stadium - Peterborough, England - Peterborough United v Southend United - Checkatrade Trophy EMN-170712-083142002

Chris Forrester of Peterborough United takes on Michael Timlin of Southend United - Mandatory by-line: Joe Dent/JMP - 06/12/2017 - FOOTBALL - ABAX Stadium - Peterborough, England - Peterborough United v Southend United - Checkatrade Trophy EMN-170712-083142002

Is the lack of pace of Taylor, and Ryan Tafazolli, a reason for that? Looking at the remaining away fixtures (they include Shrewsbury, Blackburn, Rotherham, Plymouth and Portsmouth) Posh will need to be near perfect at home which means playing on the front foot at all times.

Jack Baldwin’s aggressive defending can be the start of that. He looked very sharp last weekend which was encouraging and although his passing can be erratic he generally gets the ball moving forward and more accurately than the other centre-backs.

Posh should stick with a flat back four for the rest of the season. Without Gwion Edwards they have no effective wing-backs. Liam Shephard is much happier as a right-back and Andrew Hughes is a reliable sort on the left, but both should just concentrate on getting the ball to Marcus Maddison and co (rather than sideways or backwards) as often and as quickly as possible.

If Posh do switch to three at the back I would play Baldwin and Hughes either side of Tafazolli or Taylor.

MIDFIELD

I have grave concerns about this part of the Posh squad. The same players have been available for most of the season and, apart from when Anthony Grant and Michael Doughty were performing well at the start of the season, no productive partnership has emerged.

Grant has been excellent for most of the season, but I’d consider leaving him out of home matches against teams Posh should be dominating at the ABAX (AFC Wimbledon for a start). Posh should back themselves to have a large chunk of possession and use midfielders who can play forward quickly and effectively, with a mix of passing, long and short.

Chris Forrester should be used as the deepest lying midfielder for that reason. I’d have Leo Da Silva Lopes and Doughty alongside him with the latter told to get into the box as soon as the ball reaches Maddison. Da Silva Lopes has the legs to do the running for Forrester and Doughty.

I’d play Grant, Forrester and Da Silva Lopes in the away games.

League One promotion odds from Sky Bet (as at February 21) 1/16 Wigan, 1/6 Blackburn, 5/4 Shrewsbury, 2/1 Rotherham, 5/1 Charlton, Scunthorpe, 14/1 Posh, Portsmouth, 16/1 Bradford, 20/1 Plymouth.