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.
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 in part two of this feature we cover the attack and the management.
Omar Bogle’s arrival from the Championship has boosted the squad’s firepower, but also given McCann an extra problem. On the surface a bigger, more physically powerful forward is something Posh have been crying out for, but his first appearance in a 4-4-2 formation proved to be a disappointment for him and the team.
Presumably there was a plan to accommodate Bogle before he was signed on transfer deadline day. The chairman wouldn’t have agreed to fork out an extra £100k on his wages otherwise.
But I believe Bogle, whose 15-minute appearance as a substitute at Blackpool was quite promising, could become a victim of Posh lacking the midfielders to play 4-4-2 effectively. If Posh did go that way the athletic Da Silva Lopes and pass-master Forrester would have to be the midfield two.
Jack Marriott is undroppable no matter what formation Posh employ as is Maddison. If Posh go with two widemen either side of Marriott, Joe Ward or Danny Lloyd would have to play along with Maddison.
Lloyd scored and played well at Gillingham recently, but has barely been seen since which is something of a mystery. His hustle, bustle and eye for a goal would be vital in close games and he’s looked much more likely to score from open play than Maddison for most of his first season at this level.
Junior Morias appears to be battling with Bogle for a start.
There is a school of thought among Posh fans that a talented squad is being held back by managerial errors and McCann is now being scrutinised to the nth degree after each decision never mind game.
Certainly his reluctance to change formation when his team were getting overrun by Scunthorpe recently was baffling, but his switch to three centre-backs to combat Gillingham’s midfield diamond in the game before that would have been a triumph if his players hadn’t self-imploded in the final few minutes.
McCann retains the support of a chairman who believes the team as a whole is under-achieving which in a perfect world should guarantee the fans give the manager their unqualified support, at least until such time as promotion becomes impossible.
McCann’s claim that the next two matches could ‘make or break’ the season was quite brave. What do the manager and chairman do if Posh have fallen further behind by this time next weekend?
It would be silly to write Posh off now as promotion contenders, but if six points from home games against Wimbledon and Walsall don’t arrive ahead of a trip to League One leaders Shrewsbury on March 3, the club’s priority might have to turn to staying clear of Northampton and the other strugglers.
It’s still going to be tough for Posh even if they do win the next two. Charlton appear to be playing steadily, Bradford City will doubtless improve now League One specialist Simon Grayson is in charge (he will stop them leaking so many goals for a start) and Plymouth have great momentum on their side.
Posh v Charlton on March 10 looks a huge contest and if Posh are still in touch at the top when they visit Plymouth on April 7, they will have performed well.
If I was forced to make a prediction now, I’d go for an eighth place finish. To do better Posh will have to reproduce their form from the games at Charlton and Aston Villa on a regular basis.
They’ve shown they can play like serious promotion contenders, but now they need to do it for 14 games.
My Posh team for Saturday.
Shephard, Baldwin, Tafazolli, Hughes
Forrester, Da Silva Lopes
Maddison, Doughty, Lloyd.