Manager Darren Ferguson admits the first half of Peterborough United’s season hasn’t been good enough, but he saw enough in the second-half of today’s (December 28) goalless draw with Doncaster at The ABAX Stadium to be confident of an improvement in 2015.
Posh have reached the half-way point in League One with 31 points from 23 matches. That’s only good enough for 10th place, but remarkably Posh are just two points outside the play-off places despite a run of four points from their last 10 League One matches.
Ferguson’s men delivered a strong second-half showing against Doncaster, but couldn’t quite find a breakthrough. The visitors also enjoyed spells of pressure and struck the crossbar from a free-kick just before the hour mark.
Match reports: Posh 0, Doncaster 0 - Relief greets goalless home draw
Posh now have a 13-day break before hosting Colchester in a League One game on January 10. That time will be spent plotting a brighter Posh future.
Ferguson said; “The players have now set the template for the second half of the season with their second-half showing today. To be able to deliver a performance of such energy and commitment just two days after suffering a bad defeat at Chesterfield means they no longer have any excuses.
“This has been a really hard run we have been on. It’s been hard for me, the fans and the players, but we have to do better from now on in because if we pick up just 31 points from the next 23 games we will not finish in the top six.
“But I’m confident we will improve. My staff and I will use the break we now have to assess the season so far, to look at all the relevant statistics and to come up with some plans.
“I was pleased with the players today. I wasn’t overly surprised by the first-half as we were nervous and Doncaster are compact and very tough to break down, but we had a right go at them after the break and I felt we were unlucky not to take the three points.
“We were the ones chasing the win and we got ourselves into some great positions without managing to find the killer ball or shot. We just need a break in the box, something to fall for us and we will be off and running.
“The commitment and effort was outstanding though. The players created a good atmosphere in the second-half by playing so well. I said to the players at half-time that the win was staring us the face as long as we upped the tempo and to be fair to them that’s just what they did,”
Ferguson recalled Marcus Maddison to start the game in a 4-4-2 formation with Ricardo Santos rather surprisingly winning the nod at right-back ahead of Michael Smith. Michael Bostwick moved to centre-back in place of Gaby Zakuani who was ruled out by an ankle injury.
Smith replaced Santos at half-time and played well. Ferguson was also pleased with the efforts of Joe Newell, who started this game at left-back, Luke James and his central defenders.
“I was comfortable with playing Bostwick and Christian Burgess together as I expected Doncaster to play with just one striker. They both did well and Joe was excellent. I’m glad he’s showing the fans just how good I always knew he was. He could give a good performance in any position on the pitch
“Luke gave his best performance for us. He ran them into the ground in the second-half. He was excellent and he just needs a goal to get him going.
“I went with Ricardo rather than Michael Smith because I felt he would be fresher whereas Michael has been struggling. It didn’t work and to be fair to Michael he was outstanding when he came on. Ricardo was struggling to keep his feet which is why I took him off.
“It was good all-round after the break and if we carry this level into future games we will start picking up wins and get on the sort of positive run that we all want.
“I haven’t been as frustrated as some about this season. I love working at this club. I love going into training every day. You can’t have success every season, football doesn’t work like that.
“It’s obvious we need to win more games in the second half of the season and we need to lose fewer. ‘If’ is a big word, but if we’d turned five of our nine one-goal defeats into draws we’d be in a great position.
“Getting something from tight games is one of the main things we have to work on. We also need to keep the players fit.
“I’m not one for excuses, but we have had 20 injuries this season and some of them have been to pivotal players. Jack Baldwin is out for the season, Maddison has missed 10 games and Jon Taylor has missed a fair few.
“They are key men. In previous seasons here we probably wouldn’t have been promoted if players like Bennett, Boyd and Mackail-Smith had been injured.
“I’m pleased the fans backed the team well today. It was hard for me to listen to some of the fans’ comments at Chesterfield (Boxing Day) because I have had a good relationship with them in my long spell at the club.
“I have tried my hardest and I feel I’ve coped with the challenges I’ve faced pretty well. Trust me we are all working hard to improve and I am sure we will.”
Ferguson confirmed he will try and bring a centre-back to the club during the January transfer window. Zakuani leaves for the African Cup of Nations early next month. Shaun Brisley returns from a loan spell at Scunthorpe on January 3, but his involvement with the Posh first-team could depend on the success in finding that new centre-back.