Coventry manager Tony Mowbray’s reputation for managerial wisdom was enhanced today (March 28), as he summed up this contest in a couple of short sentences.
“I’ve stood at press conferences and said that the better team didn’t win,” Mowbray stated after Coventry’s pragatic approach had delivered a 1-0 against Peterborough United at the ABAx Stadium. “But today both teams were as bad as each other.”
Tough to argue with that and Mowbray, who has now steered his side to three successive away wins, also admitted that he aped Posh tactics to plot the victory. He asked his defenders to defend like Posh had been doing: ‘one touch and clear it’ was his demand and then hope that his team would take a chance at the other end. They did thanks to a fortunate deflection from one 20-yard shot from a substitute, Sanmi Odelusi, which fell nicely for, and was expertly tucked away, by another substitute Blair Turgott 20 minutes from time.
On the balance of play Posh could argue they were unfortunate to lose, but they had been riding their luck as well as defending well in their three previous home matches, all of which had been claimed without conceding a goal. They couldn’t really argue with Coventry’s rather blatant time-wasting tactics in the final quarter either as they’d done pretty much the same seven days earlier to see out their own win over Chesterfield.
But falling behind was always going to test a Posh side who just don’t have an obvious source of goals in their squad. Posh started this game with two strikers with 10 League One goals between them, and the one with nine of those goals was substituted at half-time.
New recruit Luke Williams came on for Conor Washington, but, after a bright start in a position slightly deeper than Washington would take up, he soon caught the gemeral malaise in what was a pitiful spectacle. A strong wind and a terrible playing surface don’t help, but a lack of muscle or finesse in the attacking third will be a real hindrance to the Posh attempt to make the play-offs.
Coventry, to no-one’s suprise under Mowbray’s managament, were well drilled at the back and in central midfield. Posh were denied any sort of space and the inevitable humps upfield were gobbled up by an excellent pair of central defenders. Former Southampton defender Aaron Martin was a ball magnet as well as an impassable object.
It took 38 minutes for Posh to muster a shot worthy of the name when Jack Payne’s deflected effort from 20 yards led a slightly anxious moment for visiting ‘keeper Lee Burge.
Payne also drilled one shot into the side-netting before Coventry scored in the second-half and forced Burge to scramble across his goalline to concede a corner with a clever 25-yard lob after the visitors had taken the lead. Burge was also called into action to keep out a Luke James strike from a difficult angle, but he could have had his pipe and slippers out for the final 15 minutes.
Coventry deployed a 4-2-3-1 formation, but offered little going forward. Little was seen of Frank Nouble’s physical menace, while free-scoring loan forward Dominic Samuel was restricted to long-range shots that always missed the target by some distance.
Posh were just about on top without threatening to score when Coventry did take the lead, but they had no plan B to help them recover.
Mercurial Marcus Maddison did come on for the final 25 minutes, but couldn’t unlock a robust defence. In the final moments a Posh player in possession would look up and see five Posh players lined up on the edge of the Coventry penalty area, all of them dwarfed by their markers.
Central defender Shaun Brisley went off for the final five minutes when he might have been better employed as an emergency centre-half. Left-back Alan Sheehan, a player with a cultured left foot and a cute ability at set-pieces, might also have been sent on, but Posh were playing so poorly the difference would probably have been negligible.
Brisley and Burgess as central defenders rather than Gaby Zakuani and Ricard Santos was the biggest concern before the match, but neither replacement let the side down.
Burgess made one fine tackle on Marcus Tudgay in the Posh penalty area in the early stages. Tudgay went off before half-time, either because of a tight hamstring or extreme boredom.
Posh: Ben Alnwick, Michael Smith, Kgosi Ntlhe, Christian Burgess, Shaun Brisley (sub Harry Anderson, 86 mins), Jack Payne, Michael Bostwick, Jon Taylor, Joe Newell (sub Marcus Maddison, 68 mins), Conor Washington (sub Luke Williams, 46 mins), Luke James. Unused substitutes: Dion-Curtis Henry, Alan Sheehan, James Pearson, Harry Beautyman.
Coventry Lee Burge, Jordan Willis, Aaron Martin, Matthew Pennington, Chris Stokes, John Fleck, Grant Ward, Jim O’Brien (sub Andy Webster, 90 mins), Marcus Tudgay (sub Sanmi Odelusi, 40 mins), Dominic Samuel, Frank Nouble (sub Blair Turgott, 60 mins).
Unused substitutes: Reice Charles-Cook, Aaron Phillips, Conor Thomas, Adam Barton.
Goal: Coventry - Turgott (70 mins).
Referee: Iain Williamson 6
Attendance: 7,235 (836 Coventry).
Alan Swann was at the game for the Peterborough Telegraph so check back for match reaction.
Also follow @PTAlanSwann for live match updates on Twitter.