Game management needs to improve says Posh manager Dave Robertson as he faces up to defensive crisis

Posh defender Alex Davey won this challenge, but limped out of the 3-1 defeat by Sheffield United. Photo: Joe Dent/theposh.com.
Posh defender Alex Davey won this challenge, but limped out of the 3-1 defeat by Sheffield United. Photo: Joe Dent/theposh.com.
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Better game management could have prevented defeat to Sheffield United said Posh manager Dave Robertson who is facing up to a defensive crisis ahead of Saturday’s match at Burton Albion.

Robertson saw Kgosi Ntlhe hobble off in the first-half after injuring his foot before Chelsea loanee Alex Davey went off shortly after Conor Sammon had scored his second goal of the night to give the visitors the lead as they sealed a 3-1 win at the ABAX Stadium.

Although losing both players was a big blow to Posh who now have five defenders sidelined - with another in Andrew Fox being loaned out to Kidderminster Harriers for a month - Robertson was frustrated by Posh’s inability to get the ball out of play shortly before the Blades scored their second so he could substitute the injured Davey.

The defender, who has now played all across the back four since signing just before the season opener, had felt something in his hamstring and was soon coming off for Jack Payne.

Robertson said: “Disappointed to have lost the game, especially here at home. It’s not something that we’re used to and not something that we take lightly.

“We had a lot of things to deal with within the game tonight with Kgosi going down early with his injury and then having to change Alex [Davey] when he went down.

“It’s caused us some defensive issues but we need to get over them and learn to manage those bits.

“I thought in the second-half when particularly Rico [Ricardo Santos] and Gabi [Gabriel Zakuani] were much more dominant against Conor Sammon and Billy Sharp, I thought the distances were much better and we picked up a lot more second balls and when Soli (Souleymane Coulibaly] came on he gave us the energy that we needed up front.

“He stretched the game, he was a threat in behind, and even with his goal he had a lot of work to do.

“He took his goal really well. I was really pleased with him. He gave us the energy that we needed.

“And then the second goal which was a sucker-punch for me. We knew that Alex was struggling but the ball didn’t go out of play.

“I was ready to make the change but we couldn’t make it until there was a break in the game. And then we went two-one down. I was disappointed in that.

“We have to manage the game better at times like that. Players need to fill in to help out, but that’s something we will continue to work on and make sure we are better at.”

Robertson now faces an anxious wait as he waits for the assessment on Ntlhe and Davey, as well as Tobi Adebayo-Rowling and Michael Smith who were missing for tonight’s match (Tuesday, August 18) but are expected to return soon.

Fellow defender Jack Baldwin is also missing from the team.

However, Robertson was buoyed by the performance of Coulibaly who came off the bench to equalise in between Sammon’s goals, before Jose Baxter sealed the win late on for Sheffield United.

Coulibaly came on for Joe Gormley and was named man-of-the-match despite being on the pitch for less than an entire half.

Robertson said: “When you come on and score goals and put in the performance that he did, then what you are doing is screaming at the manager ‘you’ve got to play me on Saturday.’

“And that’s exactly what he’s done. He’s been given the opportunity and to be fair to the lad he’s grabbed it with both hands and I can’t ask any more from the players than that.”

Robertson also felt his side sat back too much in the first-half and needed to push forward more.

He added: “I felt defensively our line was too deep and what’s that done is it’s opened up the spaces which Billy Sharp can get in.

“We need to be on the front foot, especially when we are here.

“When we got the equaliser I felt we would go on but the second goal was a blow, a sucker-punch.

“One of the things we then have to do as a group is stabilise ourselves, realise we are still in the game and continue to go on the front foot to get back in it and then go on and win it.”