The biggest Peterborough United fire sale since the late, great Noel Cantwell put his entire squad up for auction in the 1970s will take place in the summer.
Never before has a Posh manager and squad been so obviously incompatible and as Steve Evans isn’t going anywhere in a hurry, it’s the players who will be shipped out. Easier said than done in a few cases. There might not be that big of a queue for the under-achievers.
Evans is a manager who wants tempo, passion, strong defending and expert game management. He’s not getting it from the squad left behind by Grant McCann, an interested observer at Ewood Park last night (April 19) who wrongly asserted he’d assembled a top six squad before he was axed (when they were ninth). Pep Guardiola’s appointment might not have guaranteed the play-offs.
Evans became quite personal after the game (‘I didn’t see any of their players slip like Steven Taylor did for the first goal’) and his desire to ‘get the next three games out of the way’ suggests he’s pretty much given up on this campaign which is understandable as it’s not a great time to lose three games in a row. Chairman Darragh MacAnthony’s post-match Twitter tradition blamed a lack of ‘heart’ from the players which appears to be a green light for a mass clearout. Barry Fry’s tan might not get the usual attention this summer.
Of course, results like this one haven’t defined the season. Saturday’s defeat at home to a poor Rochdale side was more of an explanation why it will be League One football at the ABAX Stadium again in 2018-19. Blackburn, a team who haven’t lost since February 3 and who boast the most points and goals at home in the division, have beaten Posh twice, but the club’s record against the other top sides is decent.
Four points were taken from Wigan, Charlton and Rotherham, three (so far) from Shrewsbury and Portsmouth, and three from Plymouth. Not taking any points from Rochdale and Oxford and only two from AFC Wimbledon was far more damaging to long-term interests.
McCann must have enjoyed a private chuckle when Evans reverted to his predecessor’s successful August formation of wing-backs and three centre-backs last night and watched it work like a charm for 45 minutes.
Blackburn boss Tony Mowbray was effusive in his praise for the midfield domination Posh exterted for 45 minutes. Unfortunately, despite the boost of a headed own goal by Charlie Mulgrew from a George Cooper corner just before the break, Posh were then pressed back for virtually the entire second period. Not for the first time under either manager this season, substitutions harmed rather than helped with the pressure finally telling in the final 10 minutes when Danny Graham and Bradley Dack benefitted from weak defending to seal a victory that all, but guaranteed automatic promotion for their side. Dack, League One’s best player, had also profitted from a slip by Steve Taylor to drag his side level 10 minutes into the second-half.
MacAnthony revealed that’s 27 points dropped from winning positions this season which is a remarkable statistic given the old heads now present in this side. Dack’s first goal arrived from Blackburn’s first effort on target which shows how well Posh had performed up to that point.
Unfortunately the short passing and the threat offered by Gwion Edwards’ pace before the break was replaced by a team sitting far too deep.
Edwards’ first 45 minutes was a Posh highlight as was Anthony Grant’s 90-minute effort. Others, like the technically gifted George Cooper, faded rather worryingly, while the division’s top scorer Jack Marriott was anonymous once he’d seen a shot blocked after Edwards had played him in on goal on the half hour. Ask Marriott about Marcus Maddison’s worth to this side. Posh have lost all three games since Maddison’s ankle sprain and in all three Marriott has barely received a decent pass.
As usual there were post-match Posh grumbles about the referee and as usual they were justified. The two handball shouts in the first-half against Charlie Mulgrew were probably optimistic, but home ‘keeper David Raya was fortunate not to be penalised after impeding Danny Lloyd’s attempt to stab home a second Posh goal on the stroke of half-time.
If properly punished Raya might also have received a red card. Blackburn midfielder Corry Evans should most definitely have received one for his second-half assault on Michael Doughty while the scores were still level, but lenient referee Ross Joyce opted for yellow.
That’s how it’s been going for Posh lately. Unfortunately there won’t also be a clearout of inadequate officials in time for next season.
Posh: Conor O’Malley, Jack Baldwin, Steven Taylor, Andrew Hughes, Leo da Silva Lopes, Gwion Edwards, Anthony Grant, Michael Doughty (sub Jermaine Anderson, 87 mins), George Cooper (sub Joe Ward, 66 mins), Danny Lloyd (sub Junior Morias, 77 mins), Jack Marriott.
Unused substitutes: Jonathan Bond, Lewis Freestone, Chris Forrester, Liam Shephard.
Blackburn: David Raya, Derrick Williams (sub Amari’i Bell, 85 mins), Richie Smallwood, Charlie Mulgrew, Darragh Lenihan, Corry Evans (sub Peter Whittingham, 84 mins), Elliott Bennett, Bradley Dack, Marcus Antonsson (sub Dominic Samuel, 67 mins), Adam Armstrong, Danny Graham.
Unused substitutes: Jayson Leutwiler, Jack Payne, Paul Downing, Craig Conway.
Goals: Posh - Mulgrew (og, 44 mins).
Blackburn - Dack (55 mins & 90 + 4 mins), Graham (82 mins).
Cautions: Posh - Edwards (foul), Anderson (foul).
Rovers - Evans (foul), Dack (unsportsmanlike conduct)
Referee: Ross Joyce 6
Attendance: 11,679 (184 Posh).