‘Lies, damned lies and statistics’, a famous quote aimed at politicians when it was first uttered, but one equally at home in professional football.
Peterborough United manager Grant McCann took umbrage at a mild mannered interviewer who dared to reference a League One run of form which now reads as one win in the last eight matches after Blackpool left the ABAX Stadium with three points. McCann, without the aid of a spin doctor, prefers to see this most disappointing result as a first defeat in six competitive matches, which it was, although that run includes three matches against teams from divisions below.
“It won’t do the players any good to read those sort of statistics,” moaned McCann at the man from the beeb which reminds one of the old joke about a sacked manager blaming the media for printing the results.
Other statistics are available of course. Since winning their first four League One matches of the season, Posh have won three of their next 13. That run has taken Posh from first place to 11th in under three months. The slide is not rapid, it’s gradual, but it is happening.
Posh have now lost four of nine home matches. They are now closer to the bottom (12 points) than the top (17 points). They are closer to the relegation zone (seven points) than they are to the automatic promotion places (11 points).
Posh are still within three points of the play-off places which currently fits chairman Darragh MacAnthony’s minimum aim of being in contention for promotion at Christmas to avoid tough decisions having to be made. But the performance witnessed yesterday (November 18) suggested staying in the top half before December arrives is no formaility.
And if the Posh players are sensitive enough to worry about a factual form guide, one can only shudder at their reaction to being described as unintelligent and lacking in backbone, words not spoken after this game by members of the press, in public at least.
Hopefully it’s a motivational tactic by the Posh management. Hopefully the players will be fuelled by a desire to prove their critics wrong. Hopefully some will wake up and realise that Anthony Grant needs as much help in the centre of midfield as Jack Marriott needs up front. Hopefully others will appreciate and take advantage of the sheer quality of passing and crossing delivered by Marcus Maddison which deserves a better finale than the creator throwing his arms in the air in exasperation.
Posh weren’t as bad yesterday as they had been in defeat to Gillingham on this ground. Indeed they had the first-half opportunities to score the goals that would have delivered some reward and thus muted some criticism, but once Gwion Edwards, belatedly introduced as a half-time substitute, missed an absolute sitter of a header from a superb Maddison cross at the start of the second-half, their threat fizzled out rather frustratingly, not helped by the arrivals from the bench of a midfielder in Jermaine Anderson who lacks mobility and a 17 year-old striker in Idris Kanu who naturally lacks experience.
Whereas visiting goalkeeper Ryan Allsop was called into action by Marriott (who should have scored) after fine work by Leo Da Silva Lopes and Maddison, and by Michael Doughty with a decent strike from 20 yards, and by Marriott again (who should have scored again) after a quite brilliant 50-yard pass by Maddison, in the first-half, he was forced to make no saves after the break. Blackpool defended their penalty area superbly and slowed the game down considerably, helped by referee Trevor Kettle’s lack of action towards some cynical fouling and time wasting.
Blackpol actually arrived at the ABAX in poor form. They’d lost their last three League One matches and their last competitive away match ended in an FA Cup defeat at non-league Boreham Wood.
But former Posh striker Kyle Vassell missed those games with an injury. He was back yesterday to prove what a much improved player he has become since leaving the ABAX.
Vassell was strong and pretty quick. He held the ball up well and brought others into play. He deserved to score the only goal of the game on 21 minutes even if his shot required a big deflection off Steven Taylor to beat Football League debutant Conor O’Malley in the Posh goal. Taylor did well to block a similar effort from Vassell just before the break.
Newcastle loanee Sean Longstaff created that goal and was a strong presence in the game throughout as was on-loan Middlesbrough midfielder Callum Cooke and the vastly experienced Jay Spearing who appeared to enjoy a friendlier relationship with Kettle than he deserved. Kettle, whose presence at matches is usually a concern, even took time out of the game to issue Spearing with a warning for time-wasting.
Blackpool were often pretty and fluid in possession, but didn’t create a great deal themselves after Will Aimson’s first minute header from a corner had been nodded off the line by Da Silva Lopes. O’Malley made two saves at his near post to thwart Viv Solomon-Otabor and Cooke, but was also quiet in a second half that petered out without much in the way of pressure on the visiting goal apart from a flurry of late corners and set-pieces.
Posh are back in action at the ABAX Stadium against Portsmouth on Tuesday (November 21), a team they haven’t beaten at London Road for 40 years which is another rather worrying statistic.
Posh: Conor O’Malley, Jack Baldwin (sub Gwion Edwards, 46 mins), Steven Taylor, Ryan Tafazolli, Anthony Grant, Michael Doughty (sub Jermaine Anderson, 66 mins), Leo Da Silva Lopes, Andrew Hughes, Marcus Maddison, Jack Marriott, Danny Lloyd (sub Idris Kanu, 57 mins).
Unused substitutes: Jonathan Bond, Chris Forrester, Alex Penny, Callum Chettle.
Blackpool: Ryan Allsop, Oliver Turton, Will Aimson, Curtis Tilt, Colin Daniel, Jay Spearing, Sean Longstaff (sub Sessi D’Almeida, 90 mins), Callum Cooke, Kelvin Mellor, Viv Solomon-Otabor (sub Nathan Delfouneso, 84 mins), Kyle Vassell (sub Armand Gnanduillet 90 mins). Unused substitutes: Ben Williams, Andy Taylor, Dolly Menga, Danny Philliskirk.
Goals: Blackpool - Vassell (21 mins).
Cautions: Posh - Tafazolli (foul).
Blackpool - Turton (foul), Solomon-Otobar (delaying the re-start).
Referee: Trevor Kettle 5
Attendance: 5,254 (278 Blackpool).