It’s becoming a Peterborough United tradition to have a League One wobble after exiting the FA Cup.
In fact ‘wobble’ isn’t a strong enough word. Posh form has collapsed in each of the last two seasons following a departure from the event formerly known as the greatest knockout competition in the world.
Will it happen again? The signs from this post-Leicester City clash were pretty worrying as Posh failed to break down a Southend team that has conceded the most goals on the road in League One this season, had lost their previous five away games, hadn’t won away from Roots Hall since October, hadn’t kept a clean sheet in their previous 10 matches and had lost 10 of their 14 matches on opposition grounds.
There is some merit to those who believe in a ‘bounce’ provided by a new manager, but if Chris Powell is capable of overturning that level of negativity he should be in charge of Brexit never mind the Shrimpers.
Southend were sharp for 20 minutes and deserved their seventh-minute lead from the penalty spot provided by Posh goalkeeper Jonathan Bond’s hesitancy and trip, and Jason Demetriou’s simple finish, but the hosts still had oodles of time to rescue some sort of result. But no, all the pre-match positivity surrounding a decent transfer window of keeping hold of those who had carried the side for most of the season while adding extra firepower was washed away by what is becoming a horrible habit of starting home games with the handbrake on.
No wonder Posh chairman Darragh MacAnthony tweeted he felt ‘let down’ by management and players. Lucky for them he was thousands of miles away recovering from his own mighty efforts to return Championship football to the city.
MacAnthony is a positive chap, but even he must be fearing the worst. This was a sixth home defeat of the League One season - and the fourth by a team arriving with terrible statistics - which is twice as many as the last two Posh promotion teams lost in entire campaigns.
Posh enjoyed periods of pressure once overcoming their sluggish start, but a switch to the 4-4-2 formation coveted by many proved to be a mistake thanks to the deployment of two wingers with little interest in putting as much effort into running backwards as they did forwards, two central midfielders who lacked the energy or desire to cover extra ground and a failure, perhaps understandably given his one training session with his new teammmates, of deadline day signing Omar Bogle to work out just what was going on.
Put Anthony Grant’s workrate and tacking ability alongside Chris Forrester’s passing skills and you’d have one fine all-round player at this level, but as a partnership they were outplayed by a midfield which included 17 year-old novice Dru Yeardwood, a tremendous prospect who would have been linked with Manchester United by now if he was a Posh player, yet one who should have been sent off in the first half by negligant referee Dean Whitestone.
The recent Posh record when Northampton-based Mr Whitestone is at the ABAX Stadium (P5 W0 D0 L5 F1 A15) is alarming, but obviously co-incidental, something touched on by Grant McCann after the game, although blaming the referee for two alleged errors by his assistants was unfair. Twice left-back Andrew Hughes reached excellent Marcus Maddison passes and twice he scored after being flagged offside, including one in the final moments of 10 minutes added time when Posh may well have pinched a point if anyone had managed to stay onside and shown Hughes’ appetite to get on the end of Maddison’s quality.
Powell spoke of his pride at keeping out a side with ‘so many attacking options’ afterwards, although only Maddison threatened to create anything. Twice a man destined to see out another season at Posh set Jack Marriott free, but twice Southend ‘keeper Mark Oxley came to the visitors’ rescue, but those moments of promise were in truth rare for a side again not helped by substitute striker Junior Morias’ appearing in midfield for 10 minutes, a decision that led to a spell of Southend pressure which saw Simon Cox and McLaughlin waste chances to score.
Southend possess an experienced squad, but one suspects teams capable of playing with a decent tempo would run them ragged, Instead Posh spent too much time humping the ball forward in the hope of getting Marriott in behind. It rarely looked like working.
As a result Posh are running out of statistics that provoke optimism, other than the stuttering form of several other teams in the thick of the promotion race. Three defeats in a row in three different competitions and one win in six games since playing so well and winning at Aston Villa is the current Posh form guide.
Posh: Jonathan Bond, Liam Shephard, Andrew Hughes, Steven Taylor, Ryan Tafazolli, Anthony Grant, Chris Forrester (sub Junior Morias, 71 mins), Marcus Maddison, George Cooper (sub Danny Lloyd, 71 mins), Jack Marriott, Omar Bogle (sub Leo Da Silva Lopes, 80 mins).
Unused substitutes: Conor O’Malley, Joe Ward, Jack Baldwin, Jermaine Anderson.
Southend: Mark Oxley, Jason Demetriou, John White (sub Anton Ferdinand, 53 mins), Michael Turner, Ben Coker, Stephen McLaughlin, Dru Yearwood, Michael Timlin, Michael Kightly, Simon Cox, Marc-Antoine Fortune (sub Freddie Ladapo, 75 mins).
Unused substitutes: Nathan Bishop, Harry Kyprianou, Jermaine McGlashan, Michael Klass, Shayon Harrison.
Goal: Southend - Demetriou (7 mins, pen).
Cautions: Posh - Bond (foul), Tafazolli (foul), Shephard (foul).
Southend - Yearwood (foul), Kightly (foul),
Referee: Dean Whitestone 4
Attendance: 5,114 (799 Southend).