Peterborough United go into Saturday’s (March 2) League One home game with Wycombe two points behind sixth-placed Doncaster (who have a game in hand) and seven points behind Charlton with 12 matches remaining.
Promotion for Posh is a tall order - the 18/1 Sky Bet are currently offering on Darren Ferguson’s men winning promotion seems fair - but momentum can change quickly in football and teams in the top six have still to play each other. I will go into the difficulty or otherwise of the run-ins of the promotion contenders in the Peterborough Telegraph next week (March 7 edition).
And if Posh can rediscover their early-season form who would they be able to catch?
Leaders LUTON, who Posh were fortunate to play in August before they hit their stride and who didn’t have to break sweat to thrash Steve Evans’ side 4-0 in January, and BARNSLEY, comfortably the best side I’ve seen play this season, are deserved favourites to go up automatically, but what of the other contenders?
I must admit the thought of two play-off matches against SUNDERLAND is an exciting one. There would be 45,000 at the Stadium of Light and the ABAX Stadium would be sold out and I’ve seen little from a side still able to call on Premier League parachute payments to worry me.
They recruited poorly in the summer by taking accident prone centre-back Jack Baldwin from Posh and lumbering striker Charlie Wyke from Bradford City and the sale of talented young striker Josh Maja in January weakened them.
Paying £4 million for striker Will Grigg suggests panic, no doubt influenced by Luton and Barnsley’s rampant form, has set in at Sunderland and even with their expensive forward I watched them get outplayed by Accrington at home earlier this month.
They are certainties for the play-offs, but far from certain to get up.
PORTSMOUTH appeared to have recruited well in January, particularly up front as James Vaughan arrived alongside an apparently rejuvenated Omar Bogle, but there is concern among the Fratton Park faithful about manager Kenny Jackett’s stubborn commitment to a formation that appears to have been rumbled. Like Sunderland, huge passionate support ought to be an advantage, but when things go wrong it can have a negative effect.
CHARLTON look vulnerable to me. Selling excellent striker Karlan Aherne-Grant and replacing him with non-scoring Gillingham forward Josh Parker was a bonkers move. There is too much pressure now on volatile top scorer Lyle Taylor. They scrambled past bottom club AFC Wimbledon with a last-minute goal last weekend, but they could be the team to be caught by the chasing pack.
Ignoring the poor behaviour they displayed on and off the pitch against Posh recently and DONCASTER’s progress under Grant McCann has been impressive. They played better when they drew at Posh in September than they did when beating our 10 men earlier this month, but they have found a playing style that suits the players at McCann’s disposal. They look far more comfortable in their system than Posh do trying to make a midfield diamond work.
As for the teams currently behind Posh I can’t see BLACKPOOL (who may soon be docked points anyway), COVENTRY (who face expulsion from the League if they don’t confirm a home ground for next season) or FLEETWOOD ever becoming consistent enough to reach the top six.
If anyone does fly out of the mid-table pack I suspect it will be BURTON who Posh host on the final day of the regular season.
Current Sky Bet League One promotion odds:
1/20 Luton, 2/7 Barnsley, 5/6 Sunderland, 15/8 Portsmouth, 3/1 Doncaster, 5/1 Charlton, 18/1 Posh, 50/1 Fleetwood, 66/1 Blackpool, 100/1 Coventry, 200/1 Burton.