Peterborough United manager Darren Ferguson surveyed the wreckage of another poor home result and suggested it’s win or bust for his side at the ABAX Stadium next Saturday (March 2).
Posh went down 2-1 to lowly Shrewsbury today (February 23) after suffering a fourth first-half red card in the last seven matches. Top scorer Ivan Toney was dismissed for handling the ball on the goalline when Posh were leading 1-0 through full-back Jason Naismith’s first goal for the club.
Shrewsbury scored from the penalty conceded by Toney and took the lead before the break. Shrews skipper Oliver Norburn was sent off with half an hour to go, but the visitors comfortably claimed just a second away win of the season.
Posh won their first two home games of the League One season, but have won just three of 15 since then. Remarkably, given that sort of form, Posh remain seventh and are two points behind Doncaster who occupy the final play-off spot. Doncaster play one of two matches in hand at Shrewsbury on Tuesday (February 26).
Ferguson believes a home game against Wycombe next Saturday is a ‘must-win’ for his team, but he admits it won’t arrive unless his players become braver on the ball.
“I’ve been here for five matches and in three of them we’ve had a man sent off in the first-half,” Ferguson stated. “I’ve never known anything like it. All of them have been avoidable and I’m sure we wouldn’t have lost any of the games if we’d kept 11 men on the pitch.
“I have no idea why Ivan did what he did. He should let the ball go in. It would have been disappointing to lose our lead, but we would have had 11 v 11 for an hour and I’m sure we would have won. I’ve then had to sacrifice Lee Tomlin as playing up front on his own wouldn’t have suited him. That was a shame as he’d started the game well.
“But it’s just a man down and it’s a situation we should be used to. Instead we lost our composure, we acted like there was 10 minutes to go rather than an hour, we played too deep and we became thoroughly disorganised which is why they scored a second goal so quickly. They looked like scoring more than two goals as we were all over the place for 20 minutes.
“I was screaming at them to keep their shape and stay in the game until half-time because I felt we would always have a chance. We looked like scoring from Marcus Maddison’s free kicks so that opportunity was always there.
“The players and the crowd got a lift from their red card, but we played too slowly and didn’t get on the end of some great crosses by Joe Ward.
“We have to break this cycle of bad home results and we have to break it straight away in the next game. It’s not just recently, it’s been going on all season. We are still in touch, but we are running out of games. We have to win next week and to do that we need to be braver on the ball and better with our decision-making.
“We have talent in the squad. I am sure we have enough to get into the top six, but we have to keep 11 men on the pitch and we have to win our home games. It’s not about ability. The problem has become a mental one especially at our place.
“You could sense it in the group that they felt ‘oh no, not again’ when Ivan was sent off, but you can still do well with 10 men if you stay composed. We didn’t do that today. Football matches throw up different problems and you just have to deal with them better than we did today.
“It’s a huge missed opportunity. It was the chance to get back-to-back wins and it was the chance to get back into the top six. If we’d have won today we’d have been in great shape.
“We have to win next week as we are not going to get too many more chances.”
Toney will serve a one-match ban and miss the Wycombe game.