Peterborough United played poorly at Stevenage in the first round of the FA Cup yesterday (November 9), but Peterborough United Posh writer Alan Swann found a couple of positives at least...
Things we learnt from the 1-1 draw at the team next-to-bottom of League Two.
1) Posh manager Darren Ferguson was adamant he didn’t want an extra game and his team tried hard to finish off stubborn opponents, but the replay could be of considerable value.
Posh don’t have a League One game next weekend (Bury were the scheduled opponents), but the FA Cup replay will fall before the League One match against Burton Albion on November 23.
Posh won’t have striker Ivan Toney in that game so there will be another opportunity to use a competitive game to find a formation with a chance of working against Burton when Stevenage come to town. Surely Posh can beat this limited team at home without Toney. I said it after the Shrewsbury match and I remain convinced Dembele, Boyd and Maddison playing behind Eisa would work. It’s the system Ferguson used with much success at the end of last season, albeit with the powerful Toney up top on his own.
2) Marcus Maddison’s goal yesterday was a thing of beauty on an otherwise horrible day. It’s why you should never take him off when the team are losing. No other player in the squad could have accepted Dembele’s pass in a crowd, shimmied into space and cracked home into the top corner from 25 yards.
3) Ferguson said after the game yesterday that his side looked more comfortable in the midfield diamond (presumably in comparison to the 4-4-2 he employed at Shrewsbury) so it looks like that system will stay when all key players are available. Full-backs are pretty key to making a diamond work. Mark Little was the perfect right-back for a previous spell under Ferguson, but Niall Mason and Nathan Thompson lack that player’s pace. Posh were pretty much guaranteed the greater share of possession yesterday (they got up to 57% yesterday) so Joe Ward, with his extra speed and more natural attacking flair, should perhaps should have started as he wouldn’t have had any defending to do. Dan Butler is okay in a diamond on the left as he delivers a couple of quality crosses every game.
4) The selection of honest toiler Alex Woodyard and 17 year-old Harrison Burrows proves why Posh will be in the market for midfielders in January. Both did fine, and Burrows could well turn out to be a top player, but there was little creativity in midfield again.
5) Where’s the attacking tempo gone? When teams like Shrewsbury and Stevenage just sit in and line up three centre-backs on the edge of their own area, the ball needs to be moved quickly and accurately which just didn’t happen yesterday. Instead it went from side to side and backwards too often. Posh need midfielders who can accept a pass and move it on quickly to Maddison and Toney.
6) There was plenty of justified criticism of the Posh crossing yesterday, but it’s pretty difficult to deliver an accurate one when Toney is usually the only man in the area surrounded by several defenders. Posh don’t get midfielders into the box. Indeed two of their three attackers don’t get into the box when the ball is played out wide.
7) Time-keeping needs to be taken away from referees. Nick Kinseley was poor all round yesterday (Ivan Toney should have had one, maybe two penalties yesterday and Dan Butler could well have been sent off for denying an obvious goalscoring opportunity) and adding just three minutes on at the end of the first half and a mere four minutes on at the end of the second-half was ludicrous given the amount of stoppages (lengthy ones) for injured Stevenage players. Maybe Kinseley was as cold, wet and bored as the rest of us and wanted to get home.
8) Managers love a post-match exaggeration. Ferguson was wrong to say Posh ‘battered’ Stevenage as that implies they created several chances which they didn’t, although home goalkeeper Paul Farman made good second-half saves to thwart Maddison and Mo Eisa, and Stevenage boss Mark Sampson was daft to suggest his side deserved to win. They didn’t even win a corner and only scored because of the latest Posh defensive disaster. Teams, even bad ones, are not having to work very hard to score against Posh and that is a huge concern.