League 1 match report: Darren Ferguson’s lottery numbers tonight (January 10) are 24, 9, 4, 11, 30 & 31. It might be worth copying them just in case the Peterborough United manager’s luck holds for a bit longer.
This was the sort of performance, on the back of a terrible run of results, that gets football managers the sack. Just not at Posh it seems who must possess the most loyal, some would stay stubborn, chairman in the entire Football League.
Ferguson remains Darragh MacAnthony’s man and no amount of mob pressure on social media appears likely to change that. Indeed these are pretty surreal times at London Road under a chairman who once sacked a manager when his team were seventh in League One.
Indeed MacAnthony’s always-anticipated post-match tweets this week were pretty much a volley of (most of it deserved) abuse towards the playing squad. From Joe Newell missing a five-yard sitter to Luke James scuffing a great opportunity just before the crucial opening goal, to the crossing ability of the Posh full-backs, few were spared. No criticism for Ferguson though which must be comforting for the manager even if he might face a devil’s own job of motivating his players next week, or at least those who dare read Twitter after a game these days.
To be honest any sympathy for Posh’s flight should head in the sole direction of the club owner. He has supported his team financially and emotionally for over eight years culminating in a five-day squad trip to Spain in an attempt to re-charge the batteries of his spluttering side just this week - what a waste of time, money and effort that must seem right now.
If Ferguson hasn’t lost the dressing room as he claims, he has surely mis-placed it. Sadly he is in grave danger of tarnishing completely a legacy of three promotions that should stand loud and proud for the rest of the club’s history. Gone are the vibrant attacking displays of his first few years in charge - they’ve been replaced by timid, slow-passing, loose-defending performances in front of ever-decreasing crowds.
This malaise goes deeper than just the manager though. He has a playing squad who don’t do a great job in convincing supporters that they are up for a fight. They can blame the pitch (shocking again) and the referee (even worse), but they must soon start taking responsibility for their own errors, misjudgements and attitude, or face being labelled the worst side of the Ferguson/MacAnthony era.
Posh were pretty good for the first 30 minutes here, but failed to take advantage of their domination of possession and territory. They were pitiful in the final hour which included a dreadful response to falling behind to a 54th minute Freddie Sears’ strike and the concession of a second goal in the final minutes to Elliott Hewitt who was allowed to run unchallenged for 50 yards before scoring.
In between Posh failed to force a single save from Colchester ‘keeper Sam Walker who must have felt he was in for a busy afternoon when pushing aside two Erhun Oztumer efforts in the opening 20 minutes.
Ferguson deployed a 4-2-3-1 formation for this game with James the only recognised striker, but with Oztumer, Newell and Marcus Maddison given the freedom to get beyond him. Oztumer was busy and bright at the start, but barely kept possession in the entire second-half, while Newell flattered to deceive before fading from view completely. Maddison never got started at all and made more of an impression on supporters with a post-match tweet suggesting he was unhappy to be substituted.
One would hope he was also disappointed that he failed to influence a game against struggling opposition who initially found it difficult to get out of their own half. Colchester manager Tony Humes reckoned Posh were brilliant in that opening spell, but he reacted to snuff out the danger whereas a much more experienced boss couldn’t find the formula to ensure another embarrassing defeat was avoided.
It’s the reaction to adversity that causes most concern. If Posh don’t score early on they get edgy, if they fall behind they get panicky. There are no leaders on the pitch or in the technical area with the ability to turn things around.
Newell clattered the ball over the bar from close range after Walker had parried Oztumer’s shot and James slid in and generated no power when Kgosi Nthle’s chip landed square in the middle of the penalty area 10 yards from goal. If either of those chances had been converted Posh may well have won, but instead straight after James’ miss Sears was converting a right-wing cross and there was no way back from there once James, Michael Smith and substitute Nathaniel Mendez-Laing had seen shots blocked in quick succession.
Posh should forget all talk of promotion and instead concentrate on avoiding relegation. Nothing seen since the middle of October suggests that this group (players and management staff) have what it takes to challenge at the right end of the table.
Reaction: Ferguson determined to ride the storm
Posh: Ben Alnwick, Michael Smith, Kgosi Ntlhe, Michael Bostwick, Christian Burgess, Jack Payne, Harry Beautyman (sub Conor Washington 58 mins), Joe Newell (sub Aaron Mclean, 74 mins), Erhun Oztumer, Marcus Maddison (sub Nathaniel Mendez-Kaing 58 mins), Luke James. Unused substitutes: Dion Henry, Kyle Vassell, Jermaine Anderson, Shaun Brisley.
Player ratings: Posh chairman was right- his players were a big let-down again
Colchester: Sam Walker, Sean Clohessy, Tom Eastman, Kasper Gorkss, Alex Wynter, David Fox, George Moncur, Sammy Szmodics, Elliott Hewitt (sub Gavin Massey, 87 mins), Freddie Sears (sub Rhys Healey, 74 mins), Sanchez Watt. Unused substitutes: Chris Lewington, Macauley Bonne, Tom Lapslie, Dion Sembie-Ferris, Cole Kpewawa.
Cautions: Posh - Payne (foul), Burgess (delaying the re-start), Oztumer (foul),
Smith (foul), Bostwick (foul).
Colchester - Hewitt (foul), Wynter (foul), Watt (foul).
Goals: Colchester - Sears (56 mins), Hewitt (85 mins).
Referee: Jeremy Simpson 4.