Peterborough United should really have a representative in that terrible TV reality show ‘The Jump’.
Serene uphill progress followed by a fast slide downhill and a crash-landing with many casualties is a reasonable summary of the Posh campaign so far.
Remarkably, despite a fifth straight League One defeat in a row, Posh are still closer to the play-off places than the relegation zone, but all the smoke and mirrors at a spin doctor’s disposal couldn’t disguise in which direction Graham Westley’s side are heading.
Westley really is trying to convince us all otherwise. His post-match press briefing after this dispiriting 3-1 defeat at the hands of a weakened Bury side was a masterclass in finding positives others would find impossible to utter with a straight face.
Of course he has a young side to protect and fans to keep on board, but make no mistake, the current form, and the manner of the defeats, all points to a relegation battle and it’s not one you’d back Posh to win with any confidence.
Posh are so poor right up front the spectre of Conor Washington looms large even though he has yet to score a Championship goal. Club great George Boyd was watching on from the press box and would doubtless have enjoyed Marcus Maddison’s performance, while being too polite to offer comment on the rest.
Bury started this game with just two recognised defenders and they lost their starting right-back in the pre-match warm-up as well as his replacement after just 18 minutes. Ripe for the picking then? Er, no, as against this makeshift defence Posh started with just one striker in Tom Nichols and only scored a goal because home ‘keeper Ian Lawlor obligingly kicked the ball straight at Maddison who enjoyed the formality of tucking the ball into an unguarded net eight minutes into the second-half
Sadly Posh were 2-0 down by then. There are some who suspect Westley is using a tombola to pick his team. There were six changes to his starting line-up tonight and a surprise system switch also took place.
Posh deployed a 3-4-2-1 formation which involved three centre-backs, Michael Bostwick, tonight’s skipper of choice, acting as a minder for 17 year-old Leo Da Silva Lopes in front of them, Michael Smith and Kgosi Nthle as wing-backs and Jon Taylor and Maddison offering attacking support to Nichols.
That was the theory anyway and to be fair Posh were the better side for most of the opening half an hour, but once falling behind they crumbled. Defensive gaps were exposed as was the brittle behaviour of the midfielders.
Bury’s opening goal was well crafted even before Chris Hussey swung a left-wing cross in that somehow eluded three centre-backs before reaching Leon Clarke at the back post. He rarely misses from six yards.
And it was 2-0 four minutes later as two slightly forward passes led to Ryan Lowe dumping Gaby Zakuani on his backside before poking the ball past the helpless Stuart Moore.
Danny Pugh (from 25 yards) and John O’Sullivan (from 12 yards) also went close to scoring a third goal before the break as the confidence drained from Posh bodies.
Bostwick had shot disappointingly wide from 20 yards and Maddison tested Lawlor with a swerving free kick. Taylor failed to get a shot away from the edge of the six-yard box while it was 0-0, but they were fleeting opportunities.
Inevitably Posh re-organised at the break, but while Shaquile Coulthirst’s arrival as a second striker in place of Ntlhe was sensible, switching to a flat back four with Santos at right-back and Smith, a right-back by trade, at left-back was just baffling. Natural left-back Harry Toffolo was again left sitting on his hands on the substitutes’ bench.
The move had other consequences for Santos who was dismissed for picking up a second yellow card for pulling Lowe back on the edge of the area 11 minutes from time. That was a correct decision, but the giant defender was perhaps unlucky to collect his first caution in the first-half from a referee who showed five yellow cards to Posh players, but none to the home side despite some systematic fouling of Maddison’s
Maddison’s goal, and the hope provided by a shot soon afterwards that was well saved by Lawlor, and crosses that set up chances for Nichols and Taylor, were dashed within 60 seconds as Andrew Tutte’s powerful strike at goal direct from the free-kick caught out Posh ‘keeper Stuart Moore at his near post. That was a shame for Moore who had pulled off a flying save from Lowe’s shot to keep Posh in touch midway through the half.
And don’t expect things to improve in a hurry. It’s Wigan away next, the richest club in League One who happen to be on a 13-game unbeaten run.
Posh: Stuart Moore, Ricardo Santos, Gaby Zakuani, Jack Baldwin, Michael Smith, Kgosi Ntlhe (sub Sahquile Coulthirst, 46 mins), Michael Bostwick, Leo Da Silva Lopes (sub Callum Chettle, 85 mins), Marcus Maddison, Jon Taylor (sub Martin Samuelsen, 77 mins), Tom Nichols. Unused substitutes: Erhun Oztumer, Dion-Curtis Henry, Harry Toffolo, Harry Beautyman.
Bury: Ian Lawlor, Peter Clarke, Jacob Mellis (sub John O’Sullivan, 18 mins), Chris Hussey, Danny Mayor (sub Scott Burgess, 86 mins), Tom Soares, Craig Jones, Andrew Tutte, Ryan Lowe (sub Tom Pope, 81 mins), Leon Clarke, Danny Pugh. Unused substitutes: Chris Sedgwick, Danny Rose, Jack Ruddy.
Goals: Posh - Maddison (53 mins)
Bury - Clarke (29 mins), Lowe (32 mins), Tutte (79 mins).
Sending-off: Posh - Santos (second yellow card, foul).
Cautions: Posh - Santos (foul), Smith (foul), Baldwin (foul), Bostwick (foul)
Referee: Chris Sarginson 6
Attendance: 2,180 (153 Posh),
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