As usual Peterborough United chairman Darragh MacAnthony spoke for the majority of his club’s fans by describing the 2014/15 League One campaign as ‘underwhelming’.
The 1-1 draw at Oldham yesterday (May 3) secured a ninth place finish for Posh which wasn’t what the doctor, or the chairman, ordered back in August, even after the self-inflicted wound caused by the sale of Britt Assombalonga two days before the start of the season at Rochdale.
Posh finished the season back in the North West yesterday and delivered a performance that rather summed up the last ninth months, There were glimpes of potential (most notably from Harry Anderson) and plenty of spirit as Posh battled back from a goal down and a man down (18 year-old Jonathan Edwards was sent off on his full debut), and after losing two key men (Erhun Oztumer and Gaby Zakuani) to first-half injuries, to gain a point.
But attractive football? That was again absent as were flair and imagination. League One has generally delivered poor quality football this season and yet Posh lost more games than they won and conceded more goals than they scored. MacAnthony likes his stats and he will be armed with plenty of them when he returns to the UK tomorrow (May 5) for a two-day meeting with current manager Dave Robertson and his staff.
And Robertson’s record, since rescuing the team from a miserable few months under Darren Ferguson, has probably muddied MacAntony’s thinking. Robertson took Posh from 16th to ninth (after a one-week flirtation with a play-off place) with a points ratio that if transferred to a 46-game season would have delivered a top-six spot.
They are not his players either and if MacAnthony wants a man to bring youngsters into the side and develop them, Robertson is better qualified than most, but there remains a nagging doubt in the minds of many Posh fans who inhabit the world of Twitter and fans’ forums. Can Robertson deliver the entertaining, attacking football that the chairman demands? Can he spot the talents outside the club and of senior age who would turn Posh into promotion contenders next season?
It’s hard to believe there aren’t managers among the 200 or so applicants for the Posh job with promotions on their CVs. MacAnthony faces a big, and vitally important, decision this week and he will have noted what instability, insecurity and poor managerial selections have done to Leyton Orient in the 12 months since they reached the League One play-off final by beating Posh.
The players’ performances since February have suggested they are behind Robertson. They could have thrown the towel in at Boundary Park after losing an early goal to a Dominic Poleon header and then watching Oztumer and Zakuani limp off before the break and losing Edwards with 25 minutes remaining.
Ricardo Santos should have headed Posh level at the start of the second-half after Oldham’s jittery goalkeeper Joel Coleman had parried a ferocious strike from Michael Bostwick straight up in the air. A few minutes later and Posh were down to 10 men when Edwards’ mis-timed challenge on James Wilson angered referee Gary Sutton enough into showing his red card.
But Posh, without playing well, and helped by Oldham’s own poor form and lack of quality, stayed in the game and Bostwick’s volley from a partially-cleared corner 14 minutes from time earned the point that took his side back above Fleetwood, but not quite on terms with Rochdale. Two poorly-supported clubs (in terms of fan numbers) who would see their full seasons as far more gratifying than those following Posh.
For Posh yesterday Anderson and Joe Newell played well as wing-backs, while Shaun Brisley deputised well for Zakuani. Robertson, who has tried to be tactically innovative in the last few matches of the campaign, probably went too far by initially selecting Santos on the ‘wrong’ side of a three-man back line.
Santos was switched to the right-hand side, but not before Michael Smith had failed to keep tabs on Poleon as he converted a right-wing cross from Rhys Turner in the ninth minute. Posh ‘keeper Ben Alnwick was rarely tested again, but sadly neither was Coleman.
Robertson left Marcus Maddison on the substitutes’ bench until the final 20 minutes and started 16 year-old Le Da Silva Lopes and two 18 year-olds. MacAnthony stated after the game that his optimism for next season is based on the emergence of young talent and a law of averages theory that the team won’t suffer so many serious injuries.
Recruitment will also be vital and this summer, thanks to the collapse in form of Maddison and the long-term injury suffered by Jack Baldwin, it won’t be funded by a major sale.
Posh: Ben Alnwick, Ricardo Santos, Gaby Zakuani (sub Shaun Brisley, 39 mins), Michael Smith, Harry Anderson, Michael Bostwick, Erhun Oztumer (sub Jack Payne, 19 mins), Leo Da Silva Lopes (sub Marcus Maddison, 71 mins), Joe Newell, Jonathan Edwards, Conor Washington. Unused substitutes: Dion-Curtis Henry, Christian Burgess, Harry Beautyman, Luke James.
Oldham: Joel Coleman, Connor Brown, Liam Kelly, Mike Jones, Anthony Gerrard, Brian Wilson (sub Tim Dieng, 87 mins), Rhys Turner (sub Jordan Bove 60 mins), Carl Winchester, James Wilson, Danny Philliskirk (sub Jack Tuohy, 69 mins), Dominic Poleon. Unused substitutes: Jake Kean, George Elokobi, Jacob Mellis, Luke Woodland.
Goals: Posh - Bostwick (76 mins).
Oldham - Poleon (9 mins).
Sending off: Posh - Edwards (serious foul play).
Cautions: Bostwick (aggressive attitude).
Oldham - Poleon (aggressive attitude).
Referee: Gary Sutton 5
Attendance: 3,943 (324 Posh).