SPECIAL FEATURE: The good, bad and ugly of 2016-17 (so far)
Peterborough Telegraph Posh writer Alan Swann summarises the League One season so far as the campaign reaches the final furlong.
1 For the second season in a row the Peterborough Telegraph has not bothered with a traditional ‘fixture run-in’ spreadsheet.
There is no point as Posh won’t gatecrash the play-off party and can’t get dragged down into a relegation battle. This has been obvious for weeks which shows how uninspiring the season has been.
Since the season settled down Posh have never been higher than sixth and have rarely dropped into the bottom half of the table.
I suppose it’s possible Posh could win their final five matches of the season, although three in a row (Bristol Rovers, Bolton, Northampton) is the best they’ve managed so far, but a maximum of 73 points isn’t likely to yield a top six slot.
Southend are sixth and have 66 points already. They still have strugglers Chesterfield, Shrewsbury and Bury to play.
For Posh to reach 73 points they are also going to have to win at promotion certainties Bolton on the final day of the season (April 30).
2 Between them central defenders David Wheater and Mark Beevers have scored 14 League One goals between them for Bolton which highlights the value of excellent set-piece routines.
Powerful centre-back Ryan Tafazolli, who scored six goals for Mansfield last season, was supposed to improve this side of Posh’s game. It hasn’t happened despite the division’s assist-king Marcus Maddison being in charge of the delivery.
Tafazolli has scored twice in 30 starts.
3 After last Saturday’s win over Charlton, Posh manager Grant McCann said ‘when Marcus Maddison plays well, we play well’.
Maddison reckons he plays best on the wing. Posh rarely veer away from a midfield diamond.
Perhaps a tactical re-think is required next season?
4 One statistic released by Posh chairman Darragh MacAnthony last week was startling.
Not the one showing teenage midfielder Leo Da Silva Lopes with the highest win percentage of any player in the squad (although that was surprising), but the one which claimed strikers Shaquile Coulthirst, Lee Angol, Craig Mackail-Smith and Junior Morias had claimed one assist in 56 appearances between them (make that 58 appearances now).
It proves Posh have failed to find a complementary strike pairing all season, something that must be addressed in the summer for a promotion push to be a possibility in 2017-18.
5 Posh conceded 25 goals in the first 23 League One games of the season.
They’ve conceded 29 in 18 games since including five at Bury, four at home to MK Dons and Southend, and three at a poor Chesterfield side.
In my opinion Posh have enough strong defenders at the club to challenge for promotion, but that post-Chelsea lapse at the back has proved costly.
6 Posh didn’t lose a single game in which nine-goal midfielder Gwion Edwards scored.
He has been missed since picking up a season-ending injury at Walsall in February.
7 The ABAX Stadium is not a place opponents fear to tread. Nine wins from 23 home games last season and eight wins in 21 games so far this season.
Form like that will affect season ticket sales which in turn affects the atmosphere. How many times has London Road rocked this season? The Northampton game is only time I can recall.
8 Posh should still have ambitions this season.
They should make it a 10th season in a row when they’ve finished above Cobblers and if they finish above 13th, and with more than 63 points (they are 11th on 58 points right now), they will at least have arrested the consistent decline in finishing position since the Championship relegation campaign of 2012-13.
9 The standard of playing surface in League One has been abysmal this season.
Since Christmas Posh have been asked to perform on muddy, bumpy, bone-dry, rutted surfaces at Bury, Oldham, Bradford City, Millwall and Gillingham.
They could find another one at Coventry on Saturday.
It’s a huge factor in the level of entertainment being so low.
Perhaps more money should be invested in ground maintenance than in paying loan fees for over-rated young Premier League players?
In contrast the Posh pitch has been as good as I can remember.
Sadly the visiting teams have enjoyed it as well.
10 I’m sure the Checkatrade Trophy Final at Wembley last weekend was enjoyed by the fans of Coventry and Oxford.
But the bumper attendance of 74,434 shouldn’t be used by the Football League as an excuse to continue the competition in its current format.
English Football League chief executive Shaun Harvey has been making some worrying noises about a similar set-up next season, but the League One and League Two clubs who will make the decision soon should remember . . .
n The fines issued to teams for fielding weakened teams even though they won (Luton, Posh).
n The attendance of 274 to see West Brom ‘B’ play Gillingham.
n Premier League teams (Norwich, Stoke) who abused the competition to give older first-team squad players a game.
Perhaps lower league clubs should hold a raffle to see who gets to play at Wembley.
Then we can avoid the sheer torture of the early rounds.