Fan’s View 2020/21 – No.35 – Peterborough at home

Article by Paul Beasley Wednesday, March 3rd, 2021  

SEASON 2020/21 No.35 PETERBOROUGH AT HOME

Our opponents

From 2009 Peterborough played three of the next four seasons at Championship level. They’ve not been back since their relegation in 2012/13 and have been in L1 ever since never being close to dropping further. On checking how they finished in each of those campaigns I was a little surprised to see that they had only once made the play-offs. That was in their first season back down when they lost to Orient 3-2 on aggregate in the semi-final. They were 20 points shy of the second automatic promotion place which was occupied by Brentford. Just look at the Bees now. Direction of travel and all that. Top on 103 points were Wolves. I’d completely forgotten they’d dropped that low this recently.

In the following campaigns Peterborough finished 9th, 13th, 11th, 9th, 7th and 7th. Nearly but not quite. When last season was prematurely terminated they were 6th and in form having won seven of their last nine league games but with PPG thrown into the mix fell behind a team running out of steam in the form of Wycombe whom they’d beaten 4-0 on 21/01/20. They also had another 4-0 home win a couple of weeks later, against us.  Clearly the season could not continue but if we’d have been in their position we too would probably have been a little bit peeved. Perhaps this has helped drive them on this time round.

They arrived top of the pile.  In Siriki Dembele they’ve got one of the most, if not the most, skilful of L1 midfielders. Jonson Clarke-Harris is the division’s top scorer with a highly impressive 21 goals from 31 games. Our Matty has been stuck on 11 for a while now.

Information coming out of our camp is that Sam Winnall’s injury is more serious than Karl led us to believe when he came off as soon as he had come on last Saturday. Throw in a James Henry hamstring issue and we are moving back towards possible “thread-bare” squad thinking when we know no more Mous and Marcus McGuane.

So this time I will let head rule heart when I tap in my Pick entries.

OXFORD UNITED 0 PETERBOROUGH UNITED 0

This game was very different to nearly every other we’ve recently seen and refreshingly so. These were two teams playing football with the ball on the floor. No going down every few seconds whining for a foul that an easily conned referee will fall for. No time wasting over corners or goal-kicks. There was little time to pause for breath. Both sides clearly wanted to win the game but also just as importantly did not want to take too many risks to get that win, risks which could have led to losing the point they started with. Naturally it may well have been a different story if either team had taken the lead. Coaches and coaching manuals demand game management from thereon in.

Another contributory factor was probably referee Alan Young. He was helped by the attitude of the players but was one of those who kept the game flowing.

Jack Stevens was racking up the saves in the first few minutes. The Posh, as their league position and form told us, looked very good going forward – and defensively for that matter too.

We though had a snap to our play and certainly were not second best in fighting for the ball. Sometimes we are. Mark Sykes’ energy helped in this regard and at times his getting back to help Josh Ruffels in the LB area of the pitch is something that is often missing from our game.

The pattern of possession, 60:40 ish to us, was set early on and remained that way throughout. The final stats on efforts on goal also say much though. We had just two shots on target from 11 whilst they had 7 from 14.

There’s no doubt if we weren’t on it a team like Peterborough would have turned us over.  That’s not to say we didn’t make mistakes but when we did, we made up for it. A team mate helping out or the player making the cock up busting a gut to right the wrong. Cameron Brannagan, who is slowly improving following his return, was noteworthy for the latter.

Not all chances register as a shot, on or off target. In the 12th minute a low cross from Sykes would likely have ended up in the back of the net courtesy of Matty Taylor if it had not been for Nathan Thompson defending excellently. But truthfully they looked more likely to register than we did.

Mr Young had given a couple of free-kicks right at the very start but then went about half an hour without doing so. Well, that’s the impression I got. Perhaps re-starts were so quick I blinked and missed them. The fouls conceded stats ended up 13-8 so perhaps we did revert to the norm when tired legs kicked in and accidentally kicked out. I will though remember this game as being played in a good spirit.

Whenever the positivity bus passes by and asks me to hop on there’s a grim reaper stood at the stop too saying “you might want to think again.” This time he will have pointed to Elliot Lee limping off. Knees can take a while to get fixed. Given those already out, the only fit player of our 23 who wasn’t either a starter or on the bench was Rob Hall.

Nevertheless we got to half time all square and Lee’s replacement Anthony Forde can deliver a dead ball better than most so I was still tempted to jump aboard.

At half time I was in happy so far mode. There was nothing obvious that said we would lose the game – and in the interest of balance that we would win it either. In fact our attacking presence in their box was kind of scrambled, never really controlled.

I also realised at this stage that I’d not got animated about anything yet. Not the way we were playing, not individual players, not the opposition, not the officials nor, come to that, getting excited and jumping up when it looked like we might score. Most unusual. But I was still very much enjoying it.

The second half wasn’t even a quarter of an hour old when, if I had gotten on that bus, I would definitely have demanded to be let off at the next stop.  Dembele had Long trailing in his wake. Our Sam will give his all to get back when he’s behind. His bloody hamstring rebelled this time. We’ll have children on the bench next game and we’re weaker at RB without him. Possibly going forward too and in the context of this game, that was another enforced substitution leaving just one slot for tactical switches.

A few minutes later it was the Peterborough no.7 involved again. They broke after we’d had a corner and for the only time in the contest took us apart. Dembele rounded Stevens who had to come well out of his goal, but instead of converting, put the ball into the side netting. A tight angle yes but I’d expect the very best in tier three not to miss. Perhaps he’s not quite all that after all. Not genuinely two-footed?

So we could rest easy if only briefly but we didn’t need to because it was our turn to do the attacking. Taylor had a shot which Christy Pym put behind for a corner. It was quite a routine save but not a bad effort from Matty. We very much do need something to go in from him. Off any part of his body will do whether he knows anything about it or not. He has to start firing again, particularly now Winnall is out.

Our next attempt came from Brandon Barker. Passing though would have been a better option. He had a quiet game. He’s undoubtedly a man of much skill but the visitors marked him very sensibly and never let him shine. Word soon gets around. Have all of our L1 rivals got a plan that will work to stop him hurting them? Hope not, but he doesn’t look as good now as when we first saw him and that was less than a month ago.

The Alex Gorrin booking didn’t arrive until the 75th minute. This time for handball and not a foul. Harsh I thought but probably not. He has to be shown a yellow card. If he isn’t the assessor has to mark the referee down.

Two minutes later Moore followed him into the book when trying to rectify an error he’d made.

This was becoming worrying. Conceding these free-kicks showed that Peterborough were getting on top.

Time for our last change. Dan Agyei and Olamide Shodipo on for Taylor and Barker. The former’s presence was evident but not quite evident enough to create that one bit of panic in the Peterborough back line or slip a pass through for someone else to finish off. In contrast I didn’t notice Shods but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t doing the required defensive work.

I wasn’t panicking like I normally do. That may have been because even if we had let one in late on we would have just let one point slip not two and we would still have put on a good professional performance against the best team, at least on current form, in L1.  Don’t get me wrong though, I would still have been mightily pissed if we had done so.

Legs and brains appeared to be getting tired. The ball was given away as a consequence and another Peterborough break was brought back for a free-kick. Really pleased there was no flow allowed in this instance.

As we entered the final stages it was getting very hairy but we were saved by the off-side flag or our keeper. JS was possibly MOTM. Other than one first half cross that he just didn’t deal with, he did everything necessary.

Time for another stock take. And why not? Why not after every game?

The good – keeping a clean sheet and not getting beaten by such a good team and there was no real argument to say that we were lucky.

The not so good – not beating them. We just don’t beat teams above us. Although we do get another shot at this on Saturday when Charlton visit. The further we slowly slip down the table the more opportunities we will have to turn over those above us. That of course is not a good thing.

We’re now 10th. Also 10th on PPG basis where the very much in form Blackpool go above and Charlton drop below. We don’t have games in hand that could see us in or close to the top six.  We’re slowly blowing it. On current evidence upper mid-table beckons as our final resting place and then only if we win the occasional game between now and the end of the season.

More not so good – this was the third league game in four where we’ve not scored. Taylor has stopped scoring. No-one else looks like they are going to step in. So how do we win games?

Do I need to mention the injuries again? No, thought not.

By hook or by crook will do. Charlton of late have only been picking up wins against poor teams so let’s somehow find a way and set ourselves up for the one after where OUFC fans are owed one. But one game at a time. Then more stock taking.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, March 3rd, 2021 at 12:16 am and appears under News Items. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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