New Season; Same Old Problems for Posh
I’ve had a number of opportunities to see Peterborough United in action in recent seasons and on each occasion, the story has been the same. From a 3-2 defeat against Newcastle United in April 2010 to an identical reverse against Reading last autumn, a buccaneering attacking display has been let down by shoddy defending. Posh have been the proverbial exhalation of fresh air but how much longer can they progress? – especially given the fact that Doncaster’s relegation leaves them by some distance as the smallest club in the Championship.
The Hollywood creators of the Keystone Cops would have been hard pressed to match the first twenty minutes of zaniness at the Madejski Stadium last night with the Posh once again experiencing their least favourite score line. Going into the game, the club lay bottom of the division, with only a Capital One Cup hammering of Southend offsetting the ill winds. That Reading, shorn of an opportunity to play a third Premier League fixture at the weekend due to the elements, were fielding the exact line up that would have featured at Sunderland didn’t bode well.
The impish Paul Taylor, under mild fire on twitter after a less than impressive start to the season, had other ideas – immediately causing immense problems for a worryingly lumbering Reading back line with his darting runs and clever one twos before firing a rasper under Adam Federici to put Peterborough ahead.
After Pavel Pogrebnyak had levelled, Lee Tomlin latched on to a rare long ball — Posh were assiduous in their adherence to the game’s finer arts with perhaps only the slow tempo a credible subject of criticism — the play was neat and tidy but lacking the pace that Garath McCleary in particular brought to the opposition ranks — it was once again a stunning display from the ex-Nottingham Forest man. Tomlin was helped by a third successive error from the Australian netminder but nonetheless connected with real fizz.
Thereon in, the red and black shirted away side were always dangerous, with George Boyd confirming his abilities, operating in something of a free role and being denied by the Australian in a one on one situation. Posh’s front line compares favourably with the three musketeers of the McLean/Boyd/Mackail-Smith days and if Taylor has frustrated fans this campaign thus far, it didn’t show here — he was a perpetual menace.
Peterborough also displayed creativity in midfield and Danny Swanson in particular confirmed the promise he had shown on being introduced against Leeds at the weekend — the signing from Dundee United looks a most canny purchase. Behind him, Grant McCann, a player whose range of passing I have compared to that of a biblical sower in the past, was as bright as usual — Posh fans should feel relieved that he did not leave London Road in the Summer.
So what’s not to like? Well…plenty.
The withdrawal of Shaun Brisley after a measly 26 minutes said it all. The ex-Macclesfield centre back’s partnership with one time TTU interviewee Gabi Zakuani has been under fire from Posh blog and podcast Standing on the Glebe but here, he could well have done with the reassuring presence of the big Congolese. Newcomer Nathaniel Knight-Percival has come in from Wrexham and although his lean athleticism is striking, he struggled against Pogrebnyak — unfortunately heading into his own net after Chris Gunter had brought the Royals level with a cross that evaded everyone. Elsewhere, South African left back Ngosi Ntlhe was outplayed all ends up by McCleary although Mark Little looked competent enough on the right. New keeper, Robert Olejnik, earner of rave reviews on loan to Torquay from Aston Villa last season, was a disappointment — his lack of inches causing many a flutter amid Posh hearts.
So Peterborough really need to sort that back line out. True, others can come in but towards the back end of last season, blogger John Verrall called for a different kind of signing at London Road — something beyond the admirable policy of picking out non-leaguers and Premier league youngsters. Reading’s Sean Morrison might have been a name on the lips of the managers over the post-match glass of red wine.