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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Peterborough United Preview

Failure to score against the League's bottom club on Saturday didn't impress Mrs Nelson very much and its not so long along that she commented that we must be bad if we're playing Seaford. And a lacklustre performance against Barnet it apparently was, although one that Curbs would be proud of. Just three games after conceding nine goals in three games, we made it three clean sheets in three tricky games. Parky wheeled out the professional tag and pointed out its 4 intact wheels and after last seasons dismal performance at Northwich, welcomed the appearance of our name in the FA Cup 2nd Round hat.
And then there was Tuesday and a game against Southend in the silly Paint Pot job that after another goal from Therry Racon isn't looking so silly. Again we rode our luck at times but gained a fourth clean sheet and its now 6 hours 13 minutes since we conceded.
Meanwhile, in the League, the number three featured several times in the Swindon offering "Its all a question of 3's" and so perhaps it was no surprise to see the scoreline at 3-0. But it was left to young Wyn Grant to actually forecast a 3-2 win. But after hauling ourselves back into contention and a nice 5th place are we all optimistic this week for the trip to Peterborough?

The Boss

Whilst our last League opponents Swindon's Danny Wilson can be proud of taking Barnsley into top flight football for the first time, the Posh boss Gary Johnson is another manager with a famous credit to his name. After years of non-league giant-killing to its name, Yeovil Town at last reached the Football League in 2003 after winning the Conference with Johnson in charge.
But it hasn't been all plain sailing for Johnson because he didn't have much success at his first 2 clubs being sacked by both Cambridge and Kettering and a rather strange tenure as manager of Latvia for 2 years which didn't improve his CV although 4 wins in 14 games for such a small country would seem some sort of achievement. But he obviously learned something in Latvia if not the language and success at Yeovil soon followed. He arrived at Yeovil in 2002 and took the FA Trophy in his first year and then took giant killers Yeovil into the Football League for the first time in 2003.
After 5 years there he moved on to Bristol City and took them into the Tier Two Play-off final in 2008 and then lead City to their first win at the Valley in 40 years with a 2-0 win in October 2008, hammering another nail into the Charlton relegation coffin. He lasted another couple of years at Bristol but the spark of 2008 had died and in March 2010 "he left his post as manager of Bristol City FC by mutual consent." Three short weeks later he was snapped up by bottom of table Posh, 14 points away from safety with 5 games remaining, and relegation a certainty.
As for Peterborough's recent history, after 2 successful years under Darren Ferguson, who got the club back to back promotions from League 2 to the Championship, he was finally given the axe in November 2009 after just 2 wins in 16 League games. They are now on their third manager since then which at least is in keeping with the club, now on their ninth in the last 5 years since the days of Barry Fry.
So how do they like Gary down at London Road? Well, very nicely thank you, for after a miserable total of 46 goals scored over the 46 games last seasons they've so far got 32 this year from 15 games.
So not surprisingly, the Posh are the highest scorers in Tier Three and especially at home where they have notched 21 goals in their 7 games and its earned them the fourth best home record in the Division with 5 wins - to the Addicks 4 - but with twice as many defeats, ie two, to Notts County and Brighton. So after four opening home wins against Bristol Rovers 3-0, Huddersfield 4-2, Oldham 5-2 and MK Dons 2-1, those two defeats have come in the last 3 home League games with an entertaining 5-4 win over Swindon sandwiched between them.

So are the Posh tailing off a bit? Only 2 defeats in their first 8 games, they have now lost 4 in their last 7.

Who Are Yeh?
There could be a battle of the 20 year olds on the right flank as six goal Waggy comes face to face with "Nana" from Accra. Left-back and number 22 is Seth Nana Ofori-Twumasi, a bit of a mouthful, but was once on Chelski's books and after captaining their reserves but failing to learn Russian, upped and left joining the Posh last July. But as Waggy scatches his head planning how to get past all those syllables, manager Johnson could have the answer as he has moved Nana into midfield and got himself a new left-back in Bristol City loanee Lewin Nyatanga, not from Ghana but a 22 year old Welsh international from Burton on Trent.

But as Parky eagerly casts his eye over the Posh watery defence he'll notice that beside ex Shrewsbury hardman 25 year old Kelvin Langmead there's another 20 year old at the heart of the Posh defence. This is number 16 Ryan Bennett, Peterborough's most expensive player at a quoted 500k, and after captaining Grimsby at age 18 was another Ferguson buy. Said to be "comfortable on the ball", - and a note for Parky - he's also said to be good at set pieces and has scored twice already this year.

In fact, Parky may not be alone in thinking that its the age of Peterborough defenders that may be the key to their abysmal defensive record, for at right-back is another 22 year old Mark Little.

Dangermen - Two Ex-Teammates Clash
In games against the Divisions top goalscorers, we couldn't stop Wright-Phillips (Plymouth) or Madine (Carlisle) scoring against us but more recently the defence kept Charlie Austin quiet at the County Ground. But can they do the same against Peterborough's finest? He sounds Scottish, but twenty-six year old Craig Mackail-Smith hails from Watford. He's been at London Road since January 2007 when he was snatched from Dagenham and Redbridge by Darren Ferguson, where he had been playing alongside Paul Benson, just as the Daggers were gearing up to win the Conference.

With only 38 goals in his three years at Victoria Road he was in Bensons shadow but has blossomed since then with a reported 61 goals in 152 games for the Posh. He clearly likes life in Tier Three and and after 11 League goals last season, he already has 8 goals so far this season, although he hasn't scored in five.....

Down the other end will be our own Paul Benson currently on 6 goals for the season. Four years older than MacKail-Smith, and a late starter he was 26 before he made his Football debut in August 2007. Benson notched a reported 70 (although he claims 85-odd) in 174 appearances for the Daggers.

What Are They Saying?

Peterborough United boss Gary Johnson after their last League game against Walsall, a straightforward 3-1 away win, Walsall's third defeat in a row,"We tinkered with the shape a bit to have an extra midfielder in there and I thought the boys put in a really good shift. Walsall got the ball forward very quickly, they had a few big lads in there, our three defenders had to deal with it and I thought generally they dealt with it well. When they didn't, our goalkeeper was there."

Whats The Secret?
The Posh The rather bizarre statistic of being this Divisions highest scorers with 32, three more than anyone else, but they also field Tier Three's worse defence (although shared with Yeovil and the Daggers ) on 28 goals conceded.
They also have the best record of anyone in their games against the top half teams in the table with 5 wins ( Bristol Rovers, Huddersfield, MK Dons, Oldham and Carlisle) in 7 games.
And although the Addicks are the only club to score as many as they concede in the second half with 12 goals scored and conceded, the Posh score twice as many as they let in with 20 scored and 10 let in.
The Addicks
Of the 15 games, we've scored first 10 times but of the 5 others we have only gained a single point - at Plymouth - all the others have been lost.

A strange history totalling 12 games, six of which have been cup ties. Three cup games at London Road and we've lost the lot but this the League and things are a bit different.
In the total of 6 League games, home and away, we won 3, drawn one and lost one and you'll be pleased to learn that we are unbeaten at their ground with two 1-1 draws in 1975 and 1992 and a 1-0 win in November 1993 when that man Nelson scored his 9th of the season. That was our 2nd of 4 seasons with Curbs and Gritt in charge and we flirted with promotion with just 1 defeat in the first 14 but 5 defeats in a row in March (including the spanners and Palarse) finished a disappointing season. We all went to Old Trafford in March, FA Cup 6th Round - the first time we had got that far since 1947 - but lost 1-3 after Schmeichel had been sent off, and somehow that really started the rot, we also lost 3 times to Palarse and finished the season in midtable, with Gary Nelson on 15 goals, with Leaburn and Pardew on 10, while Peterborough finished bottom and were relegated.


Not something we want to read perhaps but as well as being high goalscorers, the Posh and the Addicks are way ahead in putting it about as well. The Addicks continue to set the pace in fouls committed with 210 but close behind in second place are Peterborough with 191. The Posh are also after the red card gong with 3 send off, although they are way behind Plymouth currently with 6.

The Team
In the news at the moment is Scotty Wagstaff. Named in the Football League team of the week, along with Rob Elliott after the win over Sheffield Wednesday it follows the naming of Johnnie Jackson and Paul Benson in the previous weeks team for the win over Carlisle.

And there's more good news on Paul Benson. After scoring four goals in October, Charlton striker Paul Benson has been nominated for the League One player of the month award. The winning player will be announced on Thursday, November 11th.

Meanwhile the Addicks have been unchanged for 4 games, apart from Tuesdays Paint Can effort against Southend. Memories of last seasons 6 game storming start are perhaps still fresh in Parky's memory as we topped the table and went 8 games unchanged, a club record. Only four players remain from that run - Elliott, Dailly, Semedo and Racon - but has the team improved?

After 15 games last season we had 4 more points than now on 29 points; from 8 wins and only 2 defeats away at Colchester and Carlisle. Away from the Valley even after that great start it was still only 3wins, 3draws and those 2 defeats. The goals stood at 12 goals for 10 against.

But at the moment away from home its almost as good with an encouraging 3wins, 2draws and 3 defeats at Huddersfield, Exeter and Brentford, ie only a single point worse off than last season. And the goals for column has grown to 15, with 13 conceded.

Another unchanged team then with:

Elliot; Francis, Dailly, Doherty, Fry; Wagstaff, Semedo, Racon, Jackson; Benson, Anyinsah.

As far as the League is concerned its a meeting of the goalscoring giants of Tier Three. In the 10 games played at London Road this season, 8 League, 3 League Cup, the fans have seen an amazing 48 goals, 28 by the Posh, 20 by the opposition. And in the red corner is the Addicks with 10 away games, 38 goals scored, 20 for us, 18 against. So its the highest home scorers against the highest away scorers.

And then there's the added conumdrum of the Addicks' fourth clean sheet in a row after Tuesday. We needed a bit of luck to keep that going but its doubtful it will continue at London Road against Peterborough and the only team to stop them scoring at home this season has been Brighton although that was in their last home game and they might have their doubts. And then there's the dual between Paul Benson and MacKail-Smith. The two ex teammates will want to prove to themselves that they is the best so expect them both to get on the scoresheet.

Meanwhile, we have never lost at London Road in the League although the number of games played have that lucky ring to it again, ie 3. Whether that means a 3-3 draw or a hat-trick for Paul Benson we can only guess.

Verdict, for me a 2-2 draw but do I see Gyn again forecasting another 3-2 win?

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