The way this play-off saga seems to be heading, the last match of the regular season has every chance of being a winner-takes-all decider for the final play-off spot at Nigel Adkins’ Sheffield United on 8 May. As Jonathan Saville pointed out on Twitter, most play-off contenders will drop points in the forthcoming games and we could capitalise.
Sheff U v Barnsley, Barnsley v Wigan, Gills v Burton, Gills v Millwall, Iron v Sheff U. Points will be dropped, 9 more out of 9 could do it
— Jonathan Saville (@jonnysav75) April 19, 2016
In the meantime, there’s the small matter of beating Peterborough on Saturday to keep alive those slim play-off hopes, as well as praying that those other teams with an eye on that final spot slip up. Tuesday’s win over Bury, coupled with results elsewhere, cut the gap to sixth place to four points with three games left. It could hardly be tighter.
So can we beat Peterborough? The club’s ambitions under their live-wire chairman Darragh MacAnthony have floundered since two recent promotions to the Championship, both times under Darren Ferguson, followed each time by relegation and his departure from the club, the last time following a poor run of results early this season, after which Fergie Jnr went on to muck things up at Donny.
Things haven’t improved at London Road under Peterborough’s current manager Graham Westley and his former Scunny assistant Grant McCann, with the team 14th in the table after an up and down season. They seem to do well against the weaker sides but come unstuck against those higher up the table, culminating in Tuesday’s 1-0 defeat at play-off chasing Barnsley courtesy of a late error by their keeper Ben Alnwick.
Their home form isn’t great either, winning just eight of 21 games at their own ground all season, including losing six of their last nine, so we certainly shouldn’t view Saturday’s game as a trip to fortress London Road, especially as there looks likely to be some end-of-season experimentation in the Posh team.
With little to play for, Westley is happy to make changes. As well as missing midfielder Chris Forrester, Michael Bostwick is not being risked after collecting his 14th booking against Barnsley. Michael Smith could return after injury and Alnwick is likely to miss out with injury with Mark Tyler set to start between the sticks.
As Wesley said: “It’s time we look at one or two players for sure. If we were desperate for the results, we’d have to take chances that perhaps we won’t take, but we can start to look at others now.”
Peterborough’s credo used be “we’ll score more than we let in”, going up to the Championship in 2011 with the worst defensive record in the division, conceding over 70 goals but scoring a massive 106.
Such swashbuckling football is now a thing of the past but where the Posh’s numbers have climbed is on the disciplinary front. Tuesday’s red card for Forrester was the club’s eight of the season, level only with Chesterfield. The situation with yellow cards is even worse: they have collected 114 cautions in all competitions this season, 15 more than any other League One team. It could be a rough afternoon.