ITEN Match Preview: Peterborough (A)
The last thing Rovers might want in the midst of this ongoing slump in form is to face the division’s top scorers, but Darren Moore will take his side to London Road to face Peterborough on Boxing Day knowing that victory is not out of the question despite the challenge.
Full strength XI at last?
Ben Whiteman’s surprise absence for Saturday’s draw with Accrington meant Rovers were still unable to call upon their best available line-up despite the welcome return of Tom Anderson. Niall Ennis was also left on the bench, only making a late cameo up front as Rovers chased a late winner in vain but should along with Whiteman be available for the Posh clash.
Darren Moore must now turn to his highest quality players and give Rovers the best chance of coming away with a surprise Christmas bonus win. Sense dictates that Reece James will also be in the starting line-up despite being withdrawn at half time for tactical reasons against Accrington. Kwame Thomas did not do enough to merit keeping his place up front in the game and any notion that the side could cope without captain Whiteman was swiftly dismissed with the mixed (at best) display of makeshift midfield duo Ben Sheaf and Madger Gomes.
Fergie finds the formula
Darren Ferguson’s tactical stubbornness drove Rovers fans up the wall when he was manager of the club, and his patented 4-4-2 diamond formation was a key reason why Rovers came away with a resounding 2-0 victory in the reverse fixture back in September. Rovers’ stretched the field and outplayed Peterborough that day but may find it tough to do so again after a clever switch in set-up that has led Posh into the automatic promotion places on Christmas.
The goals of Ivan Toney and Mo Eisa, together League One’s top goal-scorers, coupled with chief creator Marcus Maddison remain the most potent and deadly attack at this level, and will cause numerous problems for Rovers. However, several other first team players are on the injury list at present including veteran Mark Beevers, fellow defender Josh Knight and attacker Siriki Dembele.
Peterborough are not in brilliant form but are unbeaten in seven games between the league and the FA Cup and moved ahead of Ipswich into 2nd place with a goalless draw at Bristol Rovers last time out. Ferguson’s switch to a fluid 3-4-1-2 formation has paid off and should make Posh a difficult team to break down as well as defend against both down the flanks and through the middle, where Maddison is the focal point.
Rovers were deserved 2-0 winners at the Keepmoat Stadium in September, outplaying and outfoxing Peterborough in what was probably the side’s best performance of the season to date, with James Coppinger and Kieran Sadlier grabbing the goals. The win took Darren Moore’s side above Posh in the table but since then the sides have trended in opposite directions with Rovers now in the bottom half after a difficult couple of months.
In fact, Rovers are unbeaten in five games against Peterborough going back to March 2016, when Ferguson was in the opposite dugout. Riccardo Santos netted an injury time winner in a 2-1 win for Graham Westley's Posh at the Keepmoat, a result that sent Rovers into the relegation zone – a position they would not get out of the rest of the season in the midst of a miserable 17-game winless run.