ITEN Match Preview: Peterborough (H)
Having slipped to defeat in injury time against Blackpool in midweek, Rovers will be looking to bounce back from their maiden defeat when Darren Ferguson returns to DN4 with his Peterborough United side on Saturday. Posh have started the season superbly but suffered a reality check of their own in their last outing, squandering a 2-0 lead to draw at lowly Tranmere. Who will have the edge in a potentially volatile fixture?
Midfield must support Ennis
Two contrasting performances against Ipswich and Blackpool yielded no goals for Darren Moore’s side this week, despite a positive approach and clear desire to get into the box. Niall Ennis is the man tasked with leading the line but it is easy to forget he is still only 20 years old and has a mere half dozen appearances in league football under his belt. With Kazaiah Sterling still recovering from the leg injury suffered against Rotherham, it will fall to the Wolves loanee to spearhead Rovers attacking efforts against Peterborough, but he needs ample support from those behind him if we are to avoid a third straight blank in front of goal.
To that end, Kieran Sadlier and James Coppinger must start together in their natural positions. ‘Sads’ struggled to impose himself filling in for the veteran against Blackpool but his capabilities coming in off the wing cannot be denied and he is the best option to play opposite Jon Taylor in the wide positions, with Matty Blair injured and Alfie May struggling to impose himself on Tuesday. Sadlier scored a controversial but memorable goal in this fixture last season, his first for the club, and will no doubt be keen to leave a mark on his former side again this time around.
Fergie’s familiar shape pays dividends
The 4-4-2 Diamond formation was a major talking point for much of Darren Ferguson’s three year spell in charge of Rovers, and it is that set-up which has helped catapult Posh to the upper echelons of the table as the clear and away top scorers in the division. Prior to the 2-2 draw with Tranmere, Peterborough had won four games in a row scoring 17 goals, conceding none, with Marcus Maddison playing off Ivan Toney and Mo Eisa to great effect. The trio have notched all but one of the side’s 20 league goals through the first eight games and will be as tough a challenge as our back four will be likely to face all season.
Holding onto Maddison this long has proven crucial to the creativity of Peterborough, his talents easily good enough for the Championship yet he finds himself still at this level. The club also turned down a big bid for Ivan Toney last month and Rovers fans need only cast their mind back to that 3-1 win to remember how much of a nuisance the tricky striker can be, whilst Eisa came in to much fanfare for £1 million this summer and has hit the ground running. Louis Reed anchors a solid midfield behind them but playmaker George Boyd missed the last two games due to injury.
The lack of wingers in this formation often led to criticism of narrow, unimaginative play when Ferguson deployed it here, but that is because it relies on full backs to provide width. Posh’s right back Niall Mason also filled that role here before being sacked after being convicted of sexual assault earlier this year, so expect a bit of a sideshow around him in the game. Mason’s attacking prowess has never been terrific but he provides excellent balance and composure at the back, so the battle between him and Sadlier or Taylor will be a key one to watch.
Peterborough feel remarkably well known to Rovers fans through recent years, not least because our last two managers have such strong connections to the club. With Grant McCann gone and Darren Ferguson back in the Posh dugout, the connections in our ranks are down to just Sadlier and Taylor, but a feisty clash is still likely. Rovers ran out 3-1 winners in the last meeting as mentioned above, with the preceding three games all ending in draws. The last win for the visitors in this fixture came in March 2016, when a last minute goal from Riccardo Santos consigned Rovers to defeat in the midst of a 17-game winless run under Ferguson that ended in relegation to League Two.