Preview: Peterborough United

You could say that Wednesday night’s defeat away at Sheffield United was a cold, hard dose of reality, but that was one game versus a lifetime of waiting to see this club win something. If you’re going to let an individual defeat sour the experience of Sunday, football just might not be for you.

Possible Line-Up

That being said, failing to win this upcoming game against Peterborough and having relegation confirmed would be a major buzzkill less than a week after winning at Wembley. Although relegation is inevitable at this point, it would be nice to preserve the sense of pride about supporting this club that came from last Sunday for as long as possible. These remaining home games are a chance to win new fans over and tempt old ones back, we cannot allow apathy to set back in so easily.

The line-up against Sheffield United indicated just how many injuries we’re carrying in the squad at this point. It’s likely then that the team selection for this forthcoming game will be a case of who’s fit rather than picking a team specifically designed to beat the opposition. Just who will be available is unclear, but don’t be too surprised to see further starts for Marcus Tudgay and Kevin Foley – maybe we’ll even get to see Michael Folivi finally.

Last Time We Met

In an alternate reality, Peterborough don’t score in the final minute at London Road back on New Year’s Eve, Russell Slade gets his first win, that confidence boost gives us an edge over Slade’s first few games in charge, we remain competitive in the league, Slade leads us out at Wembley, and his name and face are etched into our memories in a positive way. But that didn’t happen and the 1-1 draw against Peterborough earlier in the season was a sign of things to come under Slade.

It’s worth pointing out though that our home record against Peterborough is not only good in recent years, but we always seem to pull off remarkable comebacks against them. The last two meetings at the Ricoh Arena have seen us be two goals behind in each game, only to win 3-2. It was the same scoreline back at Sixfields, only Peterborough were 1-0, then 2-1 up before succumbing to a Leon Clarke masterclass in the second-half.

How Are They Doing?

It’s been a frustrating season for Peterborough where things just haven’t quite clicked for them on a consistent basis. They have a squad jam-packed with exciting attacking players such as Marcus Maddison, Tom Nichols, Paul Taylor, Leo da Silva Lopes, Brad Inman, Martin Samuelsen and Gwion Edwards, but have only demonstrated their potential on intermittent occasions, which is why they’re currently in mid-table rather than in the play-off position they really should be.

Peterborough’s bloated squad is probably the reason why they haven’t achieved what they should have this season. When there were on the fringes of the play-offs in January, Grant McCann wanted the squad trimmed, instead, five first-choice players were signed and it took too long for McCann to integrate them into the side.

The strength in depth though has to be considered a major threat heading into this game. The rangy and mercurial winger Marcus Maddison stands out as Peterborough’s best players and probably one of the best in the division when he’s at his best. He has an absolutely thunderous left-foot and can strike long-range efforts at an angle from long distance from both dead ball situations and set-pieces.

Currently, it is a strike pairing of Tom Nichols and Junior Morias for the Posh. Nichols has had a decent season in front of goal, registering 10 as well as a fair few assists, but hasn’t quite been a reliable finisher. Morias has come in from non-league Boreham Wood and scored some absolutely stunning goals and is a fairly pacey player as well, so he’ll have to be watched carefully.

Possible Line-Up

In midfield, Peterborough have dynamic players in Chris Forrester and Leo da Silva Lopes who’ll play in the wide positions of a 4-4-2 diamond formation. Sitting at the base will be Anthony Grant, who is an absolute bastard, probably the best at what he does at this level of football. He’s a fairly tidy midfield player and a decent tackler, but it’s that he’s an expert in winning soft free-kicks, making nasty, niggly tackles that seem to go unnoticed by referees and wasting time – a nightmare to play against when you fall behind.

Peterborough’s defence is probably the weak area of the side, they have good players for this level in the form of Michael Bostwick, Jack Baldwin and Michael Smith, it’s just that their playing style can leave them open at the back. In goal, they have Tottenham youngster Luke McGee who has had a decent season, especially considering he was a bit of a panic signing at the end of the summer transfer window.

Prediction

I’m in two minds about this game. I’m concerned that the number of injured players we’re carrying is going to make this a tired and disjointed performance against a team with a number of very talented attacking players. However, I’m hoping that the sense of goodwill following the win at Wembley will give the team the shot in the arm they require to get the win here to stave off relegation.

Given Peterborough’s inconsistent nature this season, I’m going to go for positivity heading into this game. I think we’ll win, and it will be a 2-1 scoreline.

Preview: Millwall

Another must-win game that we’ve lost since Russell Slade took charge and it’s almost impossible not to foresee League Two on the horizon. Yet, there is the opportunity with a congested month of fixtures ahead to quickly turn things around, yet performances have been steadily getting worse under Slade since the 2-2 draw with Bolton at the start of last month.

Although we’ve somehow managed to hold onto all of our prized ‘assets’ over the January transfer window, the reinforcements brought in seem of a distinctly similar vintage to the loanees we let go.  The signing of Michael Folivi as the transfer window closed on Tuesday evening felt like a repeat of the late signing of Andre Wright back in the summer, strongly intimating that things aren’t going to be much better over the next few months.

Possible Line-Up

Possible Line-Up

We head into a home game against a Millwall side who are almost the exact mirror opposite of ourselves. While we descend down the plug-hole with a team in no discernible form and all hope of owning our stadium lost, Millwall are on the rise, in red-hot form and have successfully campaigned to avoid a council-led death sentence. We have a load of weak, limp players devoid of confidence, Millwall are muscular and robust. Writing the rest of this preview almost feels redundant.

Somehow, Russell Slade has to raise the performance levels of this team, and having failed to bring in a target-man centre-forward, has to move away from the dunder-headed long-ball strategy he’s gone for over the past few games. Jordan Willis is unavailable for this game after his sending-off at Northampton last weekend, which should see Kevin Foley return to the side. Michael Folivi comes into contention after arriving this week, and he’s going to have to be some player to score goals in this team.

Last Time We Met

It’s worth pointing out that Millwall have failed to beat us since returning to League One at the start of last season, and have seemingly saved their poorer performances for those games. The 4-0 win in the second game of last season seems like a distant fever dream these days, as days a remarkable 2-1 victory last April that was swung by an idiotic red-card from Millwall’s Shaun Williams.

Our most recent meeting came in September when morale was similarly low on our end while Millwall had started the campaign slowly. A wonder-goal from Marvin Sordell in the first-half looked like setting us on the way to victory, only for Millwall to capitalise on a Jordan Turnbull error in the second-half to salvage a point.

How Are They Doing?

As mentioned earlier, Millwall are in sensational form at the moment, and are unbeaten in their past seven league games, having dumped Premier League Bournemouth and Watford during that same run. After a poor start to the season, Millwall look to be moving up through the gears as the season enters its crucial phase, and they’re likely to see an away trip to the bottom team in the division as a routine win.

The returns to fitness of Steve Morison and Lee Gregory in attack over the past few months has been a big reason behind Millwall’s rise up the division. The experienced Steve Morison is that target-man for Millwall’s direct style of play, his nous and physicality have been proven to trouble even Premier League standard defenders, so Nathan Clarke and Farrend Rawson are going to be in for a severe inspection of their credentials. Lee Gregory is a classic goal poacher who has developed a good understanding with Morison in reading his flick-ons to garner chances on goal.

It’s not only Morison and Gregory who give Millwall a cutting edge, Aiden O’Brien, who plays off the left-wing despite not really being a winger, has nine league goals to his name, thanks to his ability to read Morison’s flick-ons. The rapid Fred Onyedinma has finally carved out a starting spot in this Millwall side in recent weeks having played the role of promising youngster for almost too long, his runs down the wing provide Millwall boss Neil Harris with the ability to mix things up.

Possible Line-Up

Possible Line-Up

The impressive Jed Wallace has recently returned to Millwall on a loan deal from Wolves and, along with the deliveries of Shane Ferguson, offers Neil Harris further quality on the wings should plan A fail. Also in midfield, Ben Thompson’s running, and nasty streak, provides Millwall with their beating heart in the centre of the park, allowing the talented Shaun Williams to get on the ball and showcase his passing ability.

With Jordan Archer in goal, Millwall have one of the division’s best goalkeepers and Byron Webster at centre-back is one of the most dominant defenders at this level. Jake Cooper has arrived on loan from Reading recently and offers quality on the ball, along with his considerable six foot four stature. Shaun Cummings at right-back has returned recently from injury and has provided energy and experience to step-in for Mahlon Romeo who struggled to build on a promising end to last season.

Prediction

Millwall are clearly the better team here in any way, shape or form you can imagine. It’s hard to see how what Russell Slade can do to avoid defeat here, not least because he seems to have made this team worse than they already were.

Millwall to win this game 3-0.