This weekend we take a short trip down the A1 to face a tough test against Peterborough, writes Tom Morton.
The Posh have had a solid start to the season after being relegated from the championship; winning three out of four and putting away eight goals. It looks like they have retained a good part of their squad including core players like Frankie Kent (CB) and Jonson Clarke-Harris (who score 31 goals in their 20/21 promotion season).
Clarke-Harris, of course, scored the incredibly contentious injury-time penalty back in 2021 that confirmed we wouldn’t be able to secure automatic promotion. It was a sour note at the tail end of a fabulous season. To add insult to injury they nabbed fan favourite Jorge Grant during the summer transfer window only for him to spend the first part of the season largely on the bench. Altogether, that probably makes Saturday’s game something of a grudge match.
Peterborough line up with three at the back in a 3-5-2 formation. The core defence will be hard to break down – all three have been with the club since 2020 or earlier and have racked up 250 appearances between them. You can see in the highlights that they are very comfortable working together and operating a tight line. Behind them is Lucas Bergstrom on loan from Chelsea. He is only 19 but looks bright so far and is rated by their fans. It’s hard to say how important he will be for them this season, Bergstrom has been with Chelsea for a while and has struggled to break into their U23 squad (just three appearances over the last few years). He’s also 6ft9 which is scarily tall.
Either way, a new goalie working with an experienced defensive group is something for us to focus on exploiting. Perhaps there will be a bit of indecision for Hopper or Garrick to seize on. They also seem somewhat vulnerable to wide play and deep crosses – given that we’ve had nice success getting the ball onto Hopper’s head this season that might bode well.
Going forward expect pace, and lots of it. Peterborough love to break and flood forward. In Clarke-Harris and Jack Marriot they have quick and aggressive forwards who are both potentially worth 20+ goals a season. Marriot in particular has a lot of experience both at League One and championship level. He played a season for Peterborough in 17/18 and scored 27, before moving to Derby for a few seasons in the championship. He rejoined Peterborough following their promotion. Admittedly in the second tier he has not been as prolific a goal scorer, but at our level he feels experienced and strong.
Watch out for long-range efforts. They are not scared to have a pop from outside the box and have already scored a couple in that way. Jack Taylor, in particular, looks handy in midfield and will need a close eye on him. Fortunately, we won’t need to keep an eye on Jorge Grant given he left for Hearts over the summer. It will be a shame not to see him again but pleasing not to face him on the pitch!
Our history with The Posh stretches back to 1957, and actually, on paper we’ve done well. Winning twenty encounters to their fourteen, and splitting the points in sixteen outings. In recent league outings we’ve lost just one out of four (albeit with two draws). There aren’t too many memorable games; although in 97/98 there was a horrible 5-1 defeat which featured now-commentator Mark Hone along with other Imp’s legends Gavin Gordon, Lee Thorpe and Terry Flemming (a personal favourite). It was also the one and only game for Simon Brown, a green keeper on loan from Tottenham who then-captain Dean Walling described as being “unable to catch a cold” (we did go on to thrash them 3-0 at home that season, and got promoted so it wasn’t all bad).
On Saturday we are of course without our first choice keeper, but that doesn’t fill me with dread. Rushworth has made an impressive start to the season, but Wright was a safe pair of hands at the tail end of last year and has more than earned his place. He performed well on Tuesday night (including a couple of key saves) and is a second choice that feels as strong as our first.
Beyond that what we seem to have found is our grit. I suspect we will need it. My prediction is for a match similar to Portsmouth. A tough test from a team already at the sharp end, with lots of pressure to soak up and defend. Taking the game to them in midfield will be critical in ensuring we have a good chance at holding the draw or even sneaking a cheeky win.