The Streak Ends: Imps 0-3 Peterborough United

Credit Graham Burrell

I called it. 3-0. I was adamant that the stars had a 3-0 written in them this weekend, and I was right. I just got it the wrong way around.

I’ve got home early, not just because of the early kick-off, but because I left, unashamedly, at 85 minutes. It means I can get this written up tonight and not have the dismal fear of writing up a defeat hanging over me as I try to sleep later. I’ve got a game with a lot riding on it to watch tomorrow, Wragby against Broadley in the something-or-other cup semi-final. I’m looking forward to that.

As is usual after a poor Imps result, my phone has been alive with the doom-mongers and misery-guts of the world, tagging me in posts, direct messaging, and replying to old posts as if pretend hindsight is clever. Social media is great until it allows unsolicited opinions into your life. Pardon me if I haven’t replied, but my usual practice is to now avoid social media, after any game, not just one where there’s plenty of weight behind the negativity. If I wanted a smart remark, I’d look you up on social media, just like if you want an informed opinion you may or may not agree with, you’re reading this right now. I appreciate that might sound arrogant, but it’s actually for my own sanity these days.

Credit Graham Burrell

Were we all that bad? Were we as bad as people say? My honest answer is yes and no. We didn’t display anything that was unexpected, we didn’t do much different from the other matches we’ve played at home this season and not lost. We just did it worse against a team who punished the mistakes. We’ve lost matches against much better teams than Peterborough this season, and we’ve drawn matches again much better teams than them as well. If you take out their front three, they’re decidedly average in my opinion, but a decidedly average side with a good front three was enough to beat us today. If you gave us a good front three (or, as I’ll explain, two), we’d have taken something from the game.

I am going to lace this with a bit of positivity, not because we played well (we didn’t) but just because it wasn’t as bad as I’m sure many feel it was. The cold light of morning won’t change the result, but I’ll hopefully throw a bit of perspective on it.

Firstly, it was a day for streaks ending. I was informed by Bob in Gwynnes before the game we were one of only a handful of teams not to lose back-to-back matches. That’s gone. We were undefeated at home this season; that’s gone. Regan Poole hadn’t missed a minute of league football this season, he missed 90 today. Paudie O’Connor hadn’t missed a minute either, but I’m told his booking today means he’ll be out next week. Last week, after Exeter, I beat five personal records on a run, and this weekend Lincoln City have lost four as well. It’s almost a relief to get beaten at home, because now positive Peters like me can’t hide behind a home unbeaten run, and negative Nigels might realise a draw at home isn’t such a bad result after all. Oh to have walked away today with a 0-0 draw, right?

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What went wrong today? In the first half, up until we lost Erhahon through injury, we were just poor. I thought a 3-4-3 against their 4-2-3-1 would mean a much tighter game and fewer opportunities for them, and in a way, I was right. We just defended one-third of the pitch, but lacked invention and, at times, application in the other two-thirds. Until they scored, I didn’t feel they’d score, meaning one half of the red machine was in full effect, but the other half was as limp as a dead fish.

My frustration comes from our wide players. I think I said the same on the podcast, but Diamond and Madroiu are not scrappers, and both lack ideas and execution, or they have in recent weeks. I’m not differentiating one from the other, but they run down blind alleys if they get on the ball at all. I asked my mate Matt if Mandroiu had a touch in the first 20 minutes, and he couldn’t recall one. Jack does get on the ball, but he just runs until he gets tackled. It leads to a frustrating watch, and Ben House must wonder what he has to do to get a red shirt either near him, or to pass to him. That was my impression today.

Credit Graham Burrell

That said, the other nine players were solid enough. Lasse scares me at right wing-back, but with Eyoma and Poole injured it’s a case of needs must. I didn’t think we looked like conceding or scoring, and for a short while, it felt like a 0-0. There was one factor that you couldn’t quite work out though – the referee. He lost control of the game early doors, and he never got it back. He’s a bit of a Jonah for the Imps is Robert Lewis – he was in charge of the 0-0 draw with Charlton, another dire afternoon. I felt he was quick to give free kicks when there was no infringement, and he felt like a loose cannon.

Anyway, believe it or not, we had the first serious effort, Matty Virtue firing wide from range, and honestly, I felt we were in a poor game between two average sides. Then we messed up a clearance, Montsma’s ball falling short of Sorensen, and you can’t do that against a side like Posh who come alive with space and opportunity. It was a nice goal though, the dummy by Burrows (what a player he is, by the way) was superb, and Clarke-Harris just fired the ball home. That’s what a budget gets you I’m afraid, a striker like him and wingers who can deliver a pass.

Credit Graham Burrell

Not long after Erhahon went off and we shuffled it about. We had to, the three at the back was fine for holding out with a clean sheet, but as soon as they scored, the plan went out of the window, So, we turned to Plan(ge) B, went two up top with Mandroiu and Diamond out wide. Sadly, they didn’t suit the new set-up, nor the old one, but I felt we were better for a period after that.

Sadly, it was all threat and no action – we’d get into a crossing position, but every delivery was poor. We got some free kicks in dangerous positions, but the balls were poor. Mandroiu (and I’m not just down on him, but it feels that way) just showed poor technique throughout the first half, never quite doing what he wanted to. He shanked a shot, wasted a free kick, and even one described in the second half as being ‘close’, wasn’t. The same goes for Diamond, there was one moment where he’s gone down the flank, doubled back, then tried some sort of fancy flick and the chance was gone. It’s wasteful and it doesn’t work. I suppose you could say they didn’t have the fullbacks to help them out, but when Lasse and Sean Roughan did get on the ball, there was little showing for them up ahead.

Despite this being a poor first half, I genuinely thought we could get something from the game. Posh had maybe four players I thought looked really good, but I felt if we got at them, we might get something.