Fresh from Saturday’s excellent victory over Oxford, I preview tonight’s match against Peterborough United, as a win would take us into the play-off places for the first time this season.
I must admit, after the drab home draws of late I was slowly beginning to lose hope that we could still make the play-off places despite our numerous games in hand. But after our second-half showing against Burton followed by Saturday’s superb performance at Oxford, my hope is well and truly back. I think we’re without eight or nine regular first-team players, yet we are still capable of performances like Saturday – Neil Critchley is building something special here.
Starting with some team news, Matty Virtue can be added onto the ever-growing list of unavailable first-team players as he is set to undergo a scan. Dan Ballard has linked up with Northern Ireland for international duty so will be unavailable too but we should welcome back Dan Gretarsson, who is likely to go straight into the starting line up giving our limited options in the centre of defence. James Husband is unlikely to return though but isn’t a big concern, while we’re still without the likes of Gary Madine, CJ Hamilton, Marvin Ekpiteta, Keshi Anderson and Kevin Stewart, all through injury. Peterborough meanwhile will be without midfielders Jack Taylor and Dan Butler, while Bradley Rolt is back in training but is unlikely to be fit enough to make the squad.
Now, a win would take us into the play-off places, but this is going to be a very difficult three points to acquire. Not many do the double over Darren Ferguson’s men, but following our recent perofmances and considering how tough we are to beat, I think three points is doable, but only if we play to our strengths like we did on Saturday. We need to give Sullay Kaikai the freedom of the final third to drift into the half-spaces and create from across the pitch, hence the 4-2-3-1 should be in use again to do this, with Embleton again starting in the ’10’ behind the hard-working Jerry Yates.
It was great to see Kenny Dougall back to his best too after a tough couple of months out of the side following the arrival of Kevin Stewart. I think Grant Ward will start alongside Dougall tonight, which is a positive for us. Dougall and Ward has been a very solid partnership whenever it has been in use and I think they really get the best out of each other through their hard-work, tough tackling and positional discipline, though Ward will have license to get forward slightly more then Dougall.
Our defence meanwhile will have to be shaken up again, with Gretarsson likely to come into the side in place of Ballard. The ‘Ice-man’ will partner Jordan Thorniley, which would give us an unorthodox pairing of two-left footed centre-backs who have not yet played together. Gretarsson’s calm nature and positional awareness though will be a great plus for us against what is a very dangerous attack.
The makeshift pairing, likely alongisde Turton, Garbutt and goalkeeper Chris Maxwell in the back five, will have to be on the top of their game to keep Peterbourugh’s attacking threat to a minimum, especially the threat of Jonson Clarke-Harris. The striker is the joint-top goalscorer in League One this season with an impressive 22 goals and his pace, power and clinical finishing will no doubt prove one of our defence’s toughest tasks of the season to date.
Last time out against Peterborough, we secured possibly our most impressive victory of the season as goals from Jerry Yates and Gary Madine saw us come away with a 2-1 win. We remain only one of three teams to win away at Peterborough this season, showing just how impressive the victory was.
Speaking of good home form, ours isn’t too shabby either. Despite stuttering results of late with four successive home draws, we’re unbeaten at Bloomfield Road since October – a hugely impressive stat that the players and staff should be proud of. We will have to be at our very best tonight to keep the unbeaten home streak going, but the fact that a victory will take us into the play-off places should give the players all the motivation they need. UTMP!
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We recently spoke to former Blackpool defender and captain Peter Clarke – find out what he had to say in our recent episode of the 1-2 podcast.