Both Peterborough and Plymouth Argyle come into this clash at the ABAX stadium looking to return to winning ways. The hosts remain winless in their last four league games (L2, D2) whilst Argyle come into the game on the back of a frustrating 1-0 defeat at the hands of Wycombe. Three points for Darren Ferguson’s side will keep them in the play-offs whilst for Argyle the same outcome would ensure they remain outside of the relegation zone.
Defender Ben White will continue at centre-back in the absence of Ryan Tafazolli who will be serving the final game of a three-match ban picked up in the 4-0 defeat to Luton.
January signing Lee Tomlin looks set to keep his place in the side at the expense of Marcus Maddison. The Cardiff loanee was one of few to impress during Tuesday’s 2-2 draw with struggling Bristol Rovers.
Midfielder Joe Ward will be fighting it out with Kyle Dempsey for a spot in the side. Ward scored a fantastic 90th minute equaliser against Bristol Rovers after replacing Dempsey in the 65th minute.
Predicted Line-Up (4-3-1-2)
Naismith, Bennett, White, Rafferty
Style of Play
Having spent the entire season deploying a 4-4-2 (double six) under Steve Evans, new manager Darren Ferguson has implemented his preferred 4-3-1-2 diamond formation. The will change their style of play because of the absence of wingers which played a heavy part in their early season success. This instead gives them a tighter packed midfield and increases the attacking responsibilities of full-backs Danny Lafferty and Jason Naismith. The formation also relieves Lee Tomlin of defensive responsibilities as he sits behind Matt Godden and Ivan Toney up front.
Primarily, the emphasis is on creating chances through the middle and, in a technically sound side like Peterborough, they achieve this by keeping the ball on the floor. Although missing from Ferguson’s first starting line-up, attacking midfielder Marcus Maddison is most effective at this, creating nine assists this season so far. Yet, Lee Tomlin was the player to start ahead of Maddison against Bristol Rovers on Tuesday when they used this system for the first time and he was the main threat, creating two big chances, one of which was finished by Toney.
Godden and Toney have been two of the most in-form forwards in League One, netting 21 goals and registering six assists between them in the league this season. This only accounts for 43% of their goals however with the likes of Marcus O’Hara (four), Sikiri Dembele (five) and Jason Cummings (six) also chipping in with goals and easing the burden on the frontmen. Their tally of 49 goals for the season is only bettered by table-topping Luton (58) and play-off chasing Doncaster Rovers (51).
Yet, the Posh have failed to score in four of their last seven league matches and, after scoring seven in his first eight league matches, Godden has only found the net thrice in his subsequent 14 starts. Meanwhile, Jason Cummings, who – like Godden – netted twice against Argyle in the 5-1 win at Home Park this season, has yet to score in the league since that game. It’s fair to say that, under Steve Evans – who we tipped for the sack this season – things went stale.
In the midfield, composed holding-midfielder Alex Woodyard shields the back four and will be expected to fill in whilst both full-backs are pushed up in attacking positions to ensure that Peterborough aren’t as exposed on the counter-attack. Having the extra man in midfield gives Posh an advantage over most formations and should prove effective against a side such as Argyle who operate in a 4-3-3 with three central midfielders. This was evident earlier in the season when they were torn apart by Luton, 5-1, while even Shrewsbury were able to control possession using the same formation.
Forward Ivan Toney is enjoying his most prolific season in professional football to date with Peterborough. The 22-year-old has already registered 22 goals and assists (17G, 5A) in 38 appearances in all competitions so far this season.
At 5ft 8in, the Newcastle loanee isn’t especially prolific in the air – though he possesses a good jump and timing – but offers speed of thought and movement to pick his moments to burst into space and score. In this new, possession based formation, which will now focus on playing through the middle, he will be expected to play on the shoulder of defenders to get himself into more one-on-one situations. He was rewarded with a goal (and he should have scored another) in the draw with Bristol Rovers which in turn ended a four game drought without a goal in a period where Peterborough were struggling.
Peterborough’s lack of wide options means that their full-backs now have increased attacking responsibilities which leaves them susceptible on the counter-attack. Even though they are aided by their holding midfielder they are often left stretched in 3v3 and 3v4 situations. The left side is arguably their biggest weakness with Lafferty and left centre-back Ben White lacking pace so against the likes of Freddie Ladapo who will play on the shoulder they could be exposed. Graham Carey and Ruben Lameiras both like to cut in from the right too, so Argyle should target this flank in order to create space in other areas of the pitch.
Following just one defeat in their opening 10 league matches, Posh have found consistency hard to come by, slowly slipping from the automatic promotion places and into the play-off places. Just three wins in 13 games meant the end of Steve Evans. Ferguson will be tasked with bringing some stability to the club, especially given their higher budget than the majority of the sides in the division.
The rivalry between Derek Adams and Darren Ferguson has been a fascinating one since the pair first locked horns in League Two when the latter was managing Doncaster Rovers. Peterborough will still be in an adjustment period still but with their quality and Argyle’s weakness against the 4-3-1-2 when facing good opposition it could be a tough afternoon. Forward Freddie Ladapo has been fairly quiet in recent weeks and his involvement in the game could prove vital. Ferguson will be looking to come straight in and cement his side’s play-off position. Ultimately I believe that Peterborough will win 2-1.