Peterborough United vs Bradford City preview
@London Road on Saturday 21 December, 2013
By Andrew Baxter
Whilst a good right-back may not single-handedly win a game, a poor right-back can certainly lose one.
It is fortunate, therefore, that Stephen Darby has been both consistent and impressive over the last 18 months or so. This season, Darby has kept some of the division’s most lethal and talented wingers in check. Wolves winger Bakary Sako, for example, had a very quiet game when faced against City’s number two. Likewise last Saturday, for Leyton Orient’s explosive left winger Dean Cox. I’m struggling to recall the last time Darby had a poor game, which highlights the consistency of the 25-year-old. The reliability of Darby one of the reasons why he has started every league game this season, maintaining a consistent and stable back four.
Consistency runs throughout the team at the minute, although there have been calls to drop Garry Thompson in favour of Mark Yeates. The latter has looked very impressive in spells this season, such as his substitute appearance against Coventry, but has not consistently shown his true potential and ability. In contrast, Thompson has tended to start games well, but fade out and perform less well during the second half. However, Thompson provides more defensive cover, and suits Darby’s style of play better, as the right looks to get on the overlap and whip crosses into the box for either Hanson or Wells.
With Thompson occupying the right flank, Darby is able to get forward without running the risk of being caught out of position, as Thompson provides defensive cover for him. Yeates, on the other hand, does not offer the same support, and therefore is more of a risky selection for Phil Parkinson. Despite this, Yeates offers more creativity and attacking impetus than Thompson, providing a dilemma for the manager: whether to go for the safe, defensive option in Thompson, or for the slightly riskier, but more attacking option of Yeates.
This dilemma over the right midfield position appears to be the only potential change to what will more than likely be a similar side to the one that gained a last gasp draw at home to Leyton Orient.
Jon McLaughin will start in goal, with a back four of the ever-reliable Darby, Matthew Bates, Rory McArdle and James Meredith. In midfield, the central partnership of Gary Jones and Nathan Doyle is likely to continue, and Kyel Reid on the left hand side. Up front, the successful partnership of James Hanson, and the in-form Nahki Wells will start.
Much has been said about Wells’ value to the team, and it is worth noting that the Bermudian has scored 23 goals in his last 25 games, and this season averages a goal every 91 minutes. Only Leeds’ Ross McCormack and Liverpool’s Luis Suarez are hitting the back of the net more regularly than Wells this season across all four English leagues.
Despite being unbeaten in six games, five of these have been draws. This suggests that whilst City rarely get outplayed or outclassed, we struggle to take our chances.
As for opponents Peterborough, they have gained just four points from their last six games. Last Saturday saw a 97th minute Britt Assombalonga equaliser rescue a point at Peter Taylor’s Gillingham.
Assombalonga is Peterborough’s top scorer this season with 15 goals in all competitions. Signed for £1.2 million in the summer, after failed attempts to sign Wells from the Bantams, the pacy striker must be watched closely by City’s backline. Another player who could make a big impact is QPR loanee Hogan Ephraim. The former West Ham player has played nearly all of his professional career in the Championship. Despite being a substitute in last Saturday’s game, could well be in contention to start against City.
Should Darren Ferguson pick an unchanged team to the one that drew away at Gillingham, then keeper Bobby Olejnik will retain his place, with a back four of Mark Little, Shaun Brisley, Michael Bostwick and youngster Kgosi Ntlhe. In midfield, 17-year-old Jermaine Anderson may retain his place on the right wing. The central midfield pairing of Grant McCann and Lee Tomlin could be continued, but midfielder Danny Swanson is in contention to start. Up front, it is likely that Britt Assombalonga and Tyrone Barnett will start.
Peterborough’s home form is good, but they have lacked goals at London Road. In their 10 games at home this season, The Posh have won six, drawn one and lost three, scoring just 10 goals. If Wells is on form once more, then this difficult task could prove much easier.