A HUGE sigh of relief could be heard coming out of Peterborough last weekend, writes Liam Hoden.
It was not just the fact that United had picked up their first victory since Boxing Day but also Darren Ferguson had demonstrated an effective plan B.
Ferguson had for so long shown a lot of faith in his players and a trusted diamond midfield system, despite a run of two wins in 15 games and conceding more goals than all bar two other sides in the Championship – Rovers being the side to have also shipped 51 so far.
But against Bristol City on Saturday, Ferguson dropped confidence-sapped keeper Joe Lewis and also ditched the diamond.
The result was a 3-0 win, edging Posh a little closer to safety.
One swallow does not make a summer however, particularly when it soars highest in the company of the Robins.
Peterborough’s biggest problem in recent seasons has been the amount of goals they concede.
Promotion from League One came largely because Posh had enough firepower to outgun the opposition.
More than a third of Posh’s 106 league goals last season came from Craig Mackail-Smith, now with Brighton.
The loss of the hot shot has hurt Peterborough with the goals against column now weightier than that scored.
This has ensured Ferguson’s side have veered much more towards a negative approach this season with creativity distinctly lacking.
Logic would suggest Ferguson will stick with the approach he adopted against Bristol City.
Rather than a George Boyd-headed diamond, Ferguson went with a flatter midfield.
Boyd was much more effective coming off the wing where he receives less attention from the opposition.
His main attributes is his footwork and vision but he lacks the strength and pace to be truly effective behind the strikers.
If Boyd is marshalled well and tracked when he moves inside off the wing, then a great deal of Peterborough’s threat will be nullified.
The duo of Grant McCann and Lee Frecklington controlled the centre of the pitch well against Bristol and neither should be allowed too much time on the ball.
One player who will certainly be missing from last Saturday’s line-up will be Ryan Bennett (pictured below).
The centre half left Peterborough for Norwich in January but immediately returned on loan in a deal that has now expired.
Bennett will be a big loss for a very vulnerable Peterborough defence and the breaking of his partnership with Gabriel Zakuani will be difficult to quickly recover from especially given, in many games, the priority seems to have been to keep the opposition out rather than chase their own goals.
Defending has been done in deep lying positions while a lack of pressing from the forwards has seen Posh under pressure for large periods.
This worked well when they had the pace and intelligence of Mackail-Smith for an effective counter-attack which punished the opposition for daring to commit too many men forward.
But while young duo Lee Tomlin and David Ball continue to develop as useful forwards, Posh are still lacking their previous explosive nature.
Should the more reserved version of Peterborough appear at the Keepmoat, there will be a great chance for Brian Stock to turn back the clock and truly dictate a game from in front of the back four.
Rovers were not so long ago the masters of possession football and the patient yet high-tempo approach should get a new airing on Saturday.
This vulnerable, new look Peterborough defence is primed to be pressurised.