With the season nearing towards its grand finale, and a playoff spot very much for grabs between two teams (with other teams on the backburner so to speak), I thought it would be interesting to delve into the final few fixtures for both Posh and Doncaster respectively to see which team might have an advantage, and which might fall over at the final hurdle.
Let’s start with Posh’ fixtures; they have no fixture this weekend (due to Portsmouth reaching the final of the farcical Checkatrade Trophy) so will have to play catch-up in that regard. But, even so, this fixture – which is a tough one in prospect – has now been rearranged to fall now as Posh’ last away game of the season much like last season where Posh were humbled. They can’t afford to be humbled again this time round, as that Pompey away match might be monumental before crunch day beckons at the final game of the season.
Posh’ other fixtures aren’t exactly walks in the park either – two away trips up to the Lancashire coast in the form of Joey Barton’s Fleetwood and the now independent Blackpool, freed from the shackles of The Oystons. Both teams are in and around the play-off positions, Fleetwood just out of the picture you would imagine but, with Blackpool’s new-found resurgence off the pitch with Bloomfield Road no longer a ghost town, that could spur them onto to great things on the pitch and thus Posh will have a tricky match when they make the long journey. Posh’ best opportunity to pick up points, in my opinion, is their next home match against Gillingham – a case of being buoyed on by the Southend win, and picking up 3 points that’ll be crucial considering Doncaster are now 5 points above Posh in 6th. Even so, The Gills will be a tough assessment again – they picked up a point at runaway league leaders Luton, and have the goals up top in Tom Eaves.
Past Gillingham at London Road, it doesn’t get much easier – 22nd of April sees Sunderland stroll into town, and I can imagine the away supporters will take over Peterborough in their large numbers. That’ll be a big game for Ross’ Black Cats also, with automatic promotion between themselves and Barnsley. In the reverse fixture, Posh battled well in the second half to sneak a point after a poor first half where Maja – who no longer plays at the Stadium of Light – netted. But, with added reinforcements such as Wil Grigg in your team, Sunderland certainly have an adequate Plan B. Draw specialists however, Posh could take them all the way, but a point might not do dependent on Doncaster’s form.
if Posh need to win in order to seize the playoff positions or a point will suffice, it could be a nervy afternoon and Posh don’t cope tremendously under expectation
The final game of the season comes in the form of Burton at home, The Brewers regaining form under Nigel Clough and see themselves 7 points off the playoff spots. When Posh played them earlier on this season, a lucky goal from Joe Ward alongside a breakaway strike by Dembele clinched the points. The urgency to break and score from Dembele is something Fergie will harness, as seen in the Southend match where everyone was alert and looking for the next opening. However, if Posh need to win in order to seize the playoff positions or a point will suffice, it could be a nervy afternoon and Posh don’t cope tremendously under expectation. Therefore, when having a scan over the final 7 matches for Posh, it is going to be tough and challenging. But, promotion is never won easily and if they play like they did against The Shrimpers against the likes of Portsmouth and Sunderland, they could pick up a surprise result or two. Either way, it’s going to be a fascinating finish (unless Posh’ wheels well and truly give way!).
Doncaster’s recent fixtures were providing a source of concern, with their form stagnating after a FA Cup defeat versus Crystal Palace. Nonetheless, two wins in quick succession have made many Donny doubters consider them to be the front runner for 6th position (with Posh five points behind, but with a game in hand) So, how is the run-in looking for Grant McCann’s men? Significantly better on paper, it could be argued – after playing two teams in and around the mammoth relegation battle, Doncaster have a team well and truly marooned at the foot of the table in Bradford away. Regardless, as Posh discovered when travelling to Bradford, league positions count for nothing if you’re complacent.
Likewise, last time Doncaster travelled to a team bottom of the league – AFC Wimbledon this time round – they lost 2-0. So, it’s not a given Donny will stroll to victory at Bradford irrespective of the two prior domineering wins. McCann’s side also travel to Oxford before the season is up, another match away at a team clinging onto League One survival who – against the aforementioned Bantams and Wycombe – have shown signs that they can stay up with two wins at home and a 7-point advantage over Walsall in 21st. The other away fixture for Donny comes at the Stadium of Light, with Posh facing off against Sunderland 3 days after this clash – Sunderland, therefore, could prove to be a vital player in this 6th place battle.
neither Argyle nor Stanley are particularly potent this season and thus Donny could win these two matches
Lastly, Doncaster’s home fixtures between now and the 4th of May read as follows – Plymouth, Accrington and Coventry. Plymouth and Accrington read as both winnable contests, neither Argyle nor Stanley particularly potent this season and thus Donny could win these two matches. Coventry, on the contrary, provide a challenge – The Sky Blues are an awkward side seen in Posh’ 1 point from two fixtures against them. Having them on the final day, as opposed to an Argyle, could be a banana skin if they had to deliver in order to solidify a playoff spot on the final day of the season. Even so, with a 5-point cushion cemented (2 points still an advantage if Posh close the gap) it’s a healthy position to be in.
Casting an eye over the fixtures, it might be tempting to say that Doncaster – on paper – have easier matches from here until the 46th game of the season. However, as we know already this season, the league is wildly unpredictable with Portsmouth losing their way at the top and Luton propelling themselves to top position. Therefore, although these fixtures aren’t guaranteed points for anyone, the guarantee is that it will be an enthralling spectacle to see who clinches 6th position. If Fergie does pull it off, we know he has a good record in the playoffs! (As now relegated Huddersfield are experts in).