Tim Stoodley previews Tuesday night's home fixture with Southend United.
Peterborough United enter the first of three successive games against promotion rivals in the space of a week, with Southend United being the first of two home games, this Tuesday night at 7.45pm.
The promotion fight is tightly poised and with games against Rochdale and Millwall to come in the space of seven days, a good result to kick-start that run and return to winning ways is vital for McCann's men. Southend occupy the final play-off spot, some three points ahead of 'Boro and are in good fettle - having lost just one of their last six games. The Shrimpers were held to a 2-2 draw on Saturday and have a fantastic 3-1 victory over promotion-chasing Scunthorpe in their recent history.
Expect Tuesdays opposition to line-up in a traditional 4-4-2. The experienced Phil Brown has his side well disciplined, fluid and productive. They attack from the midfield and have a number of more veteran players in their ranks to guide the team. It's a fruitful mix of youth and experience and it gives them a composure that you could argue is lacking in Posh. With an average squad age of 27, compared to 'Boro's 24, they'll be hoping that said experience will translate to a victory as they come looking to better the point they secured against us at Roots Hall back in October last year.
One thing that is sure with The Shrimpers tactics is their ability to score from the middle of the park. They've scored 23 goals from midfield players this campaign, compared to just 16 from strikers. One such attacking player to watch is influential Anthony Wordsworth, who is currently in his second season in Essex. Wordsworth is a free-kick specialist and most of his seven goals have come from dead-ball situations this term. He's equally adept to poaching goals though, such as the one against Posh back in October. He is also the teams penalty taker and actually missed a spot-kick against 'Boro in the reverse of this tie.
Irishman Stephen McLaughlin is another midfielder with an eye for goal. The attack-minded winger has helped himself to six goals this campaign, and left alone, would be more than happy to add to his tally on Tuesday. McLaughlin joined The Shrimpers from Forrest after a successful loan spell back in the 2014/15 season.
The role reversal of midfielders and attackers is complete when you look to the teams top assist maker. Front man Simon Cox is another Irishman who looks to be enjoying a productive year at Roots Hall. He's top-scorer with eleven goals, and also sits at the peak of the assist charts with seven across the season. Cox has featured at the very top of the game, with spells at Reading and West Bromich Albion, and has featured for the Republic of Ireland on 30 occasions, scoring four goals. Expect him to lead the line, most likely with Marc-Antoine Fortune - another well known striker who has played at the peak of football.
Experience on the pitch is matched by the management hierarchy as well. Gaffer Phil Brown took charge of his 450th game in the 2-2 draw with The Cobblers on Saturday afternoon. Brown is best known for guiding Hull City to Premiership football, via the play-offs, back in 2007/08 and won in the play-offs again with his current side, in the league two play-off final, two years ago. He has a Premiership manager of the month to his name and is well respected by his fellow bosses. He has a 35% win rate across the first 450 games of his career - Grant McCann has a 44% success ratio from 45 games.
Geoff Eltringham is the official for this tie. He's predominately a Championship referee and drops down after taking charge of Barnsley's win at Villa Park a week ago. He's averaged 3 yellows-per-game from the 29 games he's been in charge of this season, and has shown red just four times. He did referee Southend back in August, when they were 0-3 winners away to Sheffield United, before The Blades sensational run. He showed three yellows on that occasion - two to Southend. He last refereed Peterborough back in March 2016, when we were held to a 1-1 draw away to Wigan. Jack Baldwin, Marcus Maddison, Harry Beautyman and Simon Gillett all saw yellow that day.
The reverse of this tie saw an injury-time equaliser from Marcus Maddison cancel out an Anthony Wordsworth goal, back in October. Deon Moore, Nathan Oduwa and George Moncur all made it on that day, perhaps proving how much time as elapsed since the initial meeting between the teams. Overall and there isn't really much to separate the two sides. They've done battle on 52 occasions, with Posh just edging it with 22 wins to Southend's 21. Peterborough's biggest winning margin is 4-0 and this has happened on three separate occasions.
Discipline issues will force McCann to enter this one with a fresh midfield. Chris Forrester is suspended after being sent-off on Saturday, while Anthony Grant is out after collecting ten yellow cards. Joint top-scorer Gwion Edwards could miss out after being injured in the defeat to Walsall, while both Andersons, Jermaine and Harry, also miss out. Michael Bostwick is close to a return, but still has work to do if he's to be fit for this one, or Saturday's game with Rochdale.
League positions; Peterborough United - 9th Southend United - 6th
Last five; Peterborough United - LWLWL Southend United - DLWLD
Previous meeting; 01/10/2016 (League One) - Southend United 1-1 Peterborough United
Average attendances (2015/16); Peterborough United - 5,447 Southend United - 7,001
Top Scorer (league); Peterborough United - Gwion Edwards, Marcus Maddison & Tom Nichols (7) Southend United - Simon Cox (11)
Interesting fact: Two of the current Southend United squad have served time behind bars; Ryan Inniss was given a stint for assault, which he later successfully appealed, while midfielder Michael Timlin served time for perverting the course of justice, relating to traffic offences. Defender Anton Ferdinand also has previous with the police relating to an assault back in 2006. He was acquitted of all charges.
As this fixture falls within the Cambridgeshire half-term, the club have introduced the 'kids for a quid' feature for this game. This means that under 18's can get into any area of the ground (excluding hospitality) for just £1 when accompanied by a paying adult.
The Motorpoint Stand is shut for this game but tickets are on sale for the three remaining stands. Tickets are on sale at www.theposhtickets.com, via the Ticketmaster hotline 0844 847 1934* and in person at the ABAX Stadium Box Office.
*calls cost 7ppm plus your network access fee.