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Paolo's Preview: Posh need to be wary of cup upset

It has been 20 days since Peterborough United were last in action, but Darren Ferguson's side finally return on Saturday in the FA Cup Third Round against Bristol Rovers at The Weston Homes Stadium.
weston-homes-stadium

Posh found themselves without a single fixture over the festive period for a second consecutive season, after COVID-19 outbreaks at Reading, Birmingham City, and AFC Bournemouth.

Posh were last in action against Blackpool at Bloomfield Road in the middle of December, in which their dreadful form on the road continued despite Siriki Dembele opening the scoring for the visitors.

But, after the enforced break, Ferguson's men are set to eventually return to action as they welcome League One's Bristol Rovers in the FA Cup Third Round on Saturday (3pm).

Team News

January signing Bali Mumba is set to go straight into the squad this weekend after agreeing a loan switch to PE2 from Premier League side Norwich City on Thursday morning. The full-back could feature at the left-wing back after Dan Butler has been ruled out for the rest of the season with an ankle injury.

Teenage striker Ricky-Jade Jones will also return to the squad to face Bristol Rovers after a lengthy spell on the side-lines.

January signing Joe Taylor is cup-tied after featuring for Kings Lynn Town earlier in the season. Jack Marriott and Joel Randall remain unavailable. 

Predicted Line-up: Cornell, Ward, Thompson, Kent, Knight, Mumba, Taylor, Norburn, Szmodics, Poku, and Clarke-Harris.

Opposition View

Bristol Rovers were relegated back to League Two last season after five years in League One. They finished rock-bottom in the 2020/21 campaign, and life in the fourth-tier of English football hasn't gone exactly to plan either.

Joey Barton's men are currently sat 18th in League Two, seven points above the relegation zone, and have one victory in five games.

Bristol Rovers – also known as the Pirates – have struggled with the virus and injuries over the last month, and just like Posh, they haven't played since mid-December. 

In the previous round of the competition, the Pirates came from behind to beat League Two high-flyers Sutton United 2-1 at the Memorial Ground after two goals in three minutes from Barton's side. 

Speaking in his pre-match interview for Posh.com, Ferguson admits it has been frustrating with the enforced break but is ready to get back into action and build momentum in the cup.

He said: "It has been a frustrating time without a game over the festive and New Year period, but you have to adapt, both in terms of the training sessions but also in terms of the preparation. Both teams haven't played a competitive game for a while and make no mistake, Bristol Rovers have got some good players and experience in key areas. 

"We want to banish the memory of last season when we were beaten by Chorley. We know we have to play well to win. This competition is important to us, we want to progress for financial reasons, but also because it will give us momentum going into a run of Championship fixtures in a short space of time." 

Last time out in the FA Cup

The FA Cup has provided Posh supporters with some memorable moments over the years, such as beating Aston Villa at Villa Park and facing Premier League giants Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

But last year's competition would have been one to banish from the minds when Peterborough United were beaten in the FA Cup Second Round by non-league side Chorley at The Weston Homes Stadium.

Posh opened the scoring in the second minute when midfielder Jack Taylor lashed a shot into the roof of the net from around 10-yards. It seemed like it would be a straightforward game for Ferguson's men from that point onwards.

However, the visitors fought back and equalised in the 60th minute when Connor Hall squeezed his shot past Christy Pym, and two minutes later, Chorley were in-front as Mike Calveley got on the end of a well-worked corner kick.

Posh have only managed to get past the Third Round on two occasions in the last six years, beating Aston Villa in 2018 and Preston North End in 2016. 

Last Meeting in the FA Cup

Posh 1-2 Chorley – 2021 (Second Round)
Burnley 4-2 Posh – 2020 (Third Round)
Middlesbrough 5-0 Posh – 2019 (Third Round)
Posh 1-5 Leicester City – 2018 (Third Round)
Chelsea 4-1 Posh – 2017 (Third Round)

Peterborough Matters prediction

After a short break over the festive period, it's difficult to work out how Posh will turn up. Either energised and raring to go, or lacking match sharpness and rustiness.

Having the FA Cup Third Round fixture as the first game back is the perfect opportunity to build fitness and momentum ahead of a crucial month in the Championship.

Posh 2-0 Bristol Rovers