When Sky Sports selected this game for live coverage back in mid-January, Coventry were fourth in the table having lost just one of their last 16 league matches, and Peterborough were sixth having won 10 of their first 17 under Graham Westley. Given the trajectory they were both charting at that point, an automatic promotion six-pointer was a reasonable expectation.
Sadly, the announcement seems to have been the cue for both to take a nosedive. Coventry have dropped out of the promotion picture on the back of seven defeats in 11 matches, Peterborough have lost eight in 12 and now reside in 16th. In the space of two months, all that promise has been flushed down the toilet, leaving punters with a minefield between two teams neither of whom can be trusted.
Tony Mowbray will argue that Coventry’s season is far from finished - they sit eighth, just two points outside the play-off places, which only goes to show how strong their position was previously - but it’s hard to be optimistic about their chances once you realise how their spiral in 2016 follows an alarming trend in Mowbray’s recent managerial career.
In his last two completed seasons at Middlesbrough, the Teessiders averaged 1.91 and 1.75 points per game over the course of the first 23 matches, then just 1.13 and 0.78 points thereafter. After 23 matches of this season, Coventry’s run rate was 1.87 points per game, since then it’s just 0.93. A more harrowing omen for the remaining nine matches you’re unlikely to find.
The ongoing saga over whether Adam Armstrong will be recalled by Newcastle for their Premier League relegation fight has been a distraction the Sky Blues could have done without and the speculation has only intensified with the arrival of Rafa Benitez. But that’s just one of the pitfalls of being so reliant on the loan market for game-changing talent.
The simple truth is, Armstrong has fired a blank in 11 of his last 15 appearances, so we probably shouldn’t attach too much weight to his absence here, although you could argue it’s the supply line that has dried up rather than the Geordie striker’s finishing instincts. James Maddison, Jacob Murphy and Ruben Lameiras have all been fairly anonymous since Christmas.
At least Peterborough can fall back on the excuse that they have willingly thrown in the towel. Sidetracked by an FA Cup fourth round tie with West Brom that resulted in a money-spinning televised replay, Westley began to experiment with his starting line-up in the aftermath, prematurely turning his attention to next season like someone who knows something the rest of us don’t.
Now Posh are suddenly starting to take themselves seriously again, as though waking up to the potential long-term damage that might be caused by drained confidence. Westley, having made at least four changes in seven successive matches, is promising more consistency with his team selection and he might just be inclined to coax a big performance in front of the cameras.
The value in backing Peterborough to win the game at 13/8 is negligible. Instead, take the 9/2 available on the home side to score over 2.5 goals. If Posh do return to something like their best for this occasion, then scoring goals might be just as high on the priority list as gaining points. It's what owner Darragh MacAnthony prides himself on.
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