The Posh – a fading promotion challenge?

With a seven point gap emerging between eighth and seventh places  it now looks increasingly likely that there are just seven teams with realistic ambitions of securing a top six place this season.

In terms of form the impetus is currently with Barnsley and Luton who have both won five of the last eight. Doncaster have won four but been beaten twice and Sunderland have drawn four of their last five. Portsmouth are stuttering with four wins and four defeats. Charlton's record is spoiled by those losses at Blackpool, Coventry and Barnsley. But by far the worst recent form is that of Peterborough.

Having won the first five games of the season and been at the top of the table in the middle of September the Posh have gradually declined to sixth place. Since the start of December they have only won twice in eight games. They tonked our friends from Accrington 4-0 away and scraped past Rochdale 2-1 at home , but have otherwise struggled. They lost to Scunthorpe 0-2 at London Road at the start of this month and on Saturday were well and truly beaten 0-4 at Luton.

In Ivan Toney (14 goals) and Matt Godden (12) they boast a strike force to rival Taylor and Grant, and those two are backed up by Jason Cummings and Siriki Dembele with 6 each. They have also just secured the return of Lee Tomlin. They have scored 47 league goals so far which is the same number as Charlton, Portsmouth and Barnsley but their problem is in defence where the 38 goals they have conceded is the worst in the top half of the table apart from Wycombe.

When Charlton scored a controversial late penalty against Accrington on Saturday it brought back painful memories of Peterborough's late winner at The Valley in September. You win some; you lose some,  but Charlton will be eager to exact revenge for that injustice this weekend and also for the 1-4 defeat they suffered at London Road towards the end of Karl Robinson's tenure last season. Lee Bowyer will be particularly keen to get one over on his delightful counterpart Steve Evans.

The hole in the team created by Lyle Taylor's suspension will be hard to fill. His absence will ask questions of Bowyer and the squad. If they can keep  picking up points without him it will tell us a lot about their strength and togetherness and whether an automatic promotion place is still a realistic dream.