Low crowds would be a thing of the past for Peterborough United if scouts were charged admission.
A fair few representatives from bigger clubs than Posh were at the ABAX Stadium yesterday (December 26) in preparation for the January sales. Most would have left with Conor Washigton’s name at the top of their shopping list and not just because he is Vardy-like in terms of back-story and scoring streak - it’s 11 goals in 11 games now for the former St Ives postman after his double delivered a Boxing Day knockout on an out-classed Chesterfield side.
The quality of Marcus Maddison when he keeps the game simple would also have been noted as would the precocious talent of on-loan midfielder Martin Samuelsen, who performed a few quality tricks during a 25-minute cameo from the substitutes’ bench, and giant central defender Ricardo Santos who mixed strong-arm defending with a couple of crowd-pleasing dribbles from the back, but if Posh keep their promise of a big money transfer window exit, Washington is the likely favourite to depart.
Posh boss Graham Westley described Washington as the ‘best striker in League One’ after this match and that’s a personal belief rather than a sales pitch. That might be over-egging a pudding as Washington still misses too many chances, and makes too many poor decisions when in possession, but his rate of improvement under Westley has been staggering and who knows how long that will continue?
Washington should have scored twice - a free header from a Maddison corner that went wide and a free run at goal following a headed clearance from Michael Bostwick that was thwarted by a fine save - before he did find the back of the net on the stroke of half-time with a glancing blow off head and shoulder from a terrific Maddison cross.
The Washington of last season might have shrunk in stature after missing those chances, but this year’s vintage just keeps putting himself in the firing line. He’s also developed the sort of selfishness all top goalscorers enjoy - he had many options when Chris Forrester slipped the ball to him on the edge of the Chesterfield area 14 minutes from time, but only one proved attractive and, although visiting ‘keeper Tommy Lee got a hand to his shot, sheer power took the ball into the roof of the net.
And Posh could finally breath easily. Their domination, particularly in the second-half, had been extreme, but they found killing the game off a real Christmas chore. Westley claims Posh convert one in every eight scoring chances and they pushed that ratio to the limit here.
They played well though. In difficult conditions Posh played at a decent tempo throughout and carved out many opportunities to score against a side seeking to avoid a seventh straight League One defeat. They also defended strongly with Santos and Bostwick bullying the visiting forwards into submission.
Westley is well known for his innovative thinking - one of his elaborate set-piece plans might work one day - but he made a real left-field decision in selecting Maddison, a player who has in the past viewed defensive duties to be the work of others, at left-back. It could be a risk too far against better opposition away from home, but it proved an inspired decision for this game.
Maddison revelled in the space he often found in front of him and, pleasingly, he used it simply and wisely to start numerous attacks. He actually managed to thump the Chesterfield crossbar with a cross from the right wing in the third minute as if to confirm his free spirit remained intact.
Posh often struggled to weight their passes accurataly in a strong wind, but a Chesterfield side that defended too high against the pace of Washington and the recalled Souleymane Coulibaly always looked vulnerable. The scoreline at half-time didn’t reflect this as Coulibaly missed three gilt-edged chances by shooting wide, tamely straight at Lee, or by simply losing control of a perfect pass from Erhun Oztumer.
But the opening goal knocked the stuffing out of the visitors - they had passed the ball well before the break with Sylvan Ebanks-Blake hitting their best opportunity straight at Ben Alnwick - and Posh free-wheeled the second-half without fear of conceding. Oztumer tested Lee’s athleticism at the start and Samuelsen tested it at the end, and in between a succession of 20-yard shots sailed over the cross-bar and a stream of left-wing crosses from Jon Taylor were either intercepted or over-hit.
Harry Beautyman put in a decent shift in midfield, but he suffered from a marginal offside call when tapping in Taylor’s shot at goal at the far post. Disappointment was short-lived though as within 60 seconds Forrester had intercepted a wayward pass enabling Washington to make the game safe.
It was a solid comeback after two disappointing results. The next step now for this exciting team is beat one of the top League One outfits. The home of leaders Walsall tomorrow (December 28) would be a great place to start even if such a result would attract even more predatory attention from other clubs.
Posh: Ben Alnwick, Michael Smith, Ricardo Santos, Michael Bostwick, Chris Forrester, Harry Beautyman (sub Jack Baldwin, 80 mins), Erhun Oztumer (sub Martin Samuelsen, 69 mins), Jon Taylor, Marcus Maddison, Conor Washington, Souleymane Coulibaly (sub Lee Angol, 69 mins). Unused substitutes: Dion-Curtis Henry, Miles Addison, Jordan Nicholson, Andrew Fox.
Chesterfield: Tommy Lee, Sam Hird, Ian Evatt, Charlie Raglan (sub Richard Wood, 46 mins), Liam O’Neill, Jay O’Shea, Dion Donahue, Olly Banks, Derek Daley (sub Lee Novak, 46 mins), Danny Gardner (sub Rai Simons, 67 mins), Sylvan Ebanks-Blake. Unused substitutes: Alex Cairns, Emmanuel Dieseruvwe, Chris Herd, Gboly Ariyibi.
Goals: Posh - Washington (45 mins & 76 mins).
Cautions: Posh - Maddison (foul).
Chesterfield - Banks (foul).
Referee: Andy Woolmer (Northampton) 7
Attendance: 7,153 (526 Chesterfield).
Alan Swann was at the ABAX Stadium for the Peterborough Telegraph so follow all the team news, LIVE commentary, match report and match reaction here click here