Peterborough United could have won this game with Mr and Miss Posh up front. The players would have had a more testing afternoon (April 2) trying to rob a baby of its candy.
Crewe Alexandra were as good as relegated before kick-off. The Railwayman have come to the end of the line in League One. Their budget is so poor George Osborne probably devised it and their manager, the admirably honest and very interesting Steve Davis, admitted his side threw the towel in at the ABAX Stadium.
All that might explain why Posh boss Graham Westley, another straight-talking individual, was not too impressed with his own side’s efforts. A 3-0 home win, that could easily have been trebled without the heroics of visiting ‘keeper Ben Garratt, and nine points out of nine left Westley as underwhelmed as film reviewers of Batman v Superman.
Nothing wrong with that of course. Westley knows this level of performance wouldn’t have beaten a top-end League One side. Presumably his players found the post-match de-brief far more challenging than the previous 90 minutes and will try and improve accordingly before making the long haul to Fleetwood on Tuesday (April 5) when a fourth-straight victory would secure a place in the top half of the table.
It was actually a decent afternoon’s entertainment, even if a sluggish first-half tempo in the early-summer sunshine did give the game a pre-season friendly feel. The atmosphere was flat until the final 20 minutes when Garratt was forced into a string of fine saves to stop Posh improving their already impressive 8-1 aggregate victory over Crewe this season.
Most frustratingly Garratt flung out a foot in the final minute to keep out what would have been a hat-trick goal for in-form, and very popular, midfielder Harry Beautyman. It would have been a delightful late birthday present for Beautyman who turned 24 yesterday (April 1), but two goals - and three in two matches - will probably suffice for a player who has only just ended a 13-month drought in front of goal.
Beautyman also walked away with the sponsors’ man-of-the-match champagne which could easily have been downed by Marcus Maddison instead. Maddison’s conversion from a talented, but greedy shoot-on-sight individual, to an almost complete, and very effective team player, is probably Westley’s greatest Posh achievement, apart from turning Conor Washington into a League One version of Harry Kane.
Maddison was outstanding here. He hugged the right touchline for most of the first-half and tortured poor Crewe defender Zoumano Bakayogo into submission. Bakayogo is known as ‘zoom’ at Gresty Road which looks like an attempt at irony as he never threatened to keep pace with Maddison.
The Posh winger’s dribble into the penalty area led directly to Beautyman’s sweet 15th-minute finish from 18 yards and his sublime chip to Michael Smith was a key part in Beautyman’s second goal. Smith’s cross was so precise it should really have been headed home by Aaron Williams, but Garrett’s superb save proved irrelevant as the ball fell kindly for Beautyman to tap home from close range five minutes before the break.
Maddison was allowed to roam more free after the interval and, minutes after his fierce drive had smacked against the inside of an upright, he played the most glorious raking pass to Lee Angol to create goal mumber three midway through the second period. Angol’s finish was ferocious and further proof of a talent waiting to be unlocked and put on public view on a more regular basis.
That goal knocked out what little stuffing Crewe had left and Posh piled forward at every opportunity, partly in a desire to finish as League One’s leading goalscorers.
But Garratt, who is coached by former Posh favourite Fred Barber, refused to be beaten again as he made terrific saves from Maddison, Angol and Beautyman to add to fine first-half stops from Maddison and Shaquile Coulthirst.
But a frantic finish didn’t placate Westley who was disturbed by the lack of energy and pace to Posh’s play before the break. The manager had fielded an attacking side with Williams playing slightly ahead of three out-and-out attcking players in Maddison, Angol and Shaquile Coulthirst, but Posh shifted the ball so slowly at times - and Williams rarely held it up successfully - they ended up taking on the worst team in the division at home on the counter-attack.
Michael Bostwick almost presented Crewe with the opening goal when caught in possession on the edge of his own area in the third minute, but the half-chance, like the many Crewe created throughout the game, went begging. The visitors lacked a cutting edge or a reliable play-maker, so much so that Posh ‘keeper Ben Alnwick, the hero of the previous Posh match, made no saves of significance in the entire game.
Posh won’t have it so easy again, not this season and not probably not next season either.
Posh: Ben Alnwick, Michael Smith, Andrew Fox (sub Ricardo Santos, 52 mins), Jack Baldwin, Michael Bostwick, Chris Forrester (sub Simon Gillett, 74 mins), Harry Beautyman, Lee Angol, Marcus Maddison, Shaquile Coulthirst, Aaron Williams (sub Jon Taylor, 64 mins). Unused substitutes: Mark Tyler, Martin Samuelsen, Tom Nichols, Erhun Oztumer.
Crewe: Ben Garratt, Oliver Turton, Harry Davis, Zoumana Bakayogo, Jon Guthrie, Tom Hitchcock (sub Marcus Haber, 46 mins), David Fox, Billy Bingham (sub James Jones, 60 mins), Lauri Dalla Valle (sub George Cooper, 74 mins), Charlie Kirk. Unused substitutes: Dave Richards, Ben Nugent, Daniel Udoh, George Ray.
Goals: Posh - Beautyman (15 mins & 40 mins), Angol (67 mins).
Cautions: Posh - Fox (persistent fouling), Beautyman (foul).
Crewe - Bakayogo (foul).
Referee: Lee Collins 6.
Attendance: 4,881 (129 Crewe).
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