Peterborough United manager Darren Ferguson admits he has one eye on next season and he liked what he saw from his players in the 1-1 League One draw with Sunderland at the ABAX Stadium today (April 20).
The result did neither team any favours in their separate pushes for promotion, but the way Posh fought back to get a point after conceding the opening goal in the 88th minute impressed a manager who insists character is as important as ability in a playing squad.
Matt Godden scored the 92nd minute leveller and he almost won the game four minutes later, although Ferguson conceded a draw was a fair result.
The point leaves Posh three points behind sixth-placed Doncaster from the same number of matches. Grant McCann’s side, who occupy the final play-off place, are at home to struggling Accrington Stanley tomorrow (April 23). Doncaster also have a superior goal difference.
“I’m not giving up,” Ferguson, whose father Sir Alex was at the game, insisted. “But we need to win our final three games and then we also need some luck. If we get to 75 points it gives us half a chance. Doncaster are strong favourites, but Accrington will give them a test and then anything can happen in the final couple of matches.
“I do have one eye on next season and I liked a lot of what I saw today. Character is the most important thing in a squad. You can have all the ability in the world, but without good characters you won’t win anything.
“And that character shone through from my players today. Every one of them left everything on the pitch. We look an organised side and a committed side. Some players have really stepped up in recent weeks.
“It is two points dropped for us, but I really enjoyed the game. Both teams went for it which is unusual these days, but we both had attackers all over the pitch in the final 20 minutes.
“We started well. I wanted to get at them from the first whistle and we did, but they have real quality and they were always going to have spells on top which they did in the run-up to half-time.
“I’d rather talk about my players for the way they went toe-to-toe with such a strong side. We defended well and we had our moments going forward particularly when Ivan Toney joined Matt Godden up top.
“And for the players to come back after conceding a late goal here after conceding such a late goal at Fleetwood on Good Friday speaks volumes for their spirit. They will have a few days off now as playing twice in four days in that heat is exhausting.
“I did fancy we would win it when Matty equalised and I was ready to go beserk when he lined up that shot in the last minute. It was a tough chance though. It would have been one hell of a goal.
“The motivation for everyone though is obvious. The atmosphere in the ground today was superb and if you get to the Championship you get the same on most weeks.
“My disappointment from the game was not getting any of the big decisions go our way.
“Marcus Maddison was cautioned for simulation when he was fouled by a defender who should have been sent off and the foul on Ivan Toney soon afterwards was horrendous. He was karate kicked from behind and that should have been a red card.
“And for their goal the Sunderland player was about seven yards from the ball when he charged down Maddison’s free-kick. Referees have a tough job to do, but we didn’t get a big call go our way.”
Centre-back Ryan Tafazolli was again absent because of a knee injury, while left-back Daniel Lafferty played on despite suffering an ankle injury early in the game.
Posh are at relegation-bound Walsall on Saturday (April 27) before travelling to automatic promotion contenders Portsmouth on April 30. They finish with a home game against mid-table Burton Albion (May 4).
Doncaster have Oxford (away, April 27) and Coventry (home, May 4) to play after their game with Accrington. Six points will seal sixth sport for them barring an unlikely set of scorelines.