ALAN SWANN’S TALKING POINTS FROM PETERBOROUGH UNITED 2, CARDIFF 2: ‘Another brutal lesson on Championship ruthlessness, but an outstanding Posh performance for 80 minutes, being wrong about Burrows, looking forward to seeing fully fit strikers and the problem with primitive football’

I’d have taken a Championship draw at home to Cardiff City at 7.45pm last night (August 17).

By Alan Swann
Wednesday, 18th August 2021, 6:31 am
Siriki Dembele of Peterborough United celebrates his goal against Cardiff. Photo: Joe Dent/
Siriki Dembele of Peterborough United celebrates his goal against Cardiff. Photo: Joe Dent/

But not at 8.15pm as by then I’d realised how poor, limited and, quite frankly, unattractive the visitors were and certainly not at 9pm by which time Posh were deservedly 2-0 up and seemingly set to record back-to-back home wins.

Unfortunately it wasn’t to be. An impressive victory was cruelly denied as a team of giants scored twice in their only period of domination in the entire game - the final 10 minutes.

Inevitably crosses proved Posh’s undoing as Cardiff were never likely to pass their way through. Posh defended two long throws adequately, but couldn’t complete their clearance leading to headed goals for centre-back Aden Flint. It was another brutal lesson about the ruthlessness of this division as well as the power many teams possess.

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Posh boss Darren Ferguson and goalkeeping coach Mark Tyler during the game against Cardiff. Photo: David Lowndes.

Cardiff won’t be the only long ball, set-piece orientated team in the second tier, but they might be the best. They rarely lose. Indeed they’ve lost only three of manager Mick McCarthy’s 25 Championship games in charge.

1) Of course there will be regrets at the manner of two dropped points, but this was a massively encouraging display for all sorts of reasons. Sammie Szmodics, Jack Taylor and Jorge Grant were three big absentees last night and skipper Mark Beevers was badly missed after limping off just past the hour mark. I doubt he would have gone walkabout and left a big bloke unmarked at the far post in the 95th minute. But, despite all the selection problems, Posh were excellent for the most part. They used mobile runners in Siriki Dembele and Harrison Burrows just behind big Jonson Clarke-Harris and all three were outstanding. The midfield passing was crisp and accurate and tactically manager Darren Ferguson was spot on.

This was a big step up all round on the two previous Championship performances, but if the number of walking/non-walking wounded keeps increasing it will become a big problem.

2) I mentioned after the Derby game that Burrows should be used exclusively in wide areas. I take that back and tip my hat to manager Darren Ferguson who insists the tenager’s best position could be a more central one. His movement and ability to find space caused no end of concerns to the visiting defence last night. They couldn’t just concentrate on keping Dembele quiet as they had another livewire to worry about. Burrows showed tremendous composure and patience before firing home with his weaker right foot to give Posh the lead. It was a terrific goal.

A melee between Posh and Cardiff City players. Photo: David Lowndes.

3) If this is Dembele and Clarke-Harris when not fully fit, the Championship had better watch out when they are at full speed. Dembele is going to shine at this level as long as he can avoid the cloggers, while Clarke-Harris was immense all evening. Their link-up play for the second goal was a thing of beauty. Clarke-Harris occupied three centre-backs impressively until limping off with 10 minutes to go. As Cardiff goal hero Aden Flint commented afterwards that was a pivotal moment as Posh suddenly couldn’t get out as they had no one to hold the ball up, win free kicks and harrass defenders so the visitors were able to build sustained pressure for the first time in the match. Eventually Posh cracked. Clarke-Harris will be sorely missed if the FA charge for silly historical tweets leads to a ban.

4) Until the forced substititions took their toll in the final stages, Posh looked to be managing the game very well. They won many free kicks and slowed the game down expertly to stop Cardiff building any momentum. They also kept the ball pretty well. Mental errors crept in towards the end of the game though. Substitute Joel Randall’s decision to shoot from a tight angle rather than retreat to the corner, or even better, pass to an unmarked Jack Marriott at the start of injury time was an irritating moment.

5) The long throw has become so commonplace now even the biggest teams (Liverpool) actually employ a specialist coach. It can be an effective tactic and therefore most pleasing when Posh broke away from one hurled into their own area to take a 2-0 lead thanks to Dembele’s excellent goal.

6) The problem with primitive Mick McCarthy football is the need to keep winning. Fans will get fed up quickly if a team loses while playing in such an ugly way. Even though they’ve been largely useless and dropped down a division since he left, few Ipswich fans appear to mourn McCarthy’s departure. I can only imagine what Lee Tomlin feels watching it on a weekly basis. He couldn’t be further emoved from being a McCarthy-type player.