ALAN SWANN’S TALKING POINTS: ‘The value of confidence and momentum, Burrows ensured Dembele wasn’t missed, Eisa is smiling again, feed JCH and he will score, sensational Szmodics, super subs and praise for the Posh fitness team
Well I didn’t see this coming. I doubt anyone did, but what a statement to send out at the start of ‘squeaky bum’ time.
Posh couldn’t have looked any less like a promotion-chasing side in the second-half at Rochdale and for 90 minutes at Blackpool last week. Yesterday they delivered a result which surely sent shockwaves around Hull and Sunderland?
Yes, Accrington were severely lacking in terms of personnel and defensive ability, but then so were the two previous opponents. A 7-0 win should never be played down and certainly not when a three-way battle for two automatic promotion places is raging.
The value of confidence and momentum should never be underestimated either. Posh received a healthy dose of the former thanks to a vibrant attacking display and some clinical finishing, but the latter will only arrive if this result is backed up at Fleetwood on Good Friday ahead of the biggest game for many a season at home to Sunderland on Easter Monday.
Buckle up for a thrilling race to the finish line.
OTHER TALKING POINTS FROM YESTERDAY’S GAME...
1) This season has taken a brutal toll on playing squads. The relentless nature of the fixture list has to be a huge factor in teams suffering so many injuries. Posh have just finished a run of 10 successive Tuesday League One fixtures which have included long hauls to Plymouth and Blackpool so no wonder manager Darren Ferguson praised his fitness team last week. Posh have escaped relatively lightly compared to some, particularly Accrington. This was undoubtedly a great time to play them and it will certainly prove to be the easiest of the final 10 Posh fixtures.
2) I still grimaced when Siriki Dembele’s name was absent from the teamsheet yesterday. Posh fielded nine of their first-choice starting line-up, but Jack Taylor and Dembele are two you’d never want to be without. They could both be back in the squad at Fleetwood, but will either of them start? Dembele probably won’t if Posh stick to four at the back. He wasn’t missed yesterday as Harrison Burrows improved the team against Accrington. Burrows is a natural wide player. He moves the ball on quickly and rarely slows attacks down by employing unnecessary tricks. His first thought is to cross the ball rather than cut inside which is good for Jonson Clarke-Harris in particular. It’s also doubtful Dembele would have been seen racing back and clearing crosses from inside his own penalty area as Burrows was yesterday. Both could be accomodated if Posh go with wing-backs at Fleetwood. As well as Louis Reed and Reece Brown played against Accrington, the only way Taylor doesn’t start is if Ferguson wants to ensure his fitness for the Sunderland match.
3) Clarke-Harris has looked a forlorn figure in recent games as the service he thrives on - quality crosses into the penalty area - had dried up. He scored one goal from the penalty spot in his six games prior to yesterday. A colleague at Blackpool was even moved to ask me how he’d managed to score so many goals this season after Posh’s limp attacking display at Bloomfield Road. A lack of quality assistance from the likes of Joe Ward and Dan Butler was a big part of the answer. Ward was back on it after a quiet spell yesterday and Clarke-Harris netted a hat-trick from a total of around 10 yards from goal. Simple finishes for sure, although he was impressively calm in converting the first goal, but part of a good striker’s armoury is knowing where to be and 25 League One goals in 37 appearances suggests Clarke-Harris has that skill.
4) How good was Sammie Szmodics yesterday? He set high standards during his loan spell at Posh last season and he was back at that level against Accrington. He got himself close enough to Clarke-Harris on many occasions and the pair proved a dangerous combination. But Szmodics was also seen working back and nicking the ball off opponents in his own half. One such intervention set Posh on the way to a second early goal. Szmodics scores in bursts and that’s three in three games now after a four-match barren spell which augers well for the immediate future. His superb assists for Joe Ward at Blackpool and for Mo Eisa yesterday suggest that part of his game is also in good order.
5) Eisa’s first League One goal in 13 months and 23 games was the outstanding moment of a terrific afternoon for Posh. Eisa’s obvious happiness after he’d delivered an expert finish was predictable, but the joy on the faces of all his teammates as they raced to congratulate him spoke volumes for a popular character in a dressing room that is very much together.
6) Ferguson was right to praise the contribution of all five of his substitutes yesterday. I know they came on against beaten opposition and played against 10 men for 20 minutes, but the confidence Idris Kanu will take from registering his first Football League goal for Posh shouldn’t be ignored. Niall Mason set that goal up, Eisa also scored, Ricky-Jade Jones terrified a toiling defence with his pace and strength, while Ethan Hamilton almost scored with a long range drive. They looked sharp, eager and focussed, and with nine games to play they could yet play more significant roles before the season is over.
7) A clean sheet for beleagured goalkeeper Christy Pym was a shot in the arm for the nuumber one as well as his back four. Pym made one decent stop from a Joe Burgess free kick in the first-half, but was otherwise well protected by a defence who remained impressively committed even when the result was safe.
8) It was a big day for Posh, but it would be wrong to call it a pivotal one. There have been too many twists and turns to believe there won’t be any more in the final five weeks of the season. Gaining ground on Hull and catching up Sunderland’s goal difference were the plusses from the day, apart from the traditional hammering of Accrington at London Road. It’s a fact that Easter will be crucial with all sides having six points to play for. Hull are at Crewe before hosting Cobblers. Sunderland have a tricky home game against play-off chasing Oxford before heading down to London Road.