Final day frustration for Peterborough United, but there are still reasons to be cheerful
Forget the final day frustration, Peterborough United fans still have many reasons to be cheerful.
Manager Darren Ferguson managed to be both disappointed and optimistic after yesterday’s (May 4) 3-1 win over Burton Albion. The result wasn’t good enough to overtake Doncaster, their gloating manager and that strange one-game former Posh player who is clearly burdened by a grudge, but that irritation aside the best points total (72) and highest finish (seventh) since Ferguson was last in charge at London Road represent significant progress, especially given the upheaval caused by another mid-season managerial change.
It must be noted that the points per game average of previous boss Steve Evans (1.66) would have yielded 76 points over a full season and a place in the play-offs, which is where Posh were sitting when he left. That’s an inconvenient fact for some when placed alongside Ferguson’s 1.41 points per game, but in terms of mood and togetherness within the squad and respect and affection from fans towards those in the technical area, few could argue Posh are in a better place under a man who just took a little too long to impose his playing philosophy on a willing yet ultimately limited group.
Ferguson’s personal record was also hampered by injuries and by an inexplicable rash of red cards and subsequent suspensions. To get within a point of the top six could therefore be seen as a minor triumph.
It’s natural to look back and think what might have been. That last minute Good Friday goal scored by Fleetwood was ultimately decisive, but no more than Posh taking the lead in the 90th minute at Coventry and not winning in October. Every club will have hard luck stories and tales of Carl Boyeson-standard refereeing, but over 46 games and 10 months it’s tough to argue against the finishing position. The 12 points between fifth and sixth tells another story about the overall standard of League One in 2018-19.
Yesterday Posh sneaked into sixth place for 12 minutes - the time between the opening goals for Joe Ward at the ABAX and Kieran Sadlier at the Keepmoat - and there was a fleeting moment of excitement in a drab second half when someone started an incorrect rumour that Coventry had equalised at Doncaster.
An own goal from John Brayford and a late strike from top scorer Ivan Toney either side of an Alex Bradley goal for Burton at least ensured Posh closed the campaign on a winning note before a lap of appreciation from the squad conducted in a rather sombre atmosphere. For some, like Lee Tomlin, it was a chance to say farewell as squad-building for next season has already started.
The departure of loans and out-of-contract players has already been confirmed. That’s 10 gone and it would have been a lot more if Posh had somehow won promotion. Sometimes you need to be careful what you wish for as the jump in standard from League One to the Championship is the biggest in English football.
Ferguson, who has looked refreshed and relaxed as well as determined since returning to the club in January, is surely the right man to take Posh back to the promised land though.
His partnership with chairman Darragh MacAnthony and his co-owners will ensure next season sees more nights like Portsmouth and fewer days like Walsall.
Posh: Aaron Chapman, Jason Naismith. Ben White, Ryan Tafazolli, Daniel Lafferty, Alex Woodyard, Josh Knight, Siriki Dembele, Lee Tomlin (sub George Cooper, 66 mins), Marcus Maddison (sub Siriki Dembele, 46 mins), Ivan Toney
Unused substitutes: Matt Godden, Louis Reed, Matty Stevens, Rhys Bennett, Conor O’Malley.
Burton Albion: Brad Collins, John Brayford, Colin Daniel, Kieran Wallace, Jamie Allen, Scott Fraser (sub Reece Hutchinson, 78 mins), Lucas Akins, Marcus Harness, Ben Fox, Stephen Quinn (sub Jake Buxton, 46 mins), Liam Boyce (sub Alex Bradley, 46 mins).
Unused substitutes: Stephen Bywater, Damien McCrory, Will Miller, Reece Hutchinson, Josh Clarke.
Goals: Posh - Ward (19 mins), Brayford (og, 36th minute), Toney (88 mins).
Burton - Bradley (85 mins).
Cautions: Posh - Knight (foul).
Burton - Harness (foul).
Referee: Scott Oldham 8