REPORT: CARDIFF CITY 4, PETERBOROUGH UNITED 0: The Posh charge back to League One gathered pace with another dismal away display
Not that the gap to safety increased thanks to the equal incompetence of Reading, but because the level of limpness, the lack of defensive organisation and an apparent lack of belief and ability can’t end in anything but relegation.
Cardiff were very good and 4-0 in no way flattered them. They are a far superior side to Mick McCarthy’s hoofballers who visited London Road in August. Three excellent loan signings - Leeds flyer Cody Drameh was exceptional - have helped them to three Championship wins in a row and a dash from danger.
But they met no resistance here. Posh weren’t helped when their left-footed centre-back Mark Beevers pulled out after the pre-match warm-up, but that was no excuse for the easy way they were carved open every time Cardiff ventured forward. Posh looked slow and apathetic in comparison.
Cardiff led after five minutes and they had hit the post twice and missed an open goal before they added a second goal seven minutes before the break. Two similar goals in the second-half completed the rout. It could have been much worse with Posh hardly getting a shot away in anger.
Posh made two changes to their starting line-up and neither were much of a surprise. Callum Morton replaced Jonson Clarke-Harris up front, while Hayden Coulson took over from Joe Ward in a wing-back role.
Coulson was deployed on the left with Bali Mumba switching to the right. Reece Brown was left on the substitutes’ bench with Jorge Grant and Joel Randall among those who failed to make the matchday 18. Defender Nathan Thompson was ruled out because of a muscle injury.
There was pre-match drama as Beevers pulled out of the Posh team and Josh Knight stepped up from the substitutes’ bench.
And it caused Posh an immediate problem. They thought they’d escaped when Tommy Doyle crashed a shot against the outside of the post from 20 yards in the fourth minute.
But Posh regained possession and lost it immediately with a simple square pass behind Knight who was so slow to turn, Isaak Davies robbed him, sprinted away down the right and squared for Joe Ralls to sidefoot home without any pressure on him at all.
Posh were rocked with Davies a constant early threat. An errant 10th minute pass by Knight enabled Davies to race beyond a floundering Ronnie Edwards and again cut the ball back. Luckily this time there were no takers.
A soft free kick awarded against Bali Mumba led to a Ralls free kick which Jordan Hugill headed against a post. Perry Ng then shot just wide from the edge of the area. All this is in the opening 15 minutes.
When Posh did get possession Cardiff funnelled all 11 players behind the ball sure in the knowledge there was little threat in the Posh side. There was no-one with the ability to unlock a defence, especially when three big centre-halves sat so deep. There was no penetration out wide and no power up top where Morton and Marriott were kept busy watching the ball fly over their head to the ‘keeper.
Hugill missed a sitter from a corner and Posh changed shape to 4-4-2. Something had to be done to be fair, but it changed nothing and how Cardiff were only two ahead at the break was rather incredible.
Right wing-back Drameh tortured Posh and every soft free-kick and set-piece awarded to the hosts threatened danger.
Big centre-back Aden Flint scored twice at Posh in August and he missed a chance for a third when a corner landed at his feet and he sliced wide. No matter seven minutes before the break he had the same opportunity and he made no mistake with a well-controlled volley.
Mumba’s dreadful back pass then caused chaos which was eventually tidied up by Frankie Kent.
In response Kent won a header from a corner, but Flint was on hand to clear as Morton waited to pounce and Marriott’s deflected shot ballooned into the arms of home ‘keeper Alex Smithies on 37 minutes. That was the sole shot on target of a dismal first-half.
It was no surprise when the hapless Knight, who had finished the half as a right-back, was substituted at the break in favour of Reece Brown. Mumba changed positions for the third time and Hayden Coulson, who was a left-midfielder for 15 minutes, dropped in at left-back. The players were sent out early, presumably with a flea in their ears and a rocket up their backsides.
The midfield diamond was now back with Brown at the base and Poku at the tip.
Posh did enjoy some possession, but there was still no threat. Norburn struck a 20 yard free-kick into the wall and then Cardiff broke with deadly effect to wrap the points up, if they weren’t already.
Coulson’s cross was blocked, Drameh charged past a non-existent challenge from Edwards and crossed for Hugill to volley home.
That prompted Ferguson to make his final two substitutions. Mumba changed position again as Joe Ward and Jonson Clarke-Harris were sent on. Rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic sprang to mind.
A fine Kent block stopped Hugill converting another Drameh cross as Posh allowed Cardiff to revel in wide open spaces.
Clarke-Harris did fire a free kick into the sidenetting, but from open play there was nothing.
Cardiff always looked the most likely to score again. Davis embarked on a thrilling run and shot just wide before a right wing cross from substitute Ruben Colwill was converted by another replacement Uche Ikpeazu with five minutes to go.
A dreadful day for manager Darren Ferguson then on his 50th birthday, but a great one for Derby County who surely can’t fail to pass Posh in the near future, despite a 21-point deduction.
Posh: Steven Benda, Hayden Coulson (sub Jonson Clarke-Harris 60 mins), Josh Knight (sub Reece Brown, 46 mins), Ronnie Edwards, Frankie Kent, Bali Mumba, Jeando Fuchs, Oliver Norburn, Kwame Poku, Jack Marriott (sub Joe Ward, 60 mins), Callum Morton.
Unused substitutes: Dai Cornell, Sammie Szmodics, Ricky-Jade Jones.
Cardiff: Alex Smithies, Cody Drameh, Perry Ng, Aden Flint, Marc McGuinness, Joel Bagan, Ryan Wintle, Joe Ralls (sub Will Vaulks, 71 mins), Tommy Doyle (sub Ruben Colwill, 81 mins), Jordan Hugill (sub Uche Ikpeazu,76 mins), Isaak Davies.
Unused substitutes: Subs: Dillon Phillips, Oliver Denham, Marlon Pack, Mark Harris
Goals: Cardiff - Rolls (5 mins), Flint (39 mins), Hugill (58 mins), Ikpeazu (85 mins).
Cautions: Posh - Mumba (foul).
Cardiff - Doyle (foul), Ng (foul), Wintle (foul).
Referee: Kevin Friend 6
Attendance: 17,297 (approx 150 Posh).