But for now, and for the future, Posh should take heart from a cracking 2-1 Championship win over Blackburn Rovers at the Weston Homes Stadium today (April 15). The manner of the success with two goals in the final seven minutes after falling behind to a sucker punch was proof that there remains fight in the camp, as well as goalscoring ability.
Reading’s terrific win at another promotion-chasing side Sheffield United ensured that celebrations were soon diluted, but there was a feelgood factor around the stadium on the final whistle which needs to be harnessed next season.
Blackburn, who had been reduced to 10 men late in the first-half, looked to have stolen the points when top scorer Ben Brereton-Diaz smashed home his first goal of 2022 in the 77th minute.
In truth Posh had created more against 11 men than 10, but they rallied, forced their visitors back to equalise through Sammie Szmodics in the 83rd minute and then win the game four minutes later through substitute Jack Marriott’s fine finish. That was a relief for replacement Joel Randall who had missed an absolute sitter 30 seconds earlier.
Szmodics had surprisingly started the game as a right wing-back in the absence of Joe Ward. He played well there before moving further forward following the red card.
Frankie Kent came in for Ward as Posh reverted to a three centre-back formation.
There were surprises on the substitutes bench also with the lesser-spotted Randall and Hayden Coulson both present. Bali Mumba was not in the squad at all when he might reasonably have expected to take Ward’s place. How he felt when seeing Szmodics line-up as a wing-back was probably unprintable.
But Szmodics was very prominent in the first-half, and in a positive way. He revelled in the ability to arrive late in the penalty and could easily have scored twice.
On 11 minutes a challenge between Ricky-Jade Jones and a defender led to the ball falling nicely for Szmodics 15 yards from goal. He was on the stretch and his half-volleyed attempt was easily saved by Blackburn ‘keeper Thomas Kaminski.
And 10 minutes before the break Szmodics robbed a dithering defender inside the visiting area, but his left-footed shot was weak and inaccurate. A minute later Clarke-Harris volleyed a Jones cross into the ground and goalbound, but Kaminski saved well.
Kwame Poku also shot tamely straight at Kaminski after a terrific backheel from Clarke-Harris had sent him into the penalty area.
It was far from one-sided though. Dangerman Brereton-Diaz sent a shot narrowly over from a third minute corner and Posh ‘keeper Dai Cornell was forced into a smart low save from Sam Gallagher’s 18-yard snapshot.
Brereton-Diaz ‘scored’ with a fine header, but Premier League referee Chris Kavanagh ruled he’d pushed Josh Knight on the way to the ball.
And then Kavanagh made another big decision in Posh’s favour four minutes before the break when visiting defender Tayo Edun, who had already been cautioned for tripping Knight, was shown a second yellow card for hauling Jeando Fuchs back.
It must have angered Rovers as much earlier in the game Frankie Kent appeared to haul Gallagher down in red card territory, but Kavanagh didn’t even award a free kick.
Both teams changed shape at the break with Posh reverting to a flat back four and sending Szmodics into a more familiar attacking role.
Blackburn sent on Bradley Dack instead of Gallagher and the visitors started much the better. A couple of set-piece scrambles needed clearing before Posh cleared the heads and started playing like the team with the extra man.
Szmodics and Poku saw shots blocked by despairing defenders before Marriott, a sub for Jones a couple of minutes earlier, forced Kaminski into a decent save with a snapshot.
Posh boss Grant McCann kept trying to change things. Randall was also sent on and sent a 25-yard skimmer on goal that was easily saved.
But then Rovers pounced with 12 minutes to. One simple chipped pass forward was enough for Brereton-Diaz to be found free in the penalty area and he showed the clinical finish that often separates Posh from the rest of the Championship.
Or so we thought. Six minutes later a neat Harrison Burrows pass set Szmodics away into the area and he finished calmly into the corner.
Szmodics found space in the area again moments later and teed up Randall for a morale-boosting sitter which he fluffed by hitting a defender on the line.
No matter a strong run from Poku and a cross from the saw Clarke-Harris tee up Marriott for a classy left-foot strike into the top corner.
Rovers manager Tony Mowbray said he feared the Posh dynamic duo before the game. He was right to be concerned.
Posh: Dai Cornell, Harrison Burrows, Franke Kent, Ronnie Edwards, Josh Knight, Jeando Fuchs (sub Joel Randall, 73 mins), Jack Taylor, Kwame Poku (sub Reece Brown, 89 mins), Sammie Szmodics, Ricky-Jade Jones (sub Jack Marriott, 61 mins), Jonson Clarke-Harris.
Unused subs: Will Blackmore, Mark Beevers, Hayden Coulson, Jorge Grant.
Blackburn: Thomas Kaminski, Ryan Nyambe (sub Bradley Johnson, 43 ins), Jan Paul van Hecke, Darragh Lenihan, Tayo Edun, Scott Wharton, John Buckley (sub Tyrhys Dolan, 72 mins), Lewis Travis, Ryan Giles, Ben Brereton-Diaz, Sam Gallagher (sub Bradley Dack, 46 mins).
Unused subs: Aynsley Pears, Harry Pickering, Daniel Ayala, Ryan Hedges.
Goals: Posh - Szmodics (83 mins), Marriott (87 mins).
Blackburn - Brereton-Diaz (77 mins).
Sending off: Blackburn - Eden (second yellow, foul).
Cautions: Posh - Fuchs (foul).
Blackburn - Edun (foul).
Referee: Chris Kavanagh 6
Attendance: 9,426 (1,528 Blackburn).