TALKING POINTS: Fergie’s ‘truth’ hurts, Burrows’ treatment a gamble, forward firepower is key, lucky to be able to call-up a gifted goalie, great day, but still too early get carried away
Darren Ferguson’s decision to speak his ‘truth’ yesterday (April 10) after a comfortable 3-0 away win at Swindon, and the strengthening of his side’s second place in the League One table, was welcome.
Ferguson eschewed the easy option of praising his players for a second successive away success and clean sheet, and a five point cushion to third place.
No-one would have blamed him if he’d taken that route. There’s an argument for doing and saying nothing to harm his team’s confidence with just six games to go.
But no. The Posh boss decided to warn his players, in public as well as in private, that repeating a performance that was at times sluggish and slipshod won’t bring Championship football back to London Road.
Posh were alarmingly wasteful in front of goal and, when the opponents are better than Swindon (and that means every other team in the division), they will probably be punished. You can bet your life local rivals Northampton Town won’t be so meek and accommodating when they pitch up at the Weston Homes Stadium next weekend.
This was Ferguson ensuring there is no relaxation, no taking it easy and no taking any result for granted in the last month of the regular season. Nothing has yet been achieved and they’ll need to be far more ruthless and aggressive than they were at the County Ground to reach their goal.
OTHER TALKING POINTS FROM THE 3-0 WIN AT SWINDON...
1) Posh have started painfully slowly in each of their last two games. Perhaps understandably against promotion rivals Sunderland, but against Swindon? A team with Anthony Grant in defence? It’s true Swindon rarely looked like scoring, but giving any team so much possession is fraught with danger. It would only have taken an accurate long-range strike or a deflection and Posh would have to chase the game, something they should never need to do against this standard of opposition. Posh need to start on the front foot and terrorise teams with their forward power. This was painful to watch until Siriki Dembele burst into life.
2) It was a surprise to see Mo Eisa start up top with Jonson Clarke-Harris rather than Dembele, but Ferguson knew there would be space out wide and he knew who would best exploit it. Dembele doesn’t move as though he’s totally free of back pain, but his footwork was dazzling and his finishing exceptional until he missed a late one-on-one to complete what would have been a well deserved hat-trick. He’s now become the first League One player this season to reach 10 goals and 10 assists, facts that confirm his status as one of the best players in the division, and that he’s far more unselfish than some claim.
3) Harrison Burrows was left out of the starting line-up for the first time in four matches. Was that why he delivered a 22-minute display that concerned Ferguson enough to take him off? Did he expect to play in the absence of Sammie Szmodics? It’s embarrassing to be subbed off after coming on as a sub and one hopes Ferguson has not dented a young man’s confidence too much. It’s not as though leaving Burrows on was going to cost Posh the game. It was a ruthless move by the boss though and another shot across the bows of any player who believes he can coast for the rest of the season.
4) Szmodics has now failed to start five Posh League One games this season and four have been won and the other drawn. But he is undoubtedly a fixture in the first choice line-up. He should be free of shoulder pain for the visit of Northampton next weekend and he will start, probably in place of Mo Eisa.
5) The big advantage Hull and Posh have over Sunderland is in their forward firepower. Jonson Clarke-Harris, Szomodics and Dembele have 49 goals between them in 40 League One meetings, the top three scoring Hull players (Magennis, Wilks, Keane-Potter) have 42. Charlie Wyke has 22 goals for Sunderland, although none in the last five games, but their next highest scorer is penalty taker Grant Leadbitter with six.
6) It can’t be fair for Posh to sign a goalkeeper on an emergency loan when they have a 24 year-old back-up who was signed from a Championship club on their books. It’s an EFL problem rather than a Posh problem though and it’s easy to see why Ferguson opted for Josef Bursik, a player with 40 League One games, 15 Championship matches and international age-group appearances on his CV rather than throw Dan Gyollai in for his Football League debut at a stressful time of the season. Bursik looked the part. He was commanding and kicked the ball well, but he will have far more difficult tests to come. Incidentally Swindon have used seven different goalkeepers this season!
7) Sunderland’s defeat at home to a Charlton side gunning for the play-offs wasn’t a great surprise. It was certainly a poor result given they now face three away games in a row at a Wigan side fighting against the drop, in-form play-off contenders Blackpool and leaders Hull. But Posh fans shouldn’t get over-excited just yet. Sunderland have lost just one League One away game all season. If they win at Wigan on Tuesday, they will be just two points behind Posh from the same number of games played.