TALKING POINTS: ‘Peterborough United might even have surprised themselves with how good they were, playing well against the big boys, Franz Beckenbauer at the back and will Clarke-Harris be replaced at Coventry City by a ‘false number nine?’
Few would have seen this result and performance coming from Peterborough United with the possible exception of Posh chairman Darragh ‘trust the process’ MacAnthony.
Certainly not Blues boss Lee Bowyer and his Birmingham City side who probably saw a fixture against out-of-form opponents as the perfect opportunity to rebound from a humbling home defeat at the hands of Fulham a few days earlier.
And possibly not even Posh manager Darren Ferguson who had suffered a tough week with two crushing away defeats and a serious fall-out with a senior player.
But, kudos to Ferguson, a manager who has rarely strayed from his beliefs in a passing, attacking, attractive style of play during his now club record 492 matches in charge of Posh. Even the man whose record he beat, that great entertainer Barry Fry, was known to field four centre-backs in an attempt to arrest a slump in form.
But that’s not Ferguson’s way. His reaction to four straight defeats was to field as many players comfortable on the ball as possible, including his defenders, and order them to play their way out of trouble.
The result was one of the most complete displays this reporter has ever seen from a Posh side at this level. Posh outmanouevred and outclassed physically superior opponents. ‘We were given a footballing lesson,’ admitted one member of the visiting press pack after the game and he was right.
OTHER TALKING POINTS...
1) The three best Posh performances this season have been against the biggest and most physical teams. Posh have been excellent against the long-ball merchants of Cardiff, West Brom and now Birmingham (albeit all at home) which is very encouraging given there are plenty of similar challenges ahead. If Posh can stand up to the aerial onslaught there is always a chance their ball players will win the game at the other end. It was noticable yesterday that Posh rarely put the ball out of play in their own half, preferring instead to trust their own ability to get out of tight spaces. Birmingham have the longest of long throw men in Mark Roberts, but he had one opportunity to hurl the ball into the area in the first-half and he didn’t even appear for the second-half.
2) Playing out from the back demands defenders comfortable on the ball. In 18 year-old Ronnie Edwards they have their Franz Beckenbauer. What a talent. He looks unflappable in possession, strolling past opponents before inevitably seeing the right pass and invariably pulling it off. As Ferguson said after the game Edwards got everyone playing and for a teenager at this tough standard that is some achievement. Some of the football through the thirds was a joy to watch with midfielders Ollie Norburn, Jack Taylor and Jorge Grant, who played in a far more suitable position, all moving the ball on quickly and accurately. One Posh move in the first-half started with Edwards seemingly trapped by a corner flag and yet a handful of passes later Posh had a corner at the other end. Magnificent stuff. No wonder MacAnthony has started calling Edwards ‘new stadium’ insomuch his future transfer fee could pay for it.
3) Taylor’s return to full fitness is key. Here’s a midfielder with the confidence to accept a pass under pressure and move it on to a teammate. The passing tempo looks much better with him in the side. It should be Taylor alongside one other while he remains fit.
4) Ferguson did well not to hide behind a fib when explaining goalkeeper Christy Pym’s absence. After all the dressing room bust-up post-Reading has been signposted on social media for the preceeding 24 hours. These things happen in football and often go unreported, but it appears Pym went too far in his reponse to managerial criticism. Footballers are a resilient bunch and there was a tremendous togetherness on the pitch yesterday which yielded a first clean sheet of the season. I was surprised Posh didn’t go for a better goalkeeper than Pym in the summer anyway, but maybe they did as Dai Cornell was most impressive yesterday. He exuded authority and calmness in a febrile atmosphere on and off the pitch. His save at the feet of Ryan Woods at the start of the second half was a big moment as Posh had stretched their lead to 3-0 a few minutes later.
5) Aussie referee Jarred Gillett is now on the Premier League list. That’s no surprise after watching him yesterday. Calm when he needed to be and decisive when action was demanded. He flashed the red card for Birmingham’s Gary Gardner after his ugly challenge on Nathan Thompson in an instant before any other player could offer his biased opinion. He was impressive.
6) Jonson Clarke-Harris, apart from one dreadful moment after he’d raced clear of the visiting defence with a great chance to make it 3-0, was a real handful again, but his touch and passing was also way better than in recent games. The PT understands any ban for alleged abusive historical tweets will take effect before Posh next play at Coventry next Friday (September 24) which gives Ferguson a big problem as Jack Marriott and Ricky-Jade Jones are out for ages yet. Sammie Szmodics seems the most likely replacement, but he can’t be expected to play right up top. It will be fascinating to see if Ferguson morphs into Pep Guardiola and deploys a ‘false 9’.