There are no excuses strong enough to justify a Peterborough United season so relentlessly bad, but there were still heroes to be found

There have been Peterborough United heroes this season – there were 635 of them present at the Den yesterday (April 30).

By Alan Swann
Sunday, 1st May 2022, 7:07 am
Posh fans at Millwall. Photo: Joe Dent/theposh.com.

Many of them would have been in attendance at all 23 Championship away matches, quite an achievement given 17 were lost (equalling a 29 year-old club record) and only three were won. Supporters don’t miss games for minor injuries or because they were mourning the family pet – for context listen to the last ‘Hard Truth’ podcast – as they are souls with a real dedication to the badge, or just certifiably bonkers, or most probably both.

And one can’t recall these super fans ever noticably turning on their team even though they would have have much justification. Yesterday’s 3-0 reverse at Millwall followed a few familiar patterns.

Posh played some decent stuff, but created little, apart from missing one glorious chance to take the lead not long before the break. They then fell behind at a poorly defended set-piece before conceding twice more in three minutes later in the half. And they lost, 3-0, rather comfortably. They have always found this level tough, but for the first time in the club’s, admittedly brief, Championship history Posh have conceded more two goals a game on the road.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Josh Knight and Dai Cornell after the former's own goal for Posh at Millwall. Photo: Joe Dent/theposh.com.

Some would have you believe injuries have been the biggest problem in a relegation season and Posh have suffered plenty, but it’s only fair to acknowledge Reading playing half a season with multiple absences including their best two players (they still beat Darren Ferguson’s side 3-1) and Middlesbroughmanaged to beat Posh, who recorded no shots on target, 2-0 after fielding just one recognised defender at the Riverside. Indeed previews on this website regularly listed a whole clutch of opposition absentees, but these teams were still reliably better than Posh.

Injuries affect most clubs throughout a season just as the financial issues caused by a pandemic didn’t just affect Posh. This season has been a collective nine-month nightmare. The gap to safety if points deductions were not in play is now up to 13 points. That’s the reality. Mitigation for that would test the brilliance of Rumpole.

And yet Posh can’t finish bottom thanks to Barnsley’s awful campaign. If Posh can clamber back above Derby County on the final day next weekend and claim a 22nd place finish that would be the joint third highest Football League finish in the club’s history after the second tier seasons of 1992-93 (10th), and 2011-12 (18th). Posh also finished 22nd in the infamous 54-point season of 2012-13.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom at the Den either. Posh weaved some pretty midfield patterns in the first-half. They saw enough of the ball in attacking areas to win 12 corners and there was some pleasing set-piece invention on show.

Benik Afobe of Millwall scores his side's opening goal of the game against Posh. Photo: Joe Dent/theposh.com.

Sadly the open play moves were usually ruined by a terrible cross. Actually so were the set-pieces. Posh took many corners short and manoeuvred themselves into great crossing positions and then invariably hit the first defender.

That was frustrating as was what manager Grant McCann called a ‘lack of conviction.’ Posh players remain reluctant to shoot from 20 yards or so (apart from Jack Marriott who almost opened the scoring early in the second-half after a piece of individual excellence) as they prefer to take an extra touch or pass the responsibility on to a teammate.

Exhibit arrived in the 89th minute after a terrific run and perfectly weighted pass from substitute Kwame Poku to Joe Ward. A first time shot and Millwall’s goal was going to be under threat. Instead Ward took a touch, and then another one, enabling a defender to rush back and block.

Still just one more game to go and give it a month, a couple of signings and this season will be consigned to the scrapheap never to be repeated, hopefully.

Sammie Szmodics of Peterborough United in action at Millwall. Photo: Joe Dent/theposh.com