It took a while for Peterborough United manager Darren Ferguson to arrive for his post-match media duties yesterday (September 28).
A heart check with the St John’s Ambulance was a possibility after such a nerve-shredding League One contest against relegation favourites AFC Wimbledon at the Weston Homes Stadium, a team trying hard to overtake Boris Johnson’s 2019 record number of bad results in a row.
The real reason for keeping busy people waiting was far more cheerful and less dramatic. He’d presumably been getting his breath back and composing his thoughts in a darkened room. Posh could easily have won this match by a huge margin and yet spent the last 15 minutes fretting about dropping points to committed, but largely outclassed opponents who have now failed to win in 13 competitive matches this season.
“I’ve just been reminded what it’s like managing Peterborough,” Ferguson said with a half-smile. “We don’t like making it easy for ourselves do we?
“I had an easy teamtalk today. I just challenged the players to get back to the standards we’d delivered before the last two away games.
“We had to be positive going forward and we had to start keeping clean sheets again.”
One out of the two was enough to see off the real Dons as Posh scored three high-class goals and spurned a few much-easier chances when the visitors were rocking in the second period, most notably when Marcus Maddison decided to try a showboating finish rather than pass the ball into a virtual empty net, an act that so incensed Ferguson he withdrew his star man at a time when the game was very much in the balance.
Maddison had opened the scoring with a 28th minute whack with his weaker right foot and played a part (although not as big a part as Ivan Toney and George Boyd) as Mo Eisa claimed a classy goal on the break four minutes before the inerval.
Two-up at the break with a lethal counter-attacking set of forwards against the winless and managerless Wombles should have led to a Rochdale-sized thumping, but instead Posh ‘keeper Christy Pym’s howler and a fine strike from Anthony Wordsworth kept the visitors interested. Fortunately Eisa had delivered another composed finish before Wordsworth struck and Posh settled for a 3-2 win and 12 goals and nine points from their last three home matches.
That goals tally could have been boosted on numerous occasions with Maddison forcing a fine save from overworked Dons’ keeper Nathan Trott, Toney hitting the crossbar and Eisa seeing his hat-trick chance denied by Trott.
Those last two chances were created by substitute Serhat Tasdemir who’s 20-minute cameo was impressive enough to suggest there could be life at Posh post-Maddison.
The January vultures are also likely to be circling around Toney if he plays this strongly at both ends of the pitch and around Eisa, a cool finisher from anywhere inside 20 yards from goal.
The rest still have some convincing to do. Posh looked hesitant in the middle of the back four, while left-back Frazer-Blake Tracy looked rusty after his recent lay-off.
Posh also gave the ball away far too often in midfield areas which didn’t mean an awful lot against a team who played an open game throughout, a commendable strategy in the entertainment business, but ridiculously risky against this team in a professional sense.
Posh continued a season-long trend of trying to win with less possession (44% yesterday according to the BBC), a number that will surely need to improve as the campaign develops.
For now though it’s been a satisfactory opening 10 League One matches as Posh are tucked in nicely behind the leading pack in this 46-game marathon.
Posh: Christy Pym, Niall Mason, Frazer Blake-Tracy, Mark Beevers, Frankie Kent, Louis Reed (sub Alex Woodyard, 77 mins), Josh Knight, George Boyd, Marcus Maddison (sub Serhat Tasdemir, 77 mins), Ivan Toney, Mo Eisa.
Unused substitutes: Siriki Dembele, Dan Butler, Harrison Burrows, Idris Kanu, Conor O’Malley.
Wimbledon: Nathan Trott, Luke O’Neill, Ryan Delaney, Terrell Thomas (sub Anthony Wordsworth, 46 mins), Paul Osew, Will Nightingale, Scott Wagstaff, Callum Reilly (sub Mitch Pinnock, 46 mins), Max Sanders, Joe Pigott, Kwesi Appiah.
Unused substitutes: Nik Tzanev, Nester Guinness-Walker, Shane McLoughlin, Kyran Stabana, Anthony Hartigan.
Goals: Posh - Maddison (29 mins), Eisa (41 mins & 65 mins).
Dons - Pinnock (51 mins), Wordsworth (77 mins).
Dons: Appiah (delaying the restart), Delaney (foul), O’Neill (foul), Reilly (foul), Wordsworth (unsportsmanlike conduct).
Referee: Sebastian Stockbridge 5
Attendance: 6,744 (434 Dons).