Peterborough United have been here before under this manager.
No League One side will match this Posh side for attacking weaponry, but several teams will be superior in terms of defensive organisation, solidity under pressure, goalkeeping and game management skills.
It was the same back in 2011 when Posh last escaped the third tier. ‘The Trinity’ were in their pomp, Grant McCann was pulling the midfield strings, but Posh also conceded 75 goals in a 46-game season and three in a play-off semi-final before a hopeless referee did the club a huge favour - and that was with Ryan Bennett and Gaby Zakuani at the heart of the defence.
For all Frankie Kent’s promise he’s not yet at Bennett’s level and Mark Beevers has so far not matched Zakuani’s warrior-like qualities. The latter, the version from eight years ago at least, would have been handy yesterday as there would have been far fewer cheap incursions into the Posh penalty area.
The way things are going Posh might have to match that 2011 team’s ton of League One goals and hope for the best at the back. Saturday’s 3-3 draw at Wycombe showcased the best and worst of this season’s squad.
Posh were vastly superior to a strangely subdued Wycombe side for 55 minutes. Goals from Mo Eisa and Josh Knight saw Posh 2-0 up at the break and when Ivan Toney’s neat pass sent Marcus Maddison charging through on goal early in the second-half it looked like being game over.
But he missed badly, Wycombe scored out of the blue a couple of minutes later and the game changed. Just as at Tranmere, Posh lost a two-goal lead by conceding twice in a matter of minutes - the second to an avoidable Kent own goal - and yet this felt worse.
Posh barely reached second gear at Prenton Park so the draw could still be seen as a decent result. This wasn’t. Even after Toney scored a volley worthy of winning a better game than this one and the hosts saw Curtis Thompson sent off, Posh managed to cock it up by delivering a masterclass in how not to see a game out. Passes went astray, quick strikers kept running offside and Wycombe took advantage to launch the ball non-stop in the direction of 37-year-old Adebayo Akinfenwa who proved too strong and too too clever for the Posh defence.
There was a sense of inevitability about a late equaliser and substitute Dan Butler, surprisingly sent on in the 89th minute as a straight swap rather than as an extra defender, was adjudged, harshly as it happens, to shove over Scott Kashket and Akinfenwa did the rest from the penalty spot.
“We changed tactics in the second-half and got in their faces a bit more,” Wycombe’s impressive manager Gareth Ainsworth boasted.
In contrast Posh never changed their tactics at all. Like-for-like replacements were sent on including Serhat Tasdemir for Maddison with 30 minutes to go, possibly as the squad’s top talent had managed to irritate rookie referee Will Finnie who was taking charge of a game at this level for the first time.
There was however enough experience, in the form of Boyd and Beevers mainly, and quality to have confirmed such a dominant position. Why they didn’t will doubtless be troubling manager Darren Ferguson and his staff ahead of a game at home against a well-supported Lincoln City side boosted by the arrival of a new boss in Michael Appleton this Saturday (October 12).
Ferguson did make a veiled threat about players losing places, but aren’t these threats rather hollow? Does the talented Tasdemir have any chance of ever replacing Maddison unless injury or suspension strikes? Siriki Dembele and Joe Ward - the latter was again absent from the matchday squad at Adams Park - won’t play regularly until the formation changes and if centre-back Rhys Bennett isn’t asked to go on when high balls are being launched into the Posh penalty area his future must be limited.
Even goalkeeper Christy Pym, who is yet to convince many fans he is an upgrade on last season’s less-than-secure keepers, appears safe. Ferguson felt he should have saved Wycombe’s first goal just as he should definitely saved Wimbledon’s first goal in the previous game, but he then delivered a vote of confidence by saying his summer signing is not about to be dropped.
Posh optimists were finding comfort in an away point at a team riding high in second place, but Wycombe won’t stay there on this evidence.
This was actually a great for Posh chance to close the gap considerably on more realistic promotion contenders like Sunderland, while keeping clear of those who are likely to charge up the table in the future like Rotherham and Portsmouth.
They failed while highlighting how hard they find it to play quickly through a high-tempo press. Other teams will have noted the need to close down Louis Reed (brilliant in the first-half at Wycombe) and how effective man-marking Maddison can be, especially while referees continue to give the team thespian no benefit of the doubt whatsoever.
Posh: Christy Pym, Niall Mason, Frazer Blake-Tracy (sub Dan Butler, 90 mins), Frankie Kent, Mark Beevers, Louis Reed, Josh Knight (sub Alex Woodyard, 80 mins), George Boyd, Marcus Maddison (sub Serhat Tasdemir, 60 mins), Ivan Toney, Mo Eisa.
Unused substitutes: Conor O’Malley, Idris Kanu, Rhys Bennett, Siriki Dembele.
Wycombe: Ryan Allsop, Dominic Gape, Anthony Stewart, David Wheeler (sub Scott Kashket, 73 mins), Giles Phillips, Curtis Thompson, Jack Grimmer, Adebayo Akinfenwa, Darius Charles, Nick Freeman, Fred Onyedinma (sub Rolando Aarons, 43 mins)..
Unused subs: Cameron Yates, Sido Jombati, Joe Jacobson, Jamie Mascoll, Josh Parker.
Goals: Posh - Eisa (11 mins), Knight (38 mins), Toney (71 mins).
Wycombe - Akinfenwa (57 mins & pen, 90 + 5 mins), Kent (og, 63 mins).
Cautions: Posh - Maddison (dissent), Toney (dissent).
Wycombe - Thompson (foul).
Referee: Will Finnie 7
Attendance: 5,087 (697 Posh).