It was a sad day (April 28) for Peterborough United despite a most welcome win.
Manager Steve Evans issued a tribute to Jack Marriott rather than a post-match summary, further confirmation that a 33-goal (so far) striker is on his way from the ABAX Stadium after a solitary season.
Twenty seven of those goals have arrived in League One. It’s not Marriott’s fault that the rest of the squad - or the club’s management - haven’t been good enough to ensure his excellence was rewarded with a play-off slot. The 23 year-old might not have carried all his team-mates, but his deadly finishing certainly camouflaged some glaring deficiencies until a fateful recent run of four defeats in a row.
Marriott has now matched Criag Mackail-Smith’s tally of League One goals in 2010-11 and Britt Assombalonga’s overall goals total of 2013-14. Both of their Posh teams contested play-off football, one of them successfully. One more goal at Portsmouth next weekend - if he’s allowed to play of course - would propel a player signed from Luton Town’s substitutes’ bench for £450K into third place in the Posh charts for goals in all competitions in a single season.
That sum of money seemed a gamble at the time, but a multi-million pound profit will now be heading Posh’s way this summer. Credit to former manager Grant McCann for his part in that deal, a far more significant contribution than his apparent part in letting George Cooper’s fitness go to pot.
Marriott deserves his move, as does Marcus Maddison after four years of service, but their departures will leave gaping holes. Cooper, who delivered a fine finish against Fleetwood to confirm a comfortable win, might step up to take on Maddison’s mantle, but pure goalscorers are much harder to find. One hopes transfer guru Barry Fry’s health is in good order as he’s going to one man busy man this summer.
Free of pressure Posh played pretty well here, although Fleetwood provided feeble opposition. Posh hit the woodwork three times once through Anthony Grant who was the width of the crossbar away from his first goal of the season, and twice because of defensive errors as Ashley Eastham headed against his own bar and goalkeeper Chris Neal allowed Gwion Edwards’ fierce strike to slip through his hands, again onto the bar.
Naturally it was Marriott who broke the deadlock early in the second-half with a trademark lob over the goalkeeper from inside the penalty area, a finish of great skill and composure. Cooper completed the scoring with a first-time left-foot strike after a fine cutback from substitute Danny Lloyd 15 minutes from time before Fleetwood offered some sort of response which included a fine drive against the woodwork from Lewie Coyle.
Anthony Grant and Leo Da Silva Lopes, two players possibly performing for their immediate future, took control of midfield from the outset, although sound judgements in games lacking passion are tough to make.
Posh have at least improved their points tally for the second season in a row, and they will probably also improve their finishing position - anywhere between eighth and 11th is still possible - but that and completing a decade of Football League superiority over local rivals Northampton, who were all but relegated yesterday, is not good enough for a club with Championship ambitions.
The players still went on a lap of appreciation at the end of the final home game of the campaign. Marriott should have been awarded a lap of honour on his own.
Posh: Jonathan Bond, Liam Shephard, Andrew Hughes, Jack Baldwin, Steven Taylor, Anthony Grant, Leo Da Silva Lopes, Gwion Edwards, Marcus Maddison (sub Danny Lloyd, 74 mins), George Cooper (sub Joe Ward, 84 mins), Jack Marriott (sub Idris Kanu, 90 + 2 mins).
Unused substitutes: Mark Tyler, Chris Forrester, Michael Doughty, Jermaine Anderson.
Fleetwood: Chris Neal, Lewie Coyle, Ashley Eastham, Nathan Pond, Cian Bolger, Kyle Dempsey, Conor McAleny (sub Bobby Grant, 78 mins), Paddy Madden (sub Jordy Hiwula, 55 mins), George Glendon, Ashley Hunter, Jack Sowerby (sub Harrison Biggins, 60 mins).
Unused substitutes: Alex Cairns, Toumani Diagouraga, Gethin Jones, Nathan Sheron.
Goals: Posh - Marriott (53 mins), Cooper (78 mins).
Referee: Graham Horwood 7
Attendance: 4,667 (88 Fleetwood).