The day Peterborough United can genuinely compete with Chelsea is the day the trains run on time.
There is a Grand Canyon-sized chasm between the top of the Premier League and League One promotion hopefuls in everything from squad quality to the standard of the pre-match media meal (four courses, efficient waiter service compared to a voucher redeemable for a Posh pie and a Bovril since you ask).
Even Chelsea’s second string contained nine full internationals and a couple of World Cup winners. Included in the Posh team was 18 year-old Leo Da Silva Lopes, a Peterborough & District Junior Alliance Under 14 Cup winner, and a midfielder who wasn’t born when Blues’ skipper John Terry made his debut for his sole professional club.
So a 4-1 defeat in a third round FA Cup tie represents not only a Posh best at this venue in this competition (two previous visits had finished 5-0 and 5-1), but enabled Grant McCann’s men to be cast as plucky losers rather than whipping boys.
A shot count of 35-12 in Chelsea’s favour accurately reflected the balance of power. Posh goalkeeper Luke McGee was predictably busy making numerous saves, often with his feet, while watching other shots from all sorts of distances slide by his goal or be intercepted by last-ditch defending.
Pedro (2), £33 mllion striker Michy Batshuayi and Brazilian ace Willian scored the Chelsea goals, but the Spaniard should have had a hat-trick after managing to hit the crossbar from six yards with the goal at his mercy, while the imposing figure of Ruben Loftus-Cheek missed the target completely when clean through.
Tom Nichols replied for Posh after Lee Angol had touched on a fine right-wing cross from Michael Smith with 20 minutes to go and just a couple of minutes after Terry had been sent off, much to the delight of the near-6,000 Posh fans (some tickets presumably went unsold despite tbe best efforts of Marcus Maddison’s barber to make a few quid) who had a close-up view of his clumsy attempt to tackle Angol.
The dreamers in the Posh camp did contemplate a remarkable late comeback, but Pedro’s second goal, a sidefoot into the corner of the net from 20 yards, dashed those thoughts. McCann described Chelsea’s ‘clinical’ finishing as a major difference, when in reality the home side were actually pretty wasteful.
Posh should have received an early boost when Maddison’s superb early cross left Angol with a six-yard tap-in, but the striker’s shot lacked the power or the precision to defeat Asmir Begovic in the home goal. Another Maddison centre, this time from a corner, found Ryan Tafazolli unmarked, but he glanced his header wide.
Once in front through Pedro, Chelsea cruised into a 2-0 half-time lead. Their second goal from the over-priced Batshuayi arrived just before the break following a 4 v 2 break which emphasised the risk of playing gung-ho attacking football against a side of this class.
But McCann was determined to play positively rather than play like Plymouth and 41,000 fans appreciated the gesture. McCann had perhaps been reminded of an all-out defensive policy at Spurs a few years back when Posh were thumped 4-0 without the consolation of a shot on target all game.
Anyway Posh had enough joy when Gwion Edwards was running at Branislav Ivanovic and Gary Cahill to justify an approach which caused some concern in home quarters at the start of the game and for a spell after the break.
Edwards enhanced his reputation with some superb running and it was a surprise to see him hooked just before the hour. Smith, Tafazolli and Angol also performed well, but the stand out star in this Posh performance was again captain Chris Forrester.
McCann has taken to enthusing about Forrester without prompting after games (Darren Ferguson used to do something similar with Jermaine Anderson, once famously comparing him favouabaly to Dele Alli) which is a worry during transfer windows, but if Championship clubs, and maybe even better, are not preparing bids for an Irishman who didn’t suffer in comparison to the precise Fabregas or the powerful running of Willian, it will be a dereliction of duty.
Transfer bids for star players will not be Mccan’s only concern this week and beyond. Getting his side motivated to play in front of 3,000 at Bury on Saturday (January 14) will be a test.