You’ve always got a chance with Superman on your side, although it’s doubtful even Kryptonite would stop Peterborough United striker Ivan Toney right now.
Toney’s second hat-trick in 19 days was the headline-grabbing act as Posh eased concerns about their League One form with a 4-0 awayday thumping of Accrington (December 29), but League One’s Didier Drogba is not just a scorer of a wonderful variety of goals (we’ve seen quality free kicks, one-on-one expertise, deft headers, powerful headers, shots curled in from 20 yards, tap-ins and even a 50-yarder). The 22 year-old has also won Posh hearts and minds because of his willingness to run hard for 90 minutes and defend set-pieces like a centre-half, while yesterday he even ran 80 yards to cover an Accrington breakaway in the second half, a run that ended with a perfectly timed tackle as home winger Jordan Clark prepared to pull the trigger.
How delicious that Toney learnt his trade down the road at Northampton Town. The Cobblers are probably not enjoying seeing one of their own became the latest proof of Posh’s excellence at striker spotting. Toney and fellow summer recruit Matt Godden now have 30 goals between them this season.
Toney’s treble enabled Posh to finish 2018 in a good place after a rocky Christmas. Fifth in the table and an established part of a breakaway group of seven teams. Posh haven’t been out of the top six all season, they have lost just six competitive matches and have yet to lose back-to-back games, facts that had become forgotten in that tidal wave of Boxing Day negativity just like an away record that reads eight wins and just two defeats and, after this demolition, 30 goals, seven more than any other League One team.
Manager Steve Evans must have been doing something right even before his tactical triumph against an Accrington side that had not let more than two goals in at home in the previous 12 months. Evans shoved Siriki Dembele up front alongside Toney thinking his pace would unsettle a ponderous back four and played skipper Alex Woodyard in an advanced midfield role in order to lead a high press. Both decisions worked perfectly as did the switching ailing left-back Colin Daniel with Tyler Denton as the three centre-back formation was abandoned after one game.
Posh also displayed previously unseen midfield fluidity. Their 4-4-2 formation has been pretty rigidly employed since day one, but at the Wham Stadium we witnessed a midfield diamond and a 4-2-3-1 system to great effect. There wasn’t a weak performance throughout the team with only Joe Ward’s bad miss - inevitably Superman was the provider - after 80 seconds causing any headshaking.
Toney was soon heading in a terrific set-piece delivery from Marcus Maddison and he made it 2-0 after latching onto a Louis Reed hoof and taking advantage of a goalkeeping misjudgement four minutes before the break. Centre-back Rhys Bennett nodded home his fourth goal of the campaign after another wicked Maddison free kick clattered into the crossbar to settle any second-half nerves, leaving Toney to show excellent anticipation in the closing stages to pounce on a backheader to complete another stellar personal showing.
Toney and Dembele were also denied first-half goals by marvellous Conor Ripley saves and when Accrington threatened they found Posh goalkeeper Conor O’Malley an impassable object.
Of course an outstanding awayday has usually been followed by a dismal show at the ABAX Stadium in this campaign so nothing should be taken for granted when struggling Scunthorpe come to town on New Year’s Day.
But for now enjoy the fact that Posh are six points and three places better off than 12 months ago. Progress has been made, slowly, but steadily.
Posh: Conor O’Malley, Jason Naismith, Tyler Denton, Rhys Bennett, Ryan Tafazolli, Alex Woodyard, Louis Reed, Joe Ward, Siriki Dembele (sub Matt Godden, 83 mins), Marcus Maddison (sub Mark O’Hara, 87 mins), Ivan Toney (sub Jason Cummings, 90 + 3 mins).
Unused substitutes: Aaron Chapman, Darren Lyon, George Cooper, Matt Stevens.
Accrington: Connor Ripley, Callum Johnson, Mark Hughes, Michael Ihiekwe, Sam Finley, Nick Anderton, Dan Barlaster, Seamus Conneely (sub Offrande Zanzala, 51 mins), Jordan Clark, Sean McConville (sub Erico Sousa, 81 mins), Billy Kee (sub Connor Hall, 76 mins).
Unused substitutes: Jonny Maxted, Ben Richards-Everton, Scott Brown, Ross Sykes.
Goals: Posh - Toney (19 mins, 41 mins & 85 mins), Bennett (67 mins).
Cautions: Posh - Maddison (foul).
Accrington - Hughes (foul).
Referee: Thomas Bramall 7
Attendance: 2,672 (441 Posh)