‘Fergie football’ is both an historical joy and a current curse at Peterborough United.
Indeed it’s possible for Posh to be top of League One with seven wins in nine games, to have won all five away games scoring a remarkable 17 goals and to have scored five more goals than anyone else in the division and yet still attract criticism from snobbish, spoilt fans as well as attention-seeking statisticians with too much time on their hands.
I blame triple-Posh promotion winner Darren Ferguson. He and his fun-loving, gifted set of players set a standard and style some supporters believe should be the norm. It rarely will be, but at times yesterday (September 22) Posh came mighty close to reaching those giddy heights under a manager whose personal baggage can hide the fact that he knows what he’s doing at this level.
Of course Steve Evans has benefitted from the largesse of his chairman, but so have others without making it count. Evans also lost players he would liked to have kept in Jack Marriott, Andrew Hughes and Gwion Edwards, although in the case of the latter that might be a blessing as his departure has enabled Siriki Dembele to light up League One.
Dembele was excellent again yesterday and played a full part in two second-half goals that would have had Fergie junior purring. Goals scored by Ivan Toney (with a superb first-time strike from the edge of the penalty area) and Callum Cooke (by showing wonderful composure) after teammates had employed blistering pace, vision and precise passing on the breakaway. Don’t settle for the shoddy highlights on the EFL show, search out the full, flowing end-to-end movements involving Marcus Maddison, Dembele, Matt Godden, Jamie Walker and Mark O’Hara on the Posh YouTube channel to see how Posh turned a competetive 2-2 draw into the 4-2 win that returned them to the top of the table.
Gills boss Steve Lovell had a point when he said the final scoreline didn’t accurately reflect his side’s part in a terrific contest, but he was also right to point out the superior strength in depth of his opposition.
“Steve Evans admitted to me after the game he thought we had them at 2-1 early in the second-half,” Lovell stated, although Evans might just have been as polite then as was later on when praising the home fans for their passion when they’d spent a lot of the game hurling personal abuse in his direction.
Gills had started the second half in splendid fashion by scoring twice from distance to overhaul a Posh lead provided midway through the first-half Jamie Walker. Posh would have been further ahead, but for the heroics of home ‘keeper Tomas Holy and poor misses by Walker and Toney and for the failure of struggling referee Lee Swabey to award a stoppage-time penalty for a barge in the back on Dembele.
Gills had their moments before the break most notably when forcing Posh ‘keeper Aaron Chapman into three quickfire saves that combined athleticism with great anticipation, but they kept the game wide open after taking the lead which proved fatal against a side assembled with many potent weapons. Once substitute Josh Yorwerth settled down after replacing head injury victim Ryan Tafazolli Posh shored up defensively and allowed those forwards to wreak havoc.
Maddison, on his first start of the season, assisted directly on Cooke’s first goal for the club and on Dembele’s equaliser on the hour mark. He also played a lovely pass at the start of the move which led to Toney’s moment of brilliance. Toney deserved to cap a powerful display of all-round centre-forward play with a goal, one of the best he’d ever seen according to his excited manager.
Posh last won five away games on the bounce in the league in 2009. The club record is eight on the spin in 2008. Darren Ferguson was the Posh manager in both of those years.
Posh; Aaron Chapman, Jason Naismith, Colin Daniel, Rhys Bennett, Ryan Tafazolli (sub Josh Yorwerth, 46 mins), Alex Woodyard, Jamie Walker (sub Mark O’Hara, 73 mins), Marcus Maddison, Siriki Dembele, Matt Godden (sub Callum Cooke, 82 mins), Ivan Toney.
Unused substitutes: Mark Tyler, Louis Reed, Jason Cummings, Joe Ward.
Gillingham: Tomas Holy, Barry Fuller, Gaby Zakuani, Max Ehmer, Dean Parrett, Regan Charles-Cook (sub, Tom Eaves, 50 mins), Callum Reilly (sub Josh Rees, 66 mins), Connor Ogilvie, Mark Byrne, Brandon Hanlon (sub Connor Wilkinson, 80 mins), Josh Parker.
Unused substitutes: Tom Hadler, Luke O’Neill, Bradley Garmston, Alex Lacey.
Goals: Posh - Walker (24 mins), Dembele (60 mins), Toney (64 mins), Cooke (88 mins).
Gills - Reilly (50 mins), Byrne (53 mins).
Cautions: Posh - Dembele (delaying the restart), Walker (foul), Evans (manager, dissent), Raynor (assistant manager, dissent).
Gillingham - Byrne (foul), Charles-Cook (foul), Reilly (foul), Fuller (foul), Patterson (assistant manager, dissent).
Referee: Lee Swabey 5.
Attendance: 4,407 (478 Posh).