Peterborough United were treated to another Marcus Maddison show as they thumped League One title favourites Sunderland 3-0 at the Weston Homes Stadium yesterday (August 31)...but was it an ill-timed display of brilliance from the two-goal star?
Talking points from Posh 3, Sunderland 0...
1) It promises to be a nervous 36 hours for Peterborough United people until the transfer window shuts at 5pm tomorrow (September 2). That release clause in Maddison’s current Posh contract - one sensibly inserted at the time to keep the 25 year-old at London Road for a little while longer - is the one black cloud over the club right now.
Fortunately the reported £2.5 million figure is out of reach of all English Football League clubs still entitled to sign players (the Championship and Premier League window closed earlier this month), bar one and Maddison turned on the style against them yesterday. If Sunderland did think Maddison was over-priced they might think again after watching him smash home a 35-yard free-kick, slot home the game-clinching third goal and generally run amok from his free role at the tip of the midfield diamond.
Sunderland might also be the only rival League One club Maddison would consider joining. He has a boyhood attachment to the club in the north-east and he’s a showman who would love to perform in front of 25,000+ crowds every other week.
Posh won’t rest easy until that transfer deadline has passed, If Sunderland sell Aiden McGeady for instance, they might suddenly find the nerve to splash out on a player who would enhance any team at this level and probably the level above.
I’ll put it out there right now. Posh won’t get promoted if Maddison leaves. It’s no slight on the rest of the squad to state there is no adequate replacement in the current line-up and there would be no time to sign anyone from outside. Posh boss Darren Ferguson admitted yesterday the club’s plan if Maddison departs would be to promote from within.
2) It was strange timing for Posh chairman Darragh MacAnthony to reveal the club had offered Maddison to Sunderland in the summer 48 hours before the clubs met at London Road. If it was designed to inspire Maddison to perform it worked. It probably wouldn’t have worked with Lee Tomlin.
Maddison was kept away from the non-club media yesterday so we weren’t able to ask what he would do if Sunderland did come calling.
3) Yesterday’s match was billed as a ‘tough test of Posh’s own promotion credentials’ and for an hour it was. Posh were slightly flattered to lead 2-0 as there was little between the sides in the first-half and Posh scored the second goal against the run of play.
But I didn’t tip Sunderland to go up last season because I felt it was an error to appoint a manager with no experience of League One and a couple of the signings he made - Charlie Wyke and former Posh skipper Jack Baldwin - wouldn’t have filled me with confidence if I was a Stadium of Light regular.
I’m not convinced Ross has cracked this division yet either. They had a lot of the ball at times yesterday, but created one chance in the first-half when Christy Pym beat away Lynden Gooch’s shot from an acute angle and one in the second-half which was thwarted by an excellent piece of defending from Mark Beevers.
Ross deployed a 4-4-2 system which placed a lot on the shoulders of two central midfielders who were blowing hard after an hour. His substitutions affected the game in the same sort of negative way Grant McCann’s used to affect Posh.
And Sunderland’s discipline when the game was lost was shocking. It will be nigh on impossible to keep Sunderland out of the top six, but on what I saw yesterday the 7/2 on offer for them to win the division represents poor value.
4) Sunderland right-back Luke O’Nien shouldn’t have got involved in a tangle with Ivan Toney, but TV evidence suggests he was unlucky to be shown a red card. Toney did a fellow professional no favours with his reaction which was disappointing to see.
Wyke can have no complaints about his red card though. His was a dense challenge having already been cautioned earlier in the second-half.
5) The Posh win shouldn’t be under-estimated though. They were 3-0 up before the red card mist descended on a Sunderland side who had lost just five of their previous 51 League One matches.
Sunderland had never lost by a three-goal margin under Ross before yesterday. It’s a result to savour for Posh and unfortunately they can savour it for a fortnight as the scheduled League One trip to Shrewsbury next Saturday (September 7) has been postponed because of three international call-ups for the Shrews.
6) Ferguson has always had a stubborn streak. He even kept with a midfield diamond that didn’t suit his players for too long last season, but it was encouraging to see him ditch 4-4-2 after just one-and-a-half games this season. The diamond is now the right formation for his current squad as he now has two effective strikers, while Louis Reed and Maddison are perfect for their roles.
7) Defensively Posh wobbled occasionally, but were firm enough to restrict Sunderland’s clearcut chances to a minimum. Beevers’ aforementioned challenge on Gooch at 2-0 was a key moment in the game. If Sunderland had pulled a goal back then with half an hour to go a different game would probably have unfolded.
What is now clear is Posh have two fine left-backs at the club in Dan Butler and Frazer Blake-Tracy. Butler took a chance caused by an injuury to his rival superbly yesterday. As he admitted himself after the game, the switch to a midfield diamond makes it easier for him to bomb on.
8) Josh Knight should be signed permanently in January. For a natural defender, he is pretty decent in midfield and his finish yesterday was Aaron Mclean like in its accuracy.