League 1 report: Darren Ferguson has many qualities. His impression of Victor Meldrew on a bad day being one of his best.
And yet there is something rather re-assuringly professional about a manager’s modest reaction to a thumping 4-0 win, the biggest in a turbulent Posh season.
Where his immediate predecessor would have embarked on a fist-pumping lap of honour after such a resounding victory, Ferguson merely confessed he was delighted with the result (without raising even a half-smile) before reminding everyone Posh have much improvement to find before they can even contemplate a top two finish,
There are no jokes in his post-match press conferences (Gary Johnson used to turn into Barry Fry after a beating by wise-cracking his way out of difficult questions) and, disregarding his interesting claim that Lee Tomlin and George Boyd had the class and quality to open up a can of beans, he spoke much good sense.
Match details: League 1 match at London Road, Peterborough, 21/01/11
Peterborough United 4, Hartlepool 0
GOALS: Posh - Mackail-Smith (62 mins), Rowe (64 mins), Tomlin (68 mins), Wesolowski (90 mins).
REFEREE: Ray Lewis (Shrewsbury) 6
CAUTIONS: Posh - Lee (foul).
Hartlepool - Austin (foul).
Yes, Posh had been outstanding in the final 30 minutes, but that alone isn’t enough to completely gloss over a rather less than happy first hour.
The midfield diamond formation he employed didn’t sparkle for much of the time, but by deploying Charlie Lee as a defensive bodyguard he at least gave consideration to protecting a much-maligned back four.
And just to prove what a good decision that was, Lee, thanks to some spring-heeled heading and well-judged interceptions, claimed the man-of-the-match award which was no mean feat given the mayhem caused by Craig Mackail-Smith and Tomlin in the second half.
In short it already appears that Ferguson will improve this squad’s consistency of performance.
He is tactically aware enough to be flexible with formations and he will assist his defenders without hindering the side’s attacking threat, but whether or not that’s enough to catch the top two remains to be seen.
Ferguson should have slept well on Saturday night though. For an hour Posh were patient in possession at the back, but too often they were forced into the long punt forward to strikers who don’t appreciate that sort of service.
As expected Hartlepool were defensively well-organised and sprung forward in numbers.
Unfortunately, for them at least, while their defensive record on the road has been impeccable, they wouldn’t have scored at the weekend had they travelled with wads of cash down Burghley Road.
Anthony Sweeney missed their best two opportunities, both with headers, with the second one just before the break officially classed as a sitter.
If that had gone in who knows what the Posh response would have been. They didn’t exactly roar into action after the break, but once Mackail-Smith had headed home from Tomlin’s headed centre in the 62nd minute they were a side transformed.
Mackail-Smith couldn’t trap a bag of cement before the break, but once he’d scored he was a man possessed. Tomlin also came alive and he is danger of making Posh fans forget all about Aaron Mclean.
There was a touch of fortune about the second goal which arrived a minute after the first when George Boyd’s deflected shot came back off the crossbar enabling Tommy Rowe to tap home, but Mackail-Smith’s cross and Tomlin’s header for 3-0 minutes later was a goal of considerable class.
Rowe’s glaring miss after Mackail-Smith’s unselfish pass proved irrelevant, more so when Chris Whelpdale helped Tomlin’s free-kick into James Wesolowki’s path for 4-0 in injury time.
It was astonishing stuff, but then Ferguson’s first career at Posh contained many brilliant passages of attacking play. Pragmatist that he is though, he was just as happy with the clean sheet, the first for Posh in almost four months.
Tom Kennedy was a quietly effective debutant left-back and Whelpdale has defensive qualities, most notably aerial ones, that will keep Mark Little out of the side for a while.
Kelvin Langmead and Ryan Bennett were impressively solid, even if one of them is merely keeping tweet-machine Gaby Zakuani’s place at the heart of the defence warm.
Posh player profiles:
JOE LEWIS 6
A quiet day thanks to poor finishing and some stout defending
CHRIS WHELPDALE 6
Didn’t always use the space in front of him, but assisted on final goal. Defensively fine
TOM KENNEDY 6
A quietly effective debut
KELVIN LANGMEAD 7
Dominant when the ball was played into the Posh area
RYAN BENNETT 7
Looks set for a long run in the side, very composed and good in the air
CHARLIE LEE 9
Outstanding, broke up many attacks, offered back four some long-awaited protection
JAMES WESOLOWSKI 7
Looked a fish out of water in diamond first half, but power- ful after break and took goal well
TOMMY ROWE 6
Scored one, should have had another, but showed plenty of energy
GEORGE BOYD 6
Busy display without reaching anywhere near his full potential
LEE TOMLIN 8
Gary Johnson’s legacy to the club improves with every match. Hand in all four goals
CRAIG MACKAIL-SMITH 8
Brilliant in second half after ordinary first 45 minutes. So much more to his game than just goals
Steve Collis: (not used)
Mark Little: (not used)
Nathaniel Mendez-Laing: (not used)
Arron Davies: (not used)
Jonathan Obika: (not used)
Adam Clayton: (not used)
Grant Basey: (not used)