One imagines Sir Ian Botham, once he recovered from seeing his favourite side hit for a metaphorical six, would have enjoyed this brilliant Peterborough United performance.
Botham, who was in the crowd at Glanford Park yesterday (November 28) was a cavalier, swash-buckling cricketer who set out to entertain as well as win - the perfect description of Graham Westley’s Posh team.
It’s so rare that all aspects of a team game are in top working order so best to revel in it when it leads to an emphatic 4-0 win away from home. Posh were physical and well-organised defensively, cool and creative in midfield and clinical up top, most notably Conor Washington who bagged his first hat-trick since his United Counties Premier Division days with St Ives.
The striker, who has always received the full backing of his chairman, manager and team-mates, must also be winning the club’s sceptical fan-base over after a run of seven goals in seven games, He even notched his early first goal with a header, as likely an occurence as Michael Bostwick side-footing a penalty.
Scunthorpe were poor, but that was a consequence of failing to live with such powerful opposition. The home side invested heavily in the summer in the expectation of taking advantage of a weaker-looking League One. They signed three members of Preston’s promotion-winning squad for a start, but they provided ample evidence to support Posh chairman Darragh MacAnthony’s belief that experience can be over-rated.
The Posh model is youth, pace and high technical ability. They were characteristics so evident yesterday the home fans cheered Washington’s superb second goal, a curler from 25 yards eight minutes from time, before imploring Posh to score a fourth, which Washington duly supplied in the final minute with an easy finish following some lovely work from Posh substitute Martin Samuelsen, a debutant set to give Westley a selection problems such was the obvious class he displayed in a 30-minute debut.
Samuelsen is an 18-year-old Norwegian midfielder who is strong, moves well and clearly has terrific vision as he also played fellow replacement Marcus Maddison through for a shot that disappointingly struck the outside of a post. But who does he replace? Erhun Oztumer was bright and breezy again yesterday, Jon Taylor’s speed and work ethic has been relentlessly postive for several weeks, Jermaine Anderson, missing here because of suspension, has scored five goals in his last five appearances, Harry Beautyman was mightily impressive in his first start since April and would have scored twice in the first-half, once with a stunning left-foot volley from distance, but for the athleticism of Daniels, while Chris Forrester just oozes class and composure at the base of the midfield diamond.
Manager-speak will inform us that ‘it’s a good problem to have’ and it’s the only current issue for Westley apart from preparing his acceptance speech for the November ‘manager-of-the-month’ award and keeping Posh feet firmly on the ground.
Posh have won all five games they played in November. They have scored 17 goals and conceded just four. They have now scored 12 goals in the last eight days. nine of them away from home. They are Barcelona-style statistics and Posh have now moved into League One’s top six for the first time this season, and they could take some shifting.
Posh have won nine of 13 competitive games under this manager, but he’s a man who likes to spread the credit for success far and wide. Among the recipients of his praise in his latest jolly post-match press conference were assistant manager Grant McCann (for encouraging the players to be comfortable on the ball and to have the confidence and courage to play out from the back no matter how many opponents are breathing down their necks), club secretary Liz Elsom (for smooth work with travelling arrangements and hotel bookings), director of football Barry Fry (for sorting out the Samuelsen deal) and press officer Phil Adlam (no idea).
It’s clearly a happy Posh camp. ‘No bad apples’ Westley announced after a game in which the players showed great camaradrie and understanding throughout.
Washington’s headed goal from Michael Smith’s right-wing cross, and from the first Posh attack, was an early fillip and Smith ought to have made it 2-0 on 15 minutes after Daniels had palmed Taylor’s skiddy shot into his path. Smith’s arrival in the penalty area from the right-back position is an indicator of this team’s enterprising approach.
The home side had a strong wind at their backs before the break, but the gusty conditions put more emphasis on good technique and a strong passing game that takes place on the deck. Only once, when Darius Henderson beat Ricardo Santos to a Paddy Madden cross from the right wing, did Scunthorpe threaten a goal, but a firm header sailed past Ben Alwnick’s post. Otherwise the Posh goalkeeper’s afternoon work consisted of clearance kicks and safe handling of a couple of 25 yard shots.
Westley was disappointed that Posh didn’t press forward even more in the first-half. Perhaps he feared improvement from a home side who withdrew former Posh skipper Tommy Rowe at the interval, but the destination of the points was effectively sealed within four minutes of the re-start when Henderson aimed a big boot at a bouncing ball in his own area, but instead caught Oztumer.
Daniels did the only sensible thing a man facing the power of Bostwick from the spot can do and dived out of the way.
Posh controlled the match from then on. They defended doggedly when they had to with Bostwick and Santos both intercepting dangerous crosses when danger threatened and gradually drew the sting, and all the hope, from the home side by controlling possession with ease and no little skill.
Their rewards came late with Washington’s brace earning him a comparison with Jamie Vardy from his manager during his time with the press
Westley has also compared Forrester to Michael Carrick and Anderson to Dele Alli this season. That’s some side he has built, one that should easily be able to make up the six-point gap to top spot.
Posh: Ben Alnwick, Michael Smith, Callum Elder, Ricardo Santos, Michael Bostwick, Chris Forrester, Harry Beautyman (sub Marcus Maddison, 65 mins), Erhun Oztumer (sub Andrew Fox, 76 mins), Jon Taylor, Conor Washington, Lee Angol (sub Martin Samuelsen, 67 mins). Unused substitutes: Dion-Curtis Henry, Souleymane Coulibaly, Jack Baldwin, Miles Addison.
Scunthorpe: Luke Daniels, Scott Laird, Jordan Clarke, Charlie Goode (sub Sean McAllister, 77 mins), Niall Canavan, Neil Bishop, Jack King, Tommy Rowe (sub Gary McSheffrey, 46 mins), Luke Williams, Paddy Madden, Darius Henderson (sub Kevin Van Veen, 78 mins). Unused substitutes: Joe Anyon, Scott Wiseman, Hakeeb Adelakun, Andrew Boyce.
Goals: Posh - Washington (4 mins, 82 mins & 90 mins), Bostwick (pen, 49 mins).
Cautions: Posh - Fox (foul).
Scunthorpe - Bishop (foul), King (foul).
Referee: Jeremy Simpson 7
Attendance: 3,790 (away fans undisclosed).