Preview: League form is now the Posh priority - Ferguson

Posh midfielder Jack Payne faces a fitness test ahead of the trip to Stevenage.
Posh midfielder Jack Payne faces a fitness test ahead of the trip to Stevenage.
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Peterborough United manager Darren Ferguson wants his side to be firmly established in the League One play-off places before they even think about their Wembley date at the end of March.

Posh have eight League One games before they tackle Chesterfield in the final of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy on March 30, starting with tomorrow’s (February 22) game at rock-bottom Stevenage.

Ferguson’s side are currently in sixth place in League One - the final play-off slot - two points clear of seventh-placed Walsall. They beat Swindon in a nerve-wracking penalty shoot-out on Monday (February 17) to seal a first visit to Wembley for 14 years.

“It’s been a good week to be involved at this club,” Ferguson admitted. “We’ve secured that Wembley place so now we can concentrate on our league form.

“It’s five weeks to the final which will pass quickly enough, but we want to go into that game knowing that we are safely in a play-off place.

“It’s an important game tomorrow. The first league game after a big cup win is always a test so we need to be ready for a battle which is what it will be at Stevenage.

“I watched them at Orient on Tuesday (February 18) and they are a side with great character. We have to be mindful of their physical threat and match it, but we must also play our football.

“They will try and pen us in so we must look after the ball. The players are confident and to be fair they prefer to play away from home at the moment because of the state of our pitch, but it’s also true that our away form has to improve if we are to maintain our promotion challenge.

“We have two three tough away games in a row now and we also have yet to play at Wolves, Preston and MK Dons so we will have to repeat the performance we gave at Orient a few times yet.

“We haven’t completely given up on automatic promotion, but to achieve that we would have to win 13 or 14 games out of 16 and that would take some doing so the priority for now is to establish ourselves in the play-off places.

“We’re looking forward to tomorrow. Our support at Orient and Swindon in the last two away games has been exceptional and it looks like we will be taking a big following to Stevenage.”

Midfielder Jack Payne is the only Posh injury concern for tomorrow. He had a scan on a troublesome groin problem yesterday (February 20), but the club are confident he will be fit.

Veteran Grant McCann and teenager Jermaine Anderson are on stand-by. Ferguson also has strikers Nicky Ajose and Conor Washington, as well as defenders Jack Baldwin and Ben Nugent available again - all four were ineligible for the Swindon tie.

Ferguson added: “Grant did well when he came on at Swindon. His experience of playing in big games really shone through.

“I’ve got a nice little rest into Jermaine as well. He played in a reserve team game this week and was outstanding as was Jack Baldwin.

“Some of Jack’s passing out of defence was magnificent, but I will need all my squad for the rest of the season.

“We have a free week after Saturday’s game, but then we only get one more free week all season.”

Michael Bostwick returns to Stevenage tomorrow for the first time since his reported £800,000 move to Posh in July 2012.

Danny Swanson needs to tread carefully. He’s on nine cautions, one more and he will pick up a two-game suspension.

A Conor Washington penalty earned Posh Reserves a 1-0 win over Hull this week.

Posh pre-Wembley fixtures

February 22: v Stevenage (away)

March 1 v Crawley (away)

March 4 v Sheffield United (away)

March 8 v Crewe (home)

March 11 v Bristol City (home)

March 15 v MK Dons (away)

March 22 v Rotherham (home)

March 25 v Preston (away).

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