Posh recorded another emphatic victory as their phenomenal run under Darren Ferguson with a 4-1 victory against Sheffield Wednesday.
Darren Ferguson named his fourth unchanged line-up in succession as Posh went in search of their fifth consecutive victory. Despite speculation about his future Craig Mackail-Smith remained in the Peterborough United starting XI. Meanwhile Gary Megson elected to set his struggling Sheffield Wednesday side up in a 4-5-1 formation. Gary Madine played as the lone striker whilst the mercurial Jermaine Johnson and Gary Teale started on either wing.
If ever it was crucial that Posh started well it was today. With an already frustrated Hillsborough crowd – Wednesday have not won at home since December – it was imperative that the visitors took advantage of this. However, it was arguably the hosts who started the better. They were enjoying the majority of possession and despite not creating many clear-cut chances, something they have struggled to do for much of the season, Gary Madine was looking a threat in the lone striking role.
After a minor delay when Mark Beevers picked up an injury after clashing heads with Charlie Lee, leading to his substitution, Posh began to settle. A Charlie Lee header went just wide of the post but in terms of meaningful chances to league’s top scorers had struggled to create anything of note. Indeed, it was Wednesday who went the closest to taking the lead in the early stages when Gary Teale’s cross took an awkward deflection and Joe Lewis had to push the ball over from a tricky position.
If CRAIG MACKAIL-SMITH had been distracted by rumour before the game it had not shown as yet. Chasing, harrying and pressuring defenders as he always does the Sheffield Wednesday defence were already struggling to deal with him. A large pitch meant there was a lot of ground for the striker to cover but he was doing it brilliantly and providing an excellent outlet ball for Posh to relieve any pressure they were under. And when Lee Tomlin collected the ball in a dangerous position he was off again, this time with his sights on goal. Tomlin clipped over a delicate pass and Mackail-Smith was beyond the last defender. With only Nicky Weaver to beat he curled the ball around the advancing ‘keeper and put his side into the lead. It was a chance he may have missed in previous seasons but his increased accuracy in-front of goal that has been evident this campaign was further confirmed with this strike – his 22nd league goal of the season.
Whilst Peterborough’s first goal had emphasised Mackail-Smith’s increased potency in-front of goal this season the visitors second highlighted another side to his game that has improved dramatically; his link-up play. This time Posh capitalised on an incisive breakaway after Sheffield Wednesday had committed too many men forward. When Mackail-Smith picked the ball up on the half-way it looked a relatively innocuous situation but the striker drew two defenders towards him, leaving an un-marked LEE TOMLIN to the left of him. And when Mackail-Smith played the ball into him the former Rushden man had plenty of time to pick his spot. Few would have chosen to route he did though. With Weaver off his line Tomlin beautifully curled the ball into the top corner of the net leaving the shot-stopper with no chance, even if he had remained on his line. Tomlin’s creativity, touch and vision has meant he has made a massive impact at his new club since signing in the summer and he looks to be another non-league gem that Posh have uncovered.
The away side were in complete control now. Passing the ball around with purpose and accuracy, something that has become the norm under Ferguson, they were beginning to put even more pressure on the home side who just couldn’t handle Posh’s attacking exuberance. In-fact there was a certain inevitability about Posh’s 3rd goal. Mackail-Smith, again, was heavily involved when he escaped down the right flank, out-pacing his marker, and pulling the ball back to GEORGE BOYD who lashed home a powerful left-footed effort from the edge of the area. This goal was the cue for many Wednesday fans to leave, they had seen enough and it was hard to blame them. A club of their stature should not be being torn apart by Peterborough United on their own patch.
DOUBLE ACT: Craig Mackail-Smith and George Boyd are two key players in a Posh squad firing on all cylinders.
At half-time Posh were in dreamland. Their form had been good of late but this was beyond many fan’s expectations. For whatever reason doubts still lingered over the ability of Posh to rise to the big occasion – dismantled at Leeds, Leicester, Newcastle and Southampton before this side had been guilty of buckling under pressure. Not this time. They were at home. Comfortable and wanting more, it seemed like nothing could stop them.
However, Sheffield Wednesday awoke at the start of the second half. For a brief period the giant began to stir. Posh were having to withstand heavy pressure and substitute PAUL HEFFERNEN met a Gary Madine cross to tap home from close-range it was enough to give the Hillsborough crowd some belief. It had been the first time that Posh had conceded in over 400 minutes of football and it was now a question of how well the visitors would react to the set-back.
Wednesday were now being urged to go forward by their fans and the team were obliging. Constant pressure meant Peterborough were having to defend desperately to maintain their two goal advantage. Twice Gabriel Zakuani threw himself in-front of ‘The Owls’ efforts and it was the sort of attitude that Posh would need to ride out the storm. Yet, it seemed that even this was not enough. Heffernan again had the ball in the back of net but it was disallowed for offside. This set-back seemed the turning point in the second half. Perhaps, it dawned on Wednesday it was not to be their day.
Posh settled after the early onslaught and, like the hosts moments earlier, had a goal disallowed after Ryan Bennett had volleyed into the back of the net from a Grant McCann free-kick. Wednesday retaliated, finding space down the left hand flank after Mark Little had been dragged inside. A superb cross from Daniel Jones somehow evaded anyone in the Peterborough United box and went and the chance went begging.
It wasn’t long before Posh made them pay for missing either. Mackail-Smith played the ball to GEORGE BOYD who found space on the edge of the area before hitting a rather tame shot, straight at Nicky Weaver. It seemed a bread and butter save for a former Premier League goalkeeper but he inexplicably allowed the ball to squirm through his reach and into the back of the net. Boyd was due an away goal so for him to net a brace was a bonus. His confidence is high at the minute and he is transforming back to the Boyd of old with 5 goals in his last 4 matches.
Posh put a further two opportunities wide before the final whistle but not one member of the vociferous away support would have been grumbling at the scoreline. For Posh to go to Hillsborough and win 4-1 is a result that will be remembered for a long-time, even with Wednesday off form, and at the minute this team is sweeping aside anybody that is put in-front of them.
We are brilliant. It’s as simple as that. At the moment who is going to stop us? I mean that, who? We look unbeatable. Comfortable in possession, assured at the back and wonderful going forward everyone we play seems to be at least a league below us in terms of quality. It appears too easy for us – of course making it look easy is the hard part.
Credit for this transformation must go to Ferguson. I seem to be praising him every week but he has completely changed this squad’s attitude and approach. In two months we have gone from being very mediocre to being the in-form team in the division. To see the difference in the squad since his arrival is quite remarkable and we seem to be improving every week.
MK Dons on Monday will be huge. It may be on ‘Sky Sports’ but it would be great to see a packed out away section. If we win automatic promotion really is within our grasp. They may be in good form themselves but can they stop us if we play to our potential? I’m not so sure they can. Regardless of what happens, at the minute I am so proud to be Posh.
Up The Posh.