It’s no secret that Posh haven’t achieved their ambitions to reach the dizzy heights of the automatic promotion places, but was this season just a rebuilding phase for a big promotion push next season? I look at the details of Posh’s season and where it all went wrong.
As the fans returned from last season’s disappointing play-off semi final defeat at the hands of Leyton Orient, Posh looked like a revitalized team with a 1-0 win over Rochdale at Spotland. An impressive win considering star striker Britt Assombalonga had been sold to Nottingham Forest just days before the opening whistle. Posh crashed out of the Capital One Cup in the first round at Portsmouth before facing bitter rivals MK Dons in their first home game of the season. Kyle Vassell grabbed another two goals showing that he could fill the shoes of the departed Assombalonga. Posh would lose to Sheffield United but bounce back to beat Bradford and Colchester leaving them healthily in second place at the end of August.
Darren Ferguson’s men were again out of a cup competition in the first round, this time the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy to last year’s play-off runners up Leyton Orient. Marcus Maddison put in a dazzling debut and Luke James came off the bench to get him off the mark for the season. So not all negatives in a pretty lacklustre display. Posh went through September picking up 10 points from 5 games and looked certain to push on with October’s easy run of games.
A painful toe injury would keep Kyle Vassell on the sidelines for two months and Posh did not look the same without the former Bishop Stortford man. The scintillating from that they had started the season with was soon out of the window, ending the month with away defeats to Crewe and Coventry.
They entered November in the play-off places but were fighting with themselves and an ever growing injury list. After a 2-1 home loss to Scunthorpe, Posh were determined not to bow out of every cup competition in the first round, only a last minute header from Christian Burgess could prevent his team from having to make the time consuming trip up to Carlisle for the replay. Although confidence was gained from this last gasp win, against better opponents Posh could be easily turned over. A 2-1 defeat to Swindon at the opening of the new ‘Motorpoint Stand’ and an embarrassing 3-0 loss to leaders Bristol City signalled a change in style for Ferguson and his players. The arrival of Aaron Mclean and Craig Mackail Smith on loan from Bradford and Brighton respectively brought in a buzz around the place that had not been heard since the end of September. Posh’s promotion winners from 2010/11 did not make an impact on the goal scoring, but they gave a watchful eye over an inexperienced Posh squad. Mclean would clinch his first goal since returning with a diving header against Leyton Orient, plus a free kick from the newly branded ‘Turkish Messi’ would wrap up a first league win in eight for the Posh.
Darren Ferguson had been under the cosh since the dip of form in mid October but his job was under serious threat of getting his P45. The likelihood of this was increased when Posh were 3-0 down on Boxing day after being slaughtered by Chesterfield before the hour mark at the Proact Stadium. Fergie’s men would regain some pride at snatching two quickfire goals back in a five minute period.
Much of Posh’s inconsistent form in November and December could be put down to the lengthy injury list, which meant Ferguson had no choice but to play players out of position. One of the shining stars of the campaign, Joe Newell, had good spells at left back and further forward, although his lack of killer instinct was the same that can be said for many of Posh’s players this term.
Posh look to have turned a corner after gritting their teeth to pull a tight 2-1 win out of the bag at Meadow Lane, but in reality this would just be an anomaly in a run of atrocious form. Fans screamed at the management team to bring in fresh talent but to no avail. Only the experienced David Norris was brought in to steady the ship. Posh had plummeted down the table and were now in serious danger of having a relegation scrap on their hands and the 3-0 loss to MK Dons put the final nail in the coffin as Ferguson was sacked. MacAnthony also shipped five of the coaching staff away from London Road as he started preparations for a new era.
Under 18’s coach Dave Robertson was bought into the fray to act as caretaker for the remainder of the season with Aaron Mclean and Grant McCann standing by his side. The latter had left for home town club Linfield FC weeks before Ferguson’s departure and returned after playing just five games. This sparked the debate of a bust up between him and Posh’s former manager.
Robertson’s first game in the hot seat would be an outstanding display in front of a rejuvenated Boro faithful. The 2-0 win over Bradford proved that Posh still had the credentials to make a late play-off charge. With the renewed vibe around the squad, Posh went into a tricky looking game at Bramall Lane against Sheffield United looking for all three points and did so with a last gasp winner from Conor Washington. Robbo would collect maximum points from his first four games, but his perfect record would topple at the hands of Preston at Deepdale.
Michael Bostwick’s deflected strike would give Posh a fifth win under Robbo at home to Chesterfield, but the heart of a battling Coventry side would shine through as he lost just his second game in charge. By April, the ‘new manager effect’ had worn off and it was down to the managerial skills of the enthusiastic Robertson. Posh failed to score in their first three games in the new month. A draw against relegation-fighting Crewe and a point at Barnsley was enough to end our team’s promotion chances for this season, but by now the team were building for next season promotion push.
Posh ended the campaign the way the had started, free flowing, end-to-end football that could get the fans out of their seats. The fans left the ABAX Stadium delighted with the final home win over Crawley. From 3-2 down, Posh had somehow managed to scrape back all three points from the jaws of defeat. The season would end with a well fought draw at Oldham which epitomized Posh’s season: underwhelming.