Posh battled, competed, went toe to toe with a team largely tipped for a bounce straight back to the premier league this season. It was a harsh reminder of how easily you are punished in the Championship. Posh now have the international break, so after five games now seems an ideal time to reflect on adjusting to life back in the second tier.
Here’s three things we’ve learned so far:
The Championship is unforgiving
On the opening day of the season at Kenilworth Road. Posh were outfought, outmuscled and outplayed by a superior-looking Luton side. It was a worrying start. Luton were fitter, stronger and looked far superior on the day. Posh were brushed aside in a bruising first game back in The Championship.
It's fair to argue that Posh had a difficult pre-season, with injuries and later-than-usual arrivals on the transfer front meaning that it was difficult for Darren Ferguson to gel new arrivals with the existing promotion winning squad. These are issues that all clubs face, and it was clear from the opening day this league will punish you if you don't hit the ground running.
In their second home league game against Cardiff, Posh were magnificent for 80 minutes, with two brilliant goals and a dominant all-round performance. Fans were in dreamland, but off went JCH alongside Marc Beevers - and Posh couldn’t survive Cardiff's aerial bombardment.
In League One, Posh would have seen this game out, but the aerial quality of somebody like Aden Flint shone through and Posh were again punished. As good as Posh were in those 80 minutes, playing well for large parts of the game didn’t get us three points. Another harsh reminder of the unforgiving nature of The Championship.
It was a similar story for the visit of West Brom. Not much was created from both sides but Posh battled and competed well throughout the game. Some sloppy midfield play lost us possession and West Brom broke to score an emphatic last minute winner; they were still sharp and intense, and we switched off as we entered the final minute. Again, in League One, we would have seen this out.
Key Players Aren’t Fit
Jack Taylor, Siriki Dembele, JCH and Jack Marriott have all not been 100% fit throughout these first five games of the campaign; some of these are key figures in Posh's promotion last season and have been missed. Jack Taylor was injured for a key period and his absence threatened to derail the promotion push, with a worrying dip in form to follow. Some argue his absence could have cost Posh the League One title.
JCH’s goal record last season speaks for itself. He’s featured in all of Posh's five games so far after sitting out pre-season whilst nursing a calf injury. He’s competed physically but has faded towards the end of games. I’m confident after the break he’ll be firing and we’ll see the JCH of last season.
Dembele's pre-season has been stop/start after picking up a few knocks. There’s also been transfer speculation hanging over his future which in fairness doesn’t seem to have affected his performances. When he has featured he’s been fantastic.
Although not injured, Jack Marriott hasn’t played a competitive game of football since March 14. He was on loan at struggling Sheffield Wednesday last season, making 13 appearances but not managing a goal. Some game time, love from the fans and most importantly goals should be the key ingredients to get Jack back on track.
On the injury front, the international break comes at the right time for Posh. Ferguson has said this won’t be a break for the players and some hard intense work will be done in the training pitch to get some serious fitness into some of the players.
Last season, due to a small Covid outbreak within the squad, Posh didn’t play for three weeks over the Christmas period. Ferguson then talked about getting lots of work into available players over those three weeks, and they then went on to win nine out of their next 12 games, which firmly put them in the race for promotion. It 's a different league and context this time around; let's hope some hard work over the break can produce similar outcomes for our form when we return.
Home form will be key
In all of three of Posh's home games so far this season they have played well. A superb late comeback against Derby for the first match back for many Posh fans created a feel good factor and London Road was rocking. Also, against Cardiff for 80 minutes Posh were superb.
They were also impressive for 94 minutes against West Brom. Aside from some harsh last minute heartbreak, Posh on the whole have been impressive at home so far. Combine this with some players becoming fitter after the break, Posh have the opportunity to make London Road a real fortress. Not every team who visits London Road will be as good as West Brom or Cardiff. With Posh's brave attacking style and with the fans behind them, Posh should convincingly win some games at home..
The Road Ahead
On the whole, the first five games have been a mixed bag for Posh. We can take encouragement from their home performances but our away form, albeit in only two games, is worrying. We were poor against both Luton and Preston.
Darragh has said it’s now time for the “L plates to come off.” Ferguson has talked up the amount of work that will be put in on the training pitch over the next couple of weeks.
Five games don’t define a season and there'll be plenty of ups and downs to come. I do feel Posh fans have reason to be optimistic after the first five games. Cast your minds back to the 2012/2013 season when Posh lost their opening seven games. We turned a corner after then but ultimately those opening seven games cost us relegation.
Four points from five games isn’t exactly setting the world alight, however, we’ve more than shown we can compete at this level. If Posh can get these fitness issues ironed out, maintain their home performances and show they can compete away from home, I’m confident Posh can defy bookmakers' predictions and give the league a right go.