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Paolo's posh review: Comfortable 3-0 win against rivals MK Dons

Peterborough United had a comfortable 3-0 win against local rivals MK Dons at The Weston Homes Stadium.
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Paolo's posh review: Comfortable 3-0 win against rivals MK Dons(Photo: localpix.co.uk/)

Jonson Clarke-Harris broke the deadlock within seven minutes, poking home Joe Ward’s cross at the near post. Sammie Szmodics doubled Posh's lead on the 30-minute mark after running onto Siriki Dembele’s through ball before going around the keeper to slot home.

MK Dons came close on the stroke of half-time after Regan Poole’s long-range effort struck the crossbar. The visitors controlled possession in the second half, but Szmodics sealed the three points after tucking home from close-range after some excellent work by Dembele on the left.

The victory sent Darren Ferguson’s men back into the play-off places into 5th, ahead of facing fellow promotion-chasing rivals Charlton Athletic on Tuesday.

Here are our talking points from the 3-0 victory:

Joe Ward’s influential return

After returning to the starting eleven on Tuesday against Portsmouth, Ferguson opted to start with Joe Ward, once again, making his second appearance since mid-November. The right-back was back to his best, picking out Clarke-Harris with a pin-point cross for the striker to poke home, giving Posh an early lead. Ward has now taken his tally of assists to seven – joint first in Posh colours and second-highest in League One. If Posh want to mount a serious charge for promotion, then Ward needs to be starting week in, week out as Kanu showed a lack of intelligence in the final third in recent weeks.

Confidence building goal

Since arriving back at Posh in August, Szmodics has struggled to replicate his form from last season, failing to find the back of the net - scoring once in League One so far. The midfielder got a much-needed goal against MK Dons, showing composure and calmness to go around the keeper to leave himself an empty net. Szmodics added a second in the second half after he tapped home from six yards out, thanks to some excellent movement from Dembele. His performances across the season have been missing the obvious element - goals - but he hasn’t been short of showing energy and effort on the pitch. Hopefully, after finding the net against MK Dons twice, Szmdoics can re-find his confidence in front of goal ahead of a hectic schedule of 16 games in 56 days and push Posh back to the top of League One.

Dembele back to his best

Dembele has been the headline man in January, for the wrong reasons, after handing in a transfer request last week. Dembele’s levels dropped throughout November/December, similar to Posh results, and failed to score in the nine previous League One fixtures. However, the 25-year-old was back to his best on Saturday, gliding past defenders and causing havoc among the back-line, before setting up Szmodics twice - equalling Joe Ward as Posh's top assist-man with seven. His future might be unknown while the January Transfer Window is open, but all the supporters can ask for is 100% on the pitch, which Dembele showed against MK Dons.

A first clean sheet in five games

Although Posh have found their goalscoring touch over the past week - landing eight goals in two games, ultimately, it was more important to see Christy Pym’s goal not breached after failing to keep a clean sheet in the previous five games - last one against Plymouth in November. Posh's back-line was rarely tested throughout the 90 minutes, with an effort from MK Dons’ Poole coming the closest in the first half. Niall Mason replaced the suspended Nathan Thompson, fitting comfortably next to Frankie Kent and Mark Beevers, despite the former suffering a head injury in the first half. While Posh are now back to scoring goals, it was essential to keep a clean sheet in the final moments, after weeks of poor defensive performances.

A Perfect Start to a Hectic Schedule

Ferguson couldn’t ask for a better result against MK Dons - three points, three goals scored and a clean sheet. Yesterday’s victory sent Posh into 5th, six points behind leaders Lincoln City, but more importantly, it will build some much-needed confidence into Posh players ahead of a busy schedule. The fixture against MK Dons commenced 16 games in 56 days, including games against fellow promotion hopefuls Ipswich Town (twice) and Charlton Athletic. If Posh want to be real contenders for promotion in May, then Ferguson’s men need to be in, or around, the play-off places by the end of February.