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Paolo's Posh lookback: Highlights and low points of the 2020/21 season

Paolo takes a look back at Peterborough United’s 2020/21 campaign, which saw the club secure automatic promotion to the Championship, taking them back for the first time since 2013.
posh-promotion
Peterborough United celebrated promotion into the Championship after a 3-3 draw with Lincoln City

Where did they finish in 2020/21?

Unless they've been living under a rock, it's safe to say that every Posh supporter knows how this season panned out – it's one that many will never forget.

After cruelly missing out on the play-offs last season due to the points-per-game model – which saw Wycombe Wanderers leapfrog Posh into the play-offs – many wondered whether Ferguson’s men could recover.

They certainly did, securing promotion to the Championship and marking their return for the first time in eight years – although the game that sealed Posh’s return probably aged supporters by ten years.

The season was filled with ups and downs, from that embarrassing defeat to Chorley in the FA Cup to one of the best performances away at Plymouth Argyle. We saw the ugly and good from this group of players, but now it's all said and done, many supporters wouldn’t want anything different.

The only thing missing was the London Road terrace in full voice, especially when Jonson Clarke-Harris slotted that penalty away. But we can take pleasure in knowing that the next time we return to the Weston Homes Stadium, it will be against Championship opposition.

Transfer signings review

Before a ball was even kicked for the 2020/21 season, Posh were already grabbing the headlines. Unsurprisingly, fan favourite and 2019/20 League One top scorer Ivan Toney joined Brentford FC from Posh, paving the way for the arrival of Clarke-Harris.

The expectation was high for the 26-year-old, returning to Posh for a second spell and having to replace the 24 goals of Toney, but that didn’t faze him; in fact, he went one better by breaking the 30-goal mark in League One, scoring six more than any other player.

Ferguson also welcomed the permanent return of Sammie Szmodics from Bristol City after impressing in a loan spell at the Weston Homes Stadium in the second part of the 2019/20 season. The midfielder struggled in the opening half of the campaign, scoring just once in 18 games, but came alive at the turn of the year as he notched 14 goals in 28 games.

Ryan Broom also arrived at the club in the summer, but the signing of Szmodics pushed him down the pecking order and he was eventually loaned out to Burton Albion in January. Daniel Gyollai and Ethan Hamilton were both free signings and failed to feature consistently, but the latter impressed in the final few games of the season.

Joe Bursik will always be remembered by Posh supporters, coming to the club for the final seven games as an emergency loan signing after Christy Pym’s injury, producing some fine saves in crucial games.

Best performance

It’s hard to pin down one best performance because there were some thrilling displays, including away to Plymouth Argyle or the narrow one-nil victory over Charlton Athletic.

However, the game chosen is the one that sealed promotion back to the Championship, more for the manner of the performance because it wasn't a win.

Posh were three-nil down with 35 minutes to go, and it seemed to all watching that celebrations were going to be put on hold for another week. But that was their foolishness; Ferguson’s men produced one of the finest comebacks of the season. Siriki Dembele grabbed the first goal back before Clarke-Harris’ deflected free-kick meant Posh only needed one goal to secure the second spot in the table. Time was running out – could they possibly do it?

The discussions about the controversy of the penalty continue, but it won't matter which side you're on: the referee decided that Szmodics was fouled inside the area and the spot-kick was given Posh's way. And who else but Jonson Clarke-Harris could step up to take the strike that would seal promotion?

That game, and that goal, will live long in the memory of supporters.

Disappointing moment

Unfortunately, I do have to remind supporters of that disappointing and dreadful display in the second round of the FA Cup.

Ferguson’s men were drawn against National League side Chorley AFC and, at the time, Posh were the highest-seeded side in the competition. But that wasn’t evident when the game took place at the end of November.

In front of BT Sport cameras, Posh were summoned to a 2-1 defeat against the Chorley Magpies, a side three divisions below them, despite taking the lead through Jack Taylor within two minutes.

Maybe the less said about that, the better.

Key Player – Jonson Clarke-Harris

It had to be Posh and League One’s top scorer, Clarke-Harris.

The forward joined the club with immense pressure on his shoulders to replicate Toney’s output, yet he didn't buckle, instead outscoring Toney's 24-goal tally from the previous season by seven goals – though he did play 13 more games.

It wasn’t just the goals that impressed supporters throughout the season though, but his hold-up play; using his physical stature allowed Dembele and Szmodics to run off him and split defences apart.

Breakthrough talent – Harrison Burrows

Burrows did feature on a few occasions last season, but 2020/21 was definitely his breakthrough season.

The 19-year-old played in 21 League One games, starting eight of those, and also played in all EFL Trophy games. Despite not featuring for many minutes, the academy graduate made an impression as he racked up four assists in the League, three of those from starts, and seven in all competitions – third-highest at the club.

He also picked up the first goal of his senior career in the 2-1 defeat at Burton Albion in March, showing promising signs of an excellent career for the teenager and hopefully for Posh.

Looking forward to the 2021/22 season

The club's main ambition for the past eight years was to secure a return to the Championship: that's finally complete.

Now, it’s time to relax and enjoy the summer – as next season could just be as dramatic and, on some occasions, more heart-pumping than we have experienced this season.

The best thing to look forward to, however, is the possibility of a full crowd back at the Weston Homes Stadium to welcome the arrival of Championship football. It's great for Posh to be back in the second tier – but all us fans want to be there with them.