There’s a 12-point gap between the teams after 17 League One matches which feels about right judged on the evidence of Saturday’s game at the Weston Homes Stadium. Certainly those Cambridge fans who crowed about being above Posh after a handful of games are quiet now and it’s a gap that is only likely to grow.
Posh were better all round. The quality of their football was superior and their defending was much more airtight. Both sides were probably satisfied with the outcome. Posh because they won for a third straight League One game and Cambridge because they know they could easily have lost by 3-0 or 4-0 given the chances the home side created, rather than the 1-0 final margin, and that courtesy of a daft own goal. The visitors didn’t even win a single corner.
Ephron Mason-Clark muffed a hat-trick of one-on-ones for a start, but on derby day in particular it really is only the result that matters.
TALKING POINTS FROM DERBY DAY…
1) I enjoyed the way manager Grant McCann approached a game against local rivals. He was very low-key compared to his opposite number Mark Bonner who had thrown a couple of digs in the direction of London Road in the week and was also seen on the pitch whipping the Cambridge fans up before kick off on Saturday. But McCann had clearly done his energising behind closed doors because, at the end of a tiring three-game week, in the first half at least his players moved onto a different level in terms of passing tempo and front foot football compared to the, at times laboured, wins against Oxford and Accrington. McCann waited until after the game to throw his far more effective jabs delivering a couple of zingers iincluding ‘Cambridge appeared to bring their entire home crowd to the game.’
2) Unusually for Posh the weakest part of their game against Cambridge was their finishing. That won’t be too much of a concern especially as top scorer Jonson Clarke-Harris appeared to hobble through much of the game. If the chances keep arriving the goals will soon flow again. In a way this was a very satisfying win because it needed a strong all-round defensive performance to secure the three points and individually and collectively the back four were very good in and around their own penalty area. It was a first clean sheet in eight League One matches and there will need to be many more if Posh are to challenge for the top two.
3) Frankie Kent’s fifth caution of the season to trigger a one-game suspension looked a harsh one, but, as well as he played yesterday, there is at least excellent cover for that position with Josh Knight and Ronnie Edwards both capable of playing as a right centre-back. Moving Edwards away from the left would accommodate Kell Watts, but whichever way McCann wants to go he should probably pair them together first in next weekend’s home FA Cup tie with Salford City. Kent’s suspension kicks in the following weekend when Posh have a League One match at Exeter. There is an amnesty for yellow card suspensions which arrives after 19 league games so Jack Taylor and Jeando Fuchs, who have both collected four League One cautions, have two more games to get through.
4) Yesterday’s 12,766 crowd was the biggest of all-time to attend a Posh v Cambridge United Football League match at London Road. One hopes the atmosphere was to Mr Bonner’s liking. It certainly assisted the spectacle. If Posh don’t win promotion I hope Cambridge don’t get relegated. Much rather days like this than flat nights like we’ve witnessed recently against Forest Green and Accrington.
5) Posh really have mastered the art of derby domination. That’s five Football League wins in a row over Cambridge at London Road (and seven unbeaten overall) to add to the seven consecutive wins over Cobblers.
6) A special word for left-back Dan Butler today. I’ve felt he’s looked a bit hesitant in recent games, understandably so after such a long lay-off, but he was excellent yesterday, winning virtually all his duels, including some impressive back-post headers when Cambridge were throwing late crosses in towards some big players.