Peterborough United beat Oxford United 4-0 on Saturday (February 8) to keep pace on the automatic promotion places in Sky Bet League One.
Ivan Toney’s double, sandwiched between goals from Sikiri Dembele and Josh Knight earned Posh all three points and made it five wins in a row for Darren Ferguson’s team.
It was an impressive team performance, but how did we rate the players individually?
Take a look at our player ratings below:
Pym has arguably been Posh’s standout performer in the last seven matches since the Gillingham game. His footwork, which had been questionable throughout the first half of the season, was again excellent as he made two fine second-half saves. He was twice quick off his line to claim through balls and while we didn’t see much evidence of his ability under the high ball, this has been a standout feature in recent matches. While his short passing ability has never been in question, his long passing is much more consistent, helped in part by the fact he almost exclusively aims for Ivan Toney when aiming long.
Posh’s Mr. Consistent put in another big shift up and down the right flank. You almost know exactly what you’ll get from Joe Ward before kick-off as he once again brought boundless energy to get up and down the right, carries the ball well and battled gamely. Defensive work was generally decent and no shame to be dribbled past three times as he was up against the quality Marcus Browne who played left wing. The biggest frustration with Ward is the quality of his final ball. One good low pass/cross to Dembele which set up the mad first-half scramble, and another low ball which was almost perfectly judged to Toney aside, his delivery from crosses and corners was poor, and unfortunately, this has been a regular feature of his game of late.
His contract is up in the summer and it must be a close call as to whether Posh will take up the option to renew it. It would be a real shame to see him leave as his commitment, effort, and fitness levels are all qualities to be admired. However, as he is currently playing as a wing-back who does not excel defensively and is inconsistent in his actions in the final third, Fergie may feel he requires an upgrade, especially if Posh were to gain promotion to the Championship (this is on top of the fact Ward has struggled to convince in the diamond while Fergie also does not appear to fancy him in an advanced wing role). Personally, I believe his versatility and professionalism mean that at the least he would be a handy squad player at that level.
He is undoubtedly a sub-par League One left-back but at wing-back, we saw again that he is more than comfortable at this level. We can see from his heat map just how often he forayed into the Oxford half and he provides a good outlet out wide for Posh when in possession. His performance was capped by two vital actions, first, he carried the ball all of 60 yards from inside his own half to the edge of the Oxford area before perfectly timing his pass to Szmodics whose cross was converted by Toney. Then, he assisted the third goal which prevented a potentially edgy last 20 minutes with an accurate low free-kick which was again converted by Toney.
Those actions aside he put in another impressive performance at wing-back. His corners, typically hit to Beevers at the back post, were generally accurate if lacking the pace to make them overly dangerous. He also weights the clipped through ball down the line incredibly well, and this ball is vital to Posh’s ability to play over the high press and release the pace of the forwards in behind. Defensively he is much better in a back five than a back four, and this is once again reflected in his strong defensive numbers.
It was a real shame he hobbled off midway through the first half. He had been dominant in the air and his duels early on. The speed of Oxford’s press meant he had been forced long regularly with limited success, however one quality 30-yard pass was a reminder of his passing range and ability on the ball.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Beevers is so much better suited to playing in the middle of a back three than he is left center-back in a four. The position hides his weaknesses (1v1 defending, painfully slow, turning speed of a tanker), reduces the demands placed on him in possession and highlights his strengths (he’ll head anything, including a brick as the Bolton fans used to sing).
This was another solid display from the Posh skipper who again won the vast majority of his aerial duels and made one important block. In possession he needs to work on the weight of his pass as a couple of under-hit passes meant teammates received the ball under more pressure than was necessary.
Until his red card, I actually thought he was having a pretty decent game. He looked very composed on the ball, timed his movements into the midfield line well, tackled strongly and was winning all his aerial battles. However, twice he rushed into a tackle without slowing his approach as he neared the ball, was beaten and clumsily gave away a foul. While he also recklessly lunged at Browne as he threatened to break away when he would have been better served forcing him towards the touchline. These offences earned him two bookings, and although the second yellow may have been harsh, those three instances highlighted a clear flaw in his game. Whether it was over-eagerness to win the ball or a lack of tactical understanding, this is an area of his game which needs to be coached out of him.
Rating: 6/10 (would have been closer to an 8 were it not for the red card and three rash fouls)
The most complete midfielder to regularly grace London Road for many a season. Great engine, strong, presses quickly and tackles well, can pass and carries the ball impressively. A bit of a mixed bag from him yesterday. His pass selection and execution was off a little too frequently, however, his work excellent off the ball meant that Posh were competitive in the midfield battle against arguably the best midfield in League One. He had an important hand to play in both Posh goals, with his pressure helping to force the stray pass which lead to the first before demonstrating his strength to hold off a tackle followed by his intelligence/technique to play a clever backheel into Brown to start the move for the second goal. On the ball, he was a 6, but off it he was a 9, so we’ll meet in the middle for his rating.
Combines an always unflustered composure in possession with the understanding of knowing when to play simple, long or clever passes. His pass accuracy was a little down yesterday, however, given the pace of the game and lack of time in the middle of the park this was always likely to be the case. Has been, not unfairly, accused of being a touch lightweight off the ball however Saturday was by far his most impressive defensive display. He battled well, won more tackles than he lost and was positionally sound throughout. That is perhaps the most pleasing aspect of his game to come out of Saturday as he continues to adapt to a deeper role than he typically played at Forest Green.
WHAT A PLAYER. If he doesn’t make the grade in the Championship at Bristol City he definitely will with someone else (hopefully Posh). Let’s start with the obvious features of this outstanding display, he bagged three assists and terrorised the Oxford defence with his pace, dribbling and excellent final ball. But there was so much more to his performance than just that. His link-up play with Dembele and Toney is superb. His back-heeled pass to Toney in the second half created another shooting opportunity while an excellent low cross in the first half would have surely created another goal for Dembele were it not for an excellent last ditched defensive intervention. He would also have likely scored twice had Toney not turned down a clear pass to him on two occasions when he had the goal at his mercy. Then there was his work off the ball. He is a tireless runner who utilises his pace to harass and unsettle opposition defenders. He’s more than willing to track back and form a midfield three off the ball, while his response when conceding possession and determination to win it back is as refreshing as it is impressive. MAGNIFICENT!
Rating: 10/10 MOTM
The impressive reinvention of Dembele as a forward rather than winger continues at a breakneck pace. He is a constant nuisance for defenders on and off the ball and is quickly becoming a vital cog in Posh’s build-up play. As comfortable dropping deep to link play as he is running in behind his understanding and link up with those around him is far more frequent and effective than his predecessor in the number 9 role. Often creates something out of nothing with his strength and skill when dribbling, his final third decision making has come on leaps and bounds. Perhaps guilty in not being clinical enough when he had a golden opportunity to add a second goal, he showed great composure when 1v1 for his first goal which was the highlight of yet another excellent display both on and off the ball.
It says a lot about the standards that Toney has hit in recent matches that during a first half in which Toney linked play well, provided the focal point for Posh’s attack and harried Oxford defenders he was accused of ‘not being at his best’ by many fans. This is not to say he did not play well in the first half, but more so reflects the astronomically high standards Toney is held to given his form and ability this season. It was, therefore, no surprise when Toney’s performance in the second half hit the heights surely no other League One striker can reach. His two goals will grab the headlines but his performance was about so much more than that.
Three moments, goals aside, perfectly illustrate what everything he brings to this side. The was the instant when he beat three Oxford players to win a bouncing ball, before releasing Ward with a through ball in the build-up to the goalmouth scramble where Posh were denied by three clearances off the line. Then there was another moment in the first half when his pressing forced Mousinho into an error on the halfway line before Toney demonstrated his impressive strength to hold off the defender before releasing Szmodics with another well-weighted through ball. Then there was arguably his finest moment of the match in stoppage time. Toney battled to in the ball back on the edge of the Posh box before sending a perfect, sumptuous 60 yard through ball for Szmodics who then squared for Knight to score.
His goals also came after he had thrown his gloves off in frustration after failing to win yet another free-kick from a hapless referee. Coincidence? I think not…
Rating: 9.5/10 (two poor decisions which twice denied Szmodics a goal means he falls just short of a perfect 10)
Niall Mason –
Was thoroughly impressive during a spell at right centre back when Posh first dabbled with the 3-4-1-2 towards the end of last year and again put in a decent shift on the opposite side on Saturday. Mason was perhaps a tad unfortunate to lose his spot in the starting lineup to Thompson, presumably as Fergie fancied Thompson’s extra physicality at the back, but will get a further chance to stake his claim on Tuesday. He is much better on the side of a back three than he is at fullback, as he is afforded more opportunities to demonstrate his impressive passing range and is not expected to bomb on into the final third or be the sides main source of width, neither of which he excels at. He’s also surprisingly efficient in the air, although Oxford did not really have the players to probably test him in this regard on Saturday. Although it is a plus to have him driving/stepping into midfield he was perhaps occasionally too keen to get forward early on, especially as at time Thompson had already stepped forward himself, however, he reigned this tendency in fairly quickly to put in a steady display on his less natural side of defence.
Josh Knight –
Got forward well from midfield in his cameo which culminated in his late goal while his fresh legs and energy helped compensate for Posh going down to ten men. Doesn’t pass the ball or have Brown’s silky-smooth style in possession but more than compensates for that with his strength, energy and work ethic. I wonder if he’ll get his first start post-injury Tuesday night, if I were in charge I’d give him a run out at right centre back in Thompson and Kent’s absence.
Rhys Bennett –
Has looked far less error prone this season than last and also looks improved in possession, although he is not close to reaching the levels of comfort of Mason, Kent or Thompson on the ball. Oxford definitely enjoyed more chances following his introduction, registering 0.8xG compared to 0.4 after. However, how much of this was down to Bennett’s performance, and how much was due to Posh being down to 10 men, having a make shift defence and Oxford pushing near suicidal numbers of players in attack is up for debate.