How Do Peterborough United Bounce Back From Yet Another Play-Off Heartbreak? – Opinion

At the final whistle on Wednesday night, after Oxford United had upset the anticipated Peterborough United party by winning on aggregate 2-1, it felt as if the football hadn’t been played to the pre-planned script.

This was meant to be the game where Darren Ferguson’s men swept the U’s aside on home turf and convincingly returned to Wembley for a chance at Championship football, the redemption story the blue side of Cambridgeshire craved after the agony of Sheffield Wednesday last year.

Yet, it wasn’t to be with Des Buckingham’s valiant away side shutting out a whole barrage of Posh attacks effectively on the night to make Fergie’s side nearly-men once more in the lottery of the play-offs.

 

This is now the Scotsman’s third exit from this knockout competition as Peterborough manager, with that all too familiar feeling no doubt still stinging no matter how many times it’s been felt.

The synonymous Posh boss will have to pick up his troops from the floor and go again next season, in a division that won’t be easy by any stretch of the imagination even with Portsmouth and Derby County moving up.

Stockport County, Wrexham AFC and Mansfield Town won’t be pushovers leaping up to the third-tier, whilst the relegated second-tier outfits in the form of Birmingham City, Rotherham United and Huddersfield Town will all aim to be near the top of the League One table at the expense of Fergie’s men.

Still, Posh have bounced back from play-off heartbreak before and will strive to do so again. Here is how this surprise defeat to Oxford over two legs can galvanise Fergie’s group to push on again next season…

Using Their New Funds Wisely

Described as a “wasted” opportunity by Ferguson in his post-match thoughts by not even getting a trip to Wembley over the line, with the group at his disposal brimming with top talents, it looks likely this summer that his exciting squad will be somewhat dismantled and picked off by higher suitors.

Ephron Mason-Clark is already a confirmed casualty for next campaign, having signed for Coventry City in January before being loaned back. Losing more stars such as Harrison Burrows and Ronnie Edwards doesn’t have to be the end of the world no matter how key they’ve been this season just gone.

Posh have a reputation for being able to uncover a raw gem in the wake of losing some of their top talents, able to shrug off losing the likes of Sammie Szmodics, Ivan Toney and more in the past with smart and shrewd new purchases having the baton passed on them.

Getting £4.25m reportedly for Mason-Clark, who Posh managed to get in for dirt cheap in comparison when signing the electric winger from non-league Barnet in 2022, showcases how Posh can recruit effectively and they will just look to continue that this off-season.

If the club can survive the heartbreak of Hillsborough away, which resulted in the likes of Jack Taylor, Frankie Kent and more leaving for pastures new, they will be able to recover from yet another potential reset.

Linked with Altrincham hotshot Chris Conn-Clarke already, which reinforces Posh’s notorious eye for picking up a diamond player plying their trade in the depths of non-league, more exciting incomings who will shine on their arrival are presumably lined up too.

Hungrier To Go Again Next Season

Fans of the Cambridgeshire side will just hope that yet another scathing experience in the play-offs means Posh are hungrier to go again next season and right all their wrongs, with the young talents that will potentially stay put in the form of Ricky-Jade Jones, Malik Mothersille and more using this as a formative experience.

With two heartbreaks on the bounce as well, the group will be so eager to finally shrug off their label as bottle-jobs with the youngsters growing thicker skin off the back of not having things all their own way.

 

Routinely having the youngest squad in the division – with Fergie even picking a side at one point with an average age of 22.5 – League One’s nearly-men will have to hope these raw gems can blossom even more next season on the way to promotion back up to the Championship being finally clinched.

It was proven, from Derby’s point of view, that you can win promotion up to the higher division by playing a number of experienced professionals who have been there and done that on the contrary – Warne’s Rams even averaging 30.3 on one match-day this campaign.

But, the failed play-off side will stick by their young and hungry philosophy regardless with Fergie stating this right after the demoralising exit at the hands of Oxford – “We now have to get our recruitment correct again, but the philosophy will stay the same in regards to the age of the players.”

Never Write Off Fergie

It goes without saying that the son of Sir Alex Ferguson has the serial mentality of winning in his blood, with five promotions on his CV as an esteemed manager on top of two EFL Trophy successes.

Four of those promotions have come from the dug-out at London Road, with a remarkable fifth on the cards before Buckingham’s U’s rained on the parade.

Still, the 52-year-old should never be written off with the Scotsman often coming into this own from the sidelines when working under the strains of adversity.

 

Picking up the pieces after Grant McCann had left Posh slumping into potential mid-table obscurity during the 2022-23 season – with the current Doncaster Rovers boss leaving his former employers languishing in eighth position – Fergie would lift his beloved team up to that coveted sixth spot before the much-talked-about Wednesday nightmare occurred.

That makes this campaign’s achievement arguably even more impressive, the backdrop of that humiliating collapse not deterring Fergie and Co from getting straight back there this season.

Often a marmite figure to other fans up and down the EFL, Posh supporters will have full faith that their adored boss can produce the goods again even if there is a summer of much change on the horizon.

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