REPORT: CARDIFF CITY 4, PETERBOROUGH UNITED 0: Posh’s charge back to League One accelerated with another dismal away display
Not that the gap to safety has increased thanks to Reading’s equal incompetence, but because the level of softness, lack of defensive organization and an apparent lack of conviction and ability can only result in a relegation.
Cardiff were very good and 4-0 did not flatter them. They are far superior to the Mick McCarthy saboteurs who visited London Road in August. Three excellent loan signings – Leeds flier Cody Drameh was outstanding – helped them to three straight Championship wins and rush from danger.
But they encountered no resistance here. Posh was not helped when his left-footed centre-back Mark Beevers pulled out after the pre-match warm-up, but that was no excuse for how easily they were opened up each time that Cardiff was venturing forward. Posh looked slow and listless in comparison.
Cardiff led after five minutes and they had hit the post twice and missed an open goal before adding a second seven minutes before the break. Two similar second-half goals completed the rout. It could have been much worse with Posh barely getting fired in anger.
Posh made two changes to his starting roster and neither came as much of a surprise. Callum Morton replaced Jonson Clarke-Harris up front, while Hayden Coulson took over for Joe Ward in a wing-back role.
Coulson was deployed on the left with Bali Mumba swinging to the right. Reece Brown was left on the substitutes’ bench with Jorge Grant and Joel Randall among those who failed to qualify for Matchday 18. Defender Nathan Thompson was ruled out with a muscle injury.
There was pre-game drama when Beevers pulled out of Team Posh and Josh Knight left the substitutes bench.
And that caused Posh an immediate problem. They thought they had escaped when Tommy Doyle fired a shot against the outside of the post 20 yards out in the fourth minute.
But Posh regained possession and lost it immediately with a simple square pass behind Knight who was so slow to turn, Isaak Davies stole it, sprinted to the right and squared for Joe Ralls to go home without any pressure on him.
Posh was rocked by Davies, a constant threat early on. An errant pass from Knight in the 10th minute allowed Davies to run past a wading Ronnie Edwards and cut the ball again. Fortunately this time there were no takers.
A smooth free kick awarded against Bali Mumba led to a Ralls free kick which Jordan Hugill headed into a post. Perry Ng then shot just wide of the edge of the area. All this in the first 15 minutes.
When Posh gained possession, Cardiff channeled all 11 players behind the ball, knowing there was little threat from Posh’s side. No one had the ability to unlock a defence, especially when three great centre-halves sat so deep. There was no wide penetration and no power-up where Morton and Marriott were busy watching the ball fly over their heads towards the keeper.
Hugill missed a keeper from a corner and Posh changed form to 4-4-2. Something had to be done to be fair, but it didn’t change anything and the fact that Cardiff only had two leads at the break was pretty incredible.
Right-back Drameh tortured Posh and every free kick and kick awarded to the hosts threatened danger.
Great centre-back Aden Flint scored twice at Posh in August and he missed a third chance when a corner kick landed at his feet and he sliced wide. It didn’t matter seven minutes before the break, he had the same chance and he made no mistakes with a well-controlled volley.
Mumba’s terrible back pass then caused chaos which was eventually put away by Frankie Kent.
In response, Kent won a header from a corner but Flint was on hand to clear as Morton waited to pounce and Marriott’s deflected shot flew into the arms of hometown keeper Alex Smithies in the 37th minute. It was the only shot on target in a dismal first half.
It was no surprise when the hapless Knight, who had finished the half as a right-back, was substituted at the break in favor of Reece Brown. Mumba changed positions for the third time and Hayden Coulson, who was left midfielder for 15 minutes, moved to left back. Players were dispatched early, presumably with a chip in their ears and a rocket in their back.
The midfield diamond was now back with Brown at base and Poku at the tip.
Posh took advantage of some possession, but there was still no threat. Norburn slammed a free-kick from 20 yards into the wall and then Cardiff broke with deadly effect to wrap up the points, if they weren’t already.
Coulson’s cross was blocked, Drameh passed a non-existent challenge from Edwards and crossed for Hugill to head home.
This prompted Ferguson to make his final two substitutions. Mumba changed position again when Joe Ward and Jonson Clarke-Harris were sent off. The redesign of the Titanic deckchairs came to mind.
A fine block from Kent prevented Hugill from converting another Drameh cross as Posh allowed Cardiff to revel in wide open spaces.
Clarke-Harris fired a free kick into the side netting, but there was nothing in open play.
Cardiff always looked the most likely to score again. Davis launched into a thrilling run and fired wide before a right wing cross from substitute Ruben Colwill was converted by another substitute Uche Ikpeazu five minutes from time.
A dreadful day for manager Darren Ferguson then on his 50th birthday, but a great day for Derby County who certainly can’t fail to overtake Posh in the near future, despite being deducted 21 points.
Posh: Steven Benda, Hayden Coulson (under Jonson Clarke-Harris 60 mins), Josh Knight (under Reece Brown, 46 mins), Ronnie Edwards, Frankie Kent, Bali Mumba, Jeando Fuchs, Oliver Norburn, Kwame Poku, Jack Marriott (under Joe Ward, 60 mins), Callum Morton.
Unused substitutes: Dai Cornell, Sammie Szmodics, Ricky-Jade Jones.
Cardiff: Alex Smithies, Cody Drameh, Perry Ng, Aden Flint, Marc McGuinness, Joel Bagan, Ryan Wintle, Joe Ralls (under Will Vaulks, 71 mins), Tommy Doyle (under Ruben Colwill, 81 mins), Jordan Hugill (under Uche Ikpeazu, 76 min), Isaac Davies.
Unused Subs: Subs: Dillon Phillips, Oliver Denham, Marlon Pack, Mark Harris
Goals: Cardiff – Rolls (5 mins), Flint (39 mins), Hugill (58 mins), Ikpeazu (85 mins).
Warnings: Posh – Mumba (foul).
Cardiff – Doyle (foul), Ng (foul), Wintle (foul).
Attendance: 17,297 (about 150 Posh).