You would imagine that Peterborough United’s 2-1 victory over Leyton Orient last weekend would have been a huge relief for Posh boss Darren Ferguson.
Pressure had been mounting on the former Preston manager after his team suffered five defeats in a six-match winless run.
The poor run saw United lose ground on the teams at the top, although they remain level on points with Rochdale, who occupy the final play-off spot.
Goals from Aaron McLean and Erhun Oztumer gave Ferguson – who has guided Posh to three promotions, spread over two spells at the club– some much-needed breathing space.
However, the son of Manchester United’s legendary former manager Sir Alex, admits Posh will have a tough time winning a second straight game as he believes his old club Preston already perform like a Championship side.
“Preston are physical, strong, well-organised and if they manage to get in front they make it hard for teams to get back at them,” Ferguson said.
“They are missing Joe Garner but they have Jermaine Beckford and Kevin Davies up front, which is a strong pairing, although having said that, Gaby Zakuani handled Davies very well when we won this fixture last season.
“It’s a tough game for us but we’ve had a good week. The win at Orient has done us the world of good but it won’t count for much if we don’t now go on a good run.”
Having brought former Posh stars Craig Mackail-Smith and Aaron McLean back to the club just before the loan window shut – from Brighton and Bradford respectively –Fergie Jr is expected to pair them together in attack. The duo have been a lethal combination in the past for the club.
They scored a combined total of 183 goals between 2007 and 2011, helping Posh to three promotions.
McLean – who is due to return to Bradford at the end of January although Ferguson would like to keep him until the end of the season – scored his first goal since his return to Posh last weekend.
But Mackail-Smith is still waiting to open his account although he has only featured in two games.
Ferguson is likely to favour a midfield diamond formation, which was so successful against the O’s last weekend.
He would like to field both playmakers Marcus Maddison and Oztumer but the former is not certain to start because of an ankle injury and he missed last week’s win because of illness.
“I believe Marcus and Erhun could play together, but it might be a risk to play Marcus this weekend with so many games coming up,” Ferguson said. “If I stay with the midfield diamond I could play Jermaine Anderson, Grant McCann or Michael Bostwick instead of Joe, so I have options.”
Million-pound striker Tyrone Barnett is back at Posh after a loan spell at Oxford but is unlikely to be involved against Preston. Midfielder Joe Newell is suspended.
Ferguson said: “Tyrone came back to us on Monday and his attitude has been good.
“We’ve been here before with him and it would be foolish to rule him out of the reckoning even if we now have six strikers at the club.”