Peterborough United fans will tell you the ‘Greatest Show on Earth’ was taking place in Rochdale not Rio yesterday (August 6).
Thrills, spills, dreamy goals, daft goals, silky skills and horrible howlers were all on view to celebrate the re-branding of the Spotland Stadium as the ‘Crown Oil Arena’ just in time for the big kick-off in League One.
And there was a sensational finale as debutant Posh midfielder Gwion Edwards, a half-time substitute, stooped to conquer after home ‘keeper Josh Lillis had made a hash of collecting Paul Taylor’s 90th minute cross.
Edwards’ header completed a fine Posh fightback. Grant McCann’s side had twice fallen behind in a topsy-turvey first-half before dragging themselves level with two excellent finishes from man-of-the-match Marcus Maddison and skipper Chris Forrester. So much for pre-season predictions here and elsewhere that Posh would struggle for goals this time around.
McCann never believed that as he was quick to point out during his post-match de-brief yesterday, This was his first official match in charge, but in five games with their former midfield maestro running the team, Posh have won four, drawn one and scored 18 goals.
The new boss won’t ever be one to claim the glory for himself, but he should be praised for the half-time introduction of Edwards for the labouring Jermaine Anderson and for sneaking in a second-half switch in formation from the midfield diamond to a 4-2-3-1 which helped neuter Dale’s attacking threat without diluting Posh’s own attacking opportunities.
McCann also selected boldly in the first place with 17 year-old Leo Da Silva Lopes justifying his manager’s faith with a strong-running, tough-tackling display.
Posh wore their luminous yellow kit (a free pair of sun-glasses really should be dished out with each shirt sold), but it was the home side who made the more dazzling start, aided by a visiting back four that included three debutants.
The failure of the diamond to give left-back Andrew Hughes protection was a real issue in the first 45 minutes as Dale wide man Andy Cannon wreaked havoc. Cannon’s opening salvo of the game was parried by Posh ‘keeper Ben Alnwick on eight minutes, but 60 seconds later the same player had bounced a volley into the corner of the net after Posh had failed to adequately clear a corner.
Posh were all at sea in the opening stages - Anderson, who is fighting back from long-term injury, looked particularly leggy - but once they settled it was obvious pace up top was going to cause the home defence problems, Shaquile Coulthirst proved it when escaping into the home area before finding the side-netting and Madison proved it rather more emphatically by sprinting past Jimmy McNulty to reach Hayden White’s through ball and shooting expertly across Lillis and into the net.
Anderson’s lazy trip on Joe Rafferty enabled Ian Henderson to blast Dale back in front from the penalty spot just past the half hour mark, but Maddison and Forrester combined six minutes later with the latter finishing the move in splendid style from the edge of the penalty area.
Posh were much better defensively after the break with Michael Bostwick - an early substitute for injured centre-back Ryan Tafazolli - in terrific form and Dale were soon resorting to hoofing long balls in the direction of powerful substitute Calvin Andrew.
It was a reasonably effective tactic with Andrew heading one good opportunity over the bar after beating a very jittery Ben Alnwick in the Posh goal to a cross and Donal McDermott poking a shot wide after Andrew’s head down into the area had caused problems.
Posh missed the best opportunity (of the one’s they created themselves at least) of the second-half though with Taylor’s casual finish after good work from Coulthirst and Maddison had set him free rolling well wide of a post.
Taylor’s non-stop running was a positive though as McCann noted before joking ‘he had to run a lot to chase his poor first touch.’
Posh: Ben Alnwick, Hayden White, Andrew Hughes, Jack Baldwin, Ryan Tafazolli (sub Michael Bostwick, 21 mins), Chris Forrester, Jermaine Anderson (sub Gwion Edwards, 46 mins), Leo Da Silva Lopes, Marcus Maddison, Paul Taylor, Shaquile Coulthirst (sub Tom Nichols, 73 mins). Unused substitutes: Mark Tyler, Adil Nabi, Callum Chettle, Jerome Binnom-Williams.
Rochdale: Josh Lillis, Joe Rafferty, Jimmy McNulty, Niall Canavan, Callum Camps (sub Samni Odelusi, 87 mins), Harrison McGahey, Jamie Allen, Nathaniel Mendez-Laing (sub Donal McDermott, 58 mins), Andy Cannon, Joe Bunney (sub Calvin Andrew, 56 mins), Ian Henderson. Unused substitutes: Scott Tanser, Brian Barry-Murphy, Jonathan Diba Musangu, Aaron Morley.
Goals: Posh - Maddison (21 mins), Forrester (38 mins), Edwards (90 mins).
Rochdale - Cannon (9 mins), Henderson (32 mins, pen).
Cautions: Posh - Baldwin (foul).
Referee: David Webb 7
Attendance: 3,243 (718 Posh).