A key managerial decision won the game at the ABAX Stadium last night (September 29), but unfortunately Bury boss David Flitcroft was the man to make it.
New Peterborough United manager Graham Westley accepted the applause of the meagre crowd on his home debut before the game, but Flitcroft took the honours after it, and not just because he sent Tom Pope on from the substitutes’ bench for a corner 10 minutes from time and he promptly stooped low to head home the winning goal with his first touch of the ball.
No, Bury were slick, creative and positive from the first whistle. How they found themselves 2-1 down midway through the second half was a test for a Mensa member, especially as Posh had been playing with 10 men since the 24th minute following a red card for midfielder Erhun Oztumer.
But ‘The Shakers’ were commendably patient even in adversity. They had complete faith in their method and justifiably so. They looked a seriously good outfit with pace, power and skill in all positions and the confidence that comes with a five-game winning streak, an unbeaten away record since January 31 and the status of top scorers in League One.
Posh never looked likely to hold onto the lead two Gaby Zakuani headers form corners either side of the interval had given them, but they are a team still finding their way under a third manager in just 10 League One games, rather than a team with momentum from a successful League Two promotion campaign who have somehow found the finances to fund the arrival of quality League One players like Leon Clarke.
Clarke opened the scoring here four minutes after Oztumer’s dismissal for a high tackle on Bury midfielder Craig Jones. It was a cool, composed finish in direct contrast to Lee Angol’s fluffed effort 10 minutes into the second-half which might well have been the key moment of the match.
Michael Smith set Angol free with time aplenty to choose the best scoring option. Instead he chose the worst with a 20-yard dink that dribbled embarrassingly wide of the target. Posh never came close to scoring again.
Westley mused after the game that a goal then and the final outcome might have been different. He’s probably right and the new boss certainly did all he could to pick up at least a point from a game against superior opposition.
Westley can’t be blamed for Oztumer’s indiscretion, nor for Angol’s wastefulness. He was quick to switch formations to match Bury’s after the visitors dominated the ball against the midfield diamond in the opening quarter.
There was logic to Alex Davey coming on to play in central midfield to try and protect a beleagured back four - it just didn’t work - and any manager who can get Posh scoring from set-pieces must have something about him. Twice Zakuani rushed to the near post to meet corners delivered first by Marcus Maddison and then by half-time substitute Jon Taylor to score unlikely goals.
Westley also had his players performing with spirit even if it looked like several had spent all their energy securing a fine victory at Bradford City four days earlier. Apart from a rousing spell in the 15 minutes before half-time, Posh struggled to generate any pressure on the visiting back four.
Bury pressed high from the first whistle and deployed wide players who stopped the Posh full-backs getting forward, an essential requirement when playing a midfield diamond.
Maddison was the outstanding Posh talent. He has added impressive workrate to his abundance of natural ability and he almost scored in the first-half with a 45-yard strike at goal after spotting Bury ‘keeper Rob Lainton off his line. Sadly Maddison’s influence after the break faded as Posh couldn’t get the ball to him, a shame as his marker Chris Hussey was cautioned in the first-half by erratic referee Stephen Martin.
There should be no complaints about Oztumer’s red card, but Martin missed Hussey intercepting a Maddison cross with his hand in the first-half and his judgement of yellow card offences was hopelessly random.
None of this should take any credit away from Bury. They were passing Posh off the pitch when it was 11-a-side and their probing against tiring opposition was rewarded with an equaliser midway through the second-half when Tom Soares out-jumped Zakuani in the penalty area enabling Nathan Cameron to supply a first-time finish with more expertise than you’d normally expect from a powerfully-built centre-back.
Saores missed a sitter with his head soon afterwards after several precise passes had opened Posh up and Peter Clarke twice came close from corners before Pope did deliver the game-clinching goal from a set-piece, one awarded after Ben Alnwick’s finger-tip save from Danny Pugh’s 25-yard drive.
Posh: Ben Alnwick, Michael Smith, Callum Elder, Ricardo Almeida Santos, Gaby Zakuani, Michael Bostwick, Chris Forrester (sub Alex Davey, 56 mins), Erhun Oztumer, Marcus Maddison, Souleymane Coulibaly (sub Jon Taylor, 46 mins), Lee Angol (sub Conor Washington, 66 mins), Unused substitutes: Dion Henry-Curtis, Jack Collison, Alex Davey, Harry Anderson, Andrew Fox.
Bury: Rob Lainton, Joe Riley, Chris Hussey, Peter Clarke, Nathan Clarke, Jacob Mellis (sub, Hallam Hope, 46 mins), Danny Mayor, Craig Jones (sub Danny Rose, 46 mins, sub Tom Pope, 81 mins), Tom Soares, Danny Pugh, Leon Clarke. Unused substitutes: Jack Ruddy, Chris Sedgwick, Matty Folds, Reece Brown.
Goals: Posh - Zakuani (42 mins & 49 mins).
Bury - Clarke (29 mins), Cameron (64 mins), Pope (81 mins).
Sending off: Posh - Oztumer (serious foul play).
Cautions: Posh - Bostwick (foul), Santos (scuffling).
Bury - Hussey (foul), Soares (foul), Hope (scuffling)
Referee: Stephen Martin.