Footballing cultures collide as Posh manager past takes on Posh manager present
August 2017 - Peterborough United win every league match.
First match of September 2017 - Peterborough United draw with Doncaster Rovers.
August 2018 - Peterborough United win every league match.
First match of September 2018 - Peterborough United draw with Doncaster Rovers.
Two seasons, two perfect Augusts and a slower start to September, but that is about all that the class of 2017/18 share with the current batch of players now gracing the ABAX Stadium.
Proof of that came yesterday in an absorbing contest between the Ghost of Posh Past and the Ghost of Posh Present which yielded two goals, two red cards and the first two points dropped for the home side.
Steve Evans and Grant McCann share very different philosophies, but that is what made the clash between their respective teams so absorbing.
Whereas McCann has taken the possession football from his stint at Posh and appears to have upgraded it up at Donny, Evans prefers a more direct approach.
Passing out from the back is not for him, in the same way that a long throw from Joe Ward would not be McCann’s ideal route to goal.
Evans’ answer to seeing Doncaster play through his side was to haul off one of his tall strikers (Matt Godden) and replace him with another (Ivan Toney), but the success of the substitution proved that there is more than one way to win a football match.
Managers who prefer to play in the opposition’s half rather than see their team try to pass their way from defence to attack are being increasingly vilified, even when they prove successful like Sam Allardyce and Tony Pulis, but no team in England’s top four divisions have scored more than Posh this season, so you can hardly say it’s been dull - a charge which sometimes could have been labelled at McCann’s Posh team.
Not every Posh fan was pleased with the decision to sack McCann last season and after the first-half yesterday you would not blame them judging by the ease with which Doncaster strolled into the final third.
It took just six minutes for the visitors to come close to taking the lead when right-back Niall Mason went past Siriki Dembele and cut back a cross which was steered towards goal by Tommy Rowe, who would have been wheeling away in celebration if Aaron Chapman in the Posh goal was 6 foot 5 instead of 6 foot 7.
Chapman may have managed to turn the low shot onto the post, but it proved to be a mixed afternoon for the goalkeeper as he was fortunate not to concede after spilling a Herbie Kane effort which threatened to spin over the line, and for a man of his height he was easily chipped by John Marquis to give Doncaster a first-half lead after the striker had ghosted past Alex Woodyard.
However, crucial second-half saves low down to deny a Rowe header and Mallik Wilks overhead kick showed his class once again.
Marquis’ well taken finish had given Doncaster a deserved lead despite Godden wastefully shooting wide at 0-0 after the best Posh move of the match.
Indeed if Wilks’ effort five minutes into the second-half - after twisting past Rhys Bennett - had found the bottom corner rather than the post then Posh would have almost certainly tasted their first league defeat of the season.
As it was Evans threw on Toney moments later and the former Newcastle man changed the momentum of the match by proving much more of a handful for the Doncaster back-line.
In fact it was a foul on him by Tom Anderson 25 yards out on the left which set up Siriki Dembele to plant a cross onto the head of Ryan Tafazolli, one of only three players on the pitch who played for McCann last season.
One of the others was Marcus Maddison whose introduction in the second-half led to a change of formation to three at the back which did not work as Doncaster regained the momentum and sprung forward in search of the winner.
But undoubtedly the star of the show was Evans who was shown two yellow cards in a short space of time by referee Darren Bond in the second-half (he claims for stepping out of his technical area) under a new rule this season.
Assistant manager Paul Raynor was also sent to the stands (allegedly for swearing) with the pair unhappy to see two attacks thwarted by Bond blowing up for earlier infringements on a Posh player. The first - which would have seen Jason Cummings run towards goal - would have been particularly frustrating for the home dugout.
Evans’ departure only invigorated a crowd of 7,000 Posh fans who created a noisy and intimidating atmosphere, with some chanting the Scot’s name after he was shown the red card.
After the match Evans, who has now started the same side in all six matches, declined to praise McCann’s side, instead claiming it was a cup final for them due to the manager’s return.
McCann suggested nullifying Evans’ tactics were easy.
What is indisputable is that Posh remain top on goal difference but there are still 40 matches to go this season. The task now for Evans is to make sure his Posh side does not fade away like his predecessor’s.
Posh: Aaron Chapman, Jason Naismith, Rhys Bennett, Ryan Tafazolli, Colin Daniel, Joe Ward, Alex Woodyard, Mark O’Hara (sub Marcus Maddison, 65 mins), Siriki Dembele (sub Louis Reed, 72 mins), Matt Godden (sub Ivan Toney, 52 mins), Jason Cummings.
Unused substitutes: Mark Tyler, Callum Cooke, Josh Yorweth, George Cooper.
Doncaster: Marko Marosi, Niall Mason, Andy Butler, Tom Anderson, Danny Andrew, Benjamin Whiteman, Herbie Kane, Tommy Rowe, James Coppinger, John Marquis, Mallik Wilks (sub Alfie May, 84 mins).
Unused substitutes: Ian Lawlor, Alfie Beestin, Paul Taylor, Matty Blair, Issam Ben Khemis, Mitchell Lund.
Referee: Darren Bond 6.
Goals: Posh - Tafazolli (58 mins).
Doncaster - Marquis (40 mins).
Cautions: Posh - Daniel (foul).
Doncaster - Kane (foul), Wilks (foul), Whiteman (foul) .
Red cards - Steve Evans (dissent), Paul Raynor (dissent).
Attendance: 7,060 (641 Doncaster).