MATCH COMMENT: PETERBOROUGH UNITED 3, OLDHAM 0: A team not firing on all cylinders have put together quite a run of results
Luke James and Tom Nichols also scored on their Peterborough United debuts in recent times so best not to get over-excited by George Cooper's strike eight minutes into his first appearance for the club yesterday (January 20).
But first impressions can matter and the instant control of Chris Forrester’s excellent pass followed by a precise finish into the corner of the net suggest Posh have captured another young gem, one they can polish, improve and probably sell for a vast profit some time in the future.
It’s not automatic of course. Star man Marcus Maddison is well into his fifth year at London Road, although the January arrivals of Joe Ward and Cooper has prompted speculation that stay is coming to an end. Maddison often cut a distracted, isolated figure yesterday before his replacement by Cooper 15 minutes from time. Only then did Posh take complete charge against 10-men opponents with Cooper’s lovely finish followed by a last-minute penalty won and converted by top scorer Jack Marriott which was pretty encouraging for those charged with juggling a promotion push with a need to balance the books.
There are some who say, with justification, Maddison’s form is central to Posh success. He was outstanding at Aston Villa, but less so in the last three matches when Posh have indeed struggled to locate their attacking mojo. They’ve stayed unbeaten though and haven’t conceded a goal which implies others are now coming to the fore, notably a goalkeeper, back four (although Liam Shephard could well have been sent off in the first minute for an ugly tackle), and an excellent defensive shield in Anthony Grant. Posh have let in just three goals in their last seven competitive outings. It’s also three clean sheets in a row and that hadn’t happened since late 2013.
In fact it’s quite some run Posh are on. Just four defeats in 22 matches and yet they remain in eighth place in League One, three points outside a play-off place, a gap that’s likely to stretch as Grant McCann’s men concentrate on the cups for the next week. Success in knockout football has massaged those statistics, but recruitment has been sound enough in the last couple of weeks to give optimism this season could last longer than the last one. Posh are within a win of sixth-placed Charlton and there are signs of weakness in play-off place resident Bradford City so Posh must be poised to pounce.
Beating the lesser sides in League One has restricted Posh progress this season, but bottom club Bury and an Oldham side winless for seven matches before this one have now both been despatched 3-0 at the ABAX Stadium. Flattering scorelines for sure on the run of play in both, but much better performances than the witless ones in defeat at home to the likes of Gillingham and Blackpool.
Indeed this match could have been an uphill struggle from half-time had Oldham been able to field injured striker Eoin Doyle. The Latics looked by far the more cohesive team before the break, but their finishing, crossing and final ball were woeful. Posh chairman Darragh MacAnthony used the fact his ‘keeper Jonathan Bond was barely tested all afternoon as proof of home dominance, but that ignores the great first-half positions wasted by Mark Byrne, Ben Pringle, Craig Davies and Cameron Dummigan who all failed to test Bond when a goal was in the offing.
Posh boss Grant McCann admitted he was grateful to reach the break level. Only when visiting ‘keeper Johnny Placide slid out to take advantage of Marriott’s poor control when through on goal did Oldham have a problem in the first-half, but the simple tactic of forcing Junior Morias to play further forward and for him to turn towards the opponent’s goal rather than away from it helped Posh improve.
Morias picked up his serious thigh injury at Oldham in September, but retribution arrived eight minutes into the second-half when he accepted Forrester’s pass, turned his marker, worked the ball onto his favoured right foot and found the corner of the net, albeit with the help of a handy deflection.
Marriott’s volley was then chested off the line by Oldham centre-back George Edmundson and Forrester saw a 30-yard blast tipped over the bar by Placide before Edmundson’s day fell apart. The 20 year-old had only entered the fray as a first-half substitute for injured skipper Anthony Gerrard. He was soon booked for clattering into Morias and then he was booked again midway through the second half for a rather silly pull back on Marriott who was 50 yards from goal and offering no real threat.
Oldham boss Richie Wellens was obviously dismayed as his side were on top of possession at the time and for a short period that continued with Dan Gardner striking the foot of the post from 20 yards, but for all the midfield excellence of Byrne and Pringle, the visitors were desperately short of firepower.
That’s not a problem for Posh as both Ward and Cooper improved their side when introduced.
Posh: Jonathan Bond, Liam Shephard, Andrew Hughes, Steven Taylor, Ryan Tafazolli, Anthony Grant, Chris Forrester, Junior Morias (sub Idris Kanu, 83 mins), Danny Lloyd (sub Joe Ward, 60 mins), Marcus Maddison (sub George Cooper, 76 mins), Jack Marriott.
Unused substitutes: Michael Doughty, Alex Penny, Jack Baldwin, Conor O’Malley.
Oldham: Johnny Placide, Cameron Dummigan, Brian Wilson, Anthony Gerrard (sub George Edmundson, 25 mins), Tope Obadeyi (sub Aaron Holloway, 61 mins), Kean Bryan, Kundai Benyu (sub Dan Gardner, 60 mins), Ben Pringle, Jack Byrne, Ousmane Fane, Craig Davies.
Unused substitutes: Zeus De La Paz, Mohammed Maouche, Courtney Duffus, Nepomuceno.
Goals: Posh - Morias (54 mins), Cooper (84 mins), Marriott (pen, 90 mins).
Sending off: Oldham - Edmundson (second cautionable offence, foul).
Cautions: Posh - Shephard (foul), Morias (unsportsmanlike conduct), Tafazolli (foul).
Oldham - Byrne (unsportsmanlike conduct), Edmundsun (foul), Bryan (dissent), Gardner (dissent).
Referee: Sebastian Stockbridge 7.
Attendance: 5,027 (367 Oldham).