MATCH COMMENT: Peterborough United 3, Wigan 2: McCann masterstroke as Posh beat hot League One title favourites
Long-term this result changes very little.
Any team finishing above Wigan will win League One. For 45 minutes the visitors to the ABAX Stadium played with enough class and composure to emphasise how well they performed in the summer merely by keeping hold of so many quality players following relegation from the Championship.
This result may even serve Wigan well. They now know they need to show the ruthlessness in front of goal Bradford City displayed on this ground last month when dominating the action and they now know there are teams at this level with the pace and desire to unsettle a pair of central defenders who looked slow and panicky when put under pressure.
This was the first time Wigan had conceded more than a single goal in a League One match this season - in fact they conceded the same number in one half of football as they had in their previous eight matches. Posh also missed numerous other chances as they came from behind to win for the first time this campaign.
Short-term the boost to Posh confidence could be immeasurable. Largely out-played for 45 minutes, they nevertheless kept battling and to be just one goal down at the break was crucial, a fact recognised by manager Grant McCann.
“I congratulated the players for being only a goal down,” McCann stated. “And I wasn’t being sarcastic. We hadn’t played well, but we had created two great chances of our own so I knew we were still in the game as our fitness levels are so good. Staying in touch with a very good side was crucial.”
Posh haven’t yet scored a goal in the first-half of a game in September. Some social media cynics were quick to point out that when McCann starts picking the right team and formation from the start of a match, second-placed Posh will fly even higher, but the manager deserves credit for his decision-making during this game.
Those same cynics would probably have been crying out for a 4-4-2 system before kick-off based on the evidence of the two previous matches. It never looked like succeeding against technically excellent opponents who flooded forward from midfield and from full-back positions in the knowledge that Nick Powell would almost certainly deliver the perfect pass.
Ironically a first-half injury to star man Gwion Edwards helped McCann. Immediately switching to his three centre-back formation with wing-backs was an obvious move, but starting the second-half with Marcus Maddison as a striker and Junior Morias in the hole behind the forwards was a masterstroke.
Maddison’s speed was a concern for big centre-backs Chey Dunkley and Dan Burn, while Morias was simply a revelation. Even in his more rotund days, Morias clearly possessed boots packed with dynamite and freed from the attention of close markers he powered home two goals, the first two minutes into the second half almost ripped the net from the goal frame and the second was a precision finish from 25 yards which looked to have won Posh the match five minutes from time.
Instead that honour was left to top scorer Jack Marriott who showed great control to take down an Anthony Grant pass that had been touched on by Chris Forrester and terrific composure to deliver a 90th-minute finish. Ryan Colclough had tapped home a corner to make it 2-2 60 seconds after the second Posh goal.
Once a nervy five minutes of added time had passed Posh celebrated as they’d won the league. Their lap of appreciation in front of their wonderful support - the noise levels actually increased when Wigan made it 2-2 - looked longer and more meaningful than the usual centre-circle wave and one must hope feet remain firmly planted on the turf - after all this was only game number nine of 46.
However it is intertesting to note that Posh are ahead of the 2009-09 and 2010-11 League One promotion teams at this stage of the season, but it still remains a hugely encouraging start rather than a definitive promotion campaign.
What can’t be denied though is the fabulous spirit this Posh squad possess. When Wigan were at their most rampant - Michael Jacobs could have had a hat-trick even without the fluke he did score via a deflection off Steven Taylor just past the half hour mark - Posh somehow dug in and avoided lasting damage.
Goalkeeper Jonathan Bond, who passed a late fitness test on an injured calf, was as vital to this win as the goals from Morias. Bond thwarted former Cobblers Michael Jacobs and Ivan Toney when they were both clean through and denied Jacobs again when the marauding midfielder had raced into the area from 60 yards out and looked certain to score.
Taylor’s defensive header while prostrate on the ground in the first-half was a memorable moment, while the passion and commitment skipper Jack Baldwin displayed after arriving as a substitute for Edwards was a perfect example of leading from the front.
Gavin Massey also missed a presentable chance for Wigan in the early stages, but the headed chance for Morias after a lovely Maddison cross and the latter’s surge through on goal following a pass from the former which was ruined by a weak finish before the break offered hope if only Posh could up their game.
And they did just that, playing at a tempo few teams at League One level would have been able to resist. Powell noticably disappeared when the pace, of a match that was tiring just to watch, increased.
There was a time under Fergie, and with the ‘Holy Trinity’ in situ, that Posh matches should have carried a government health warning. This was one of those breathtakingly brilliant occasions.
Posh: Jonathan Bond, Liam Shephard, Andrew Hughes, Ryan Tafazolli, Steven Taylor, Michael Doughty (sub Anthony Grant, 65 mins), Chris Forrester, Marcus Maddison (sub Jermaine Anderson, 90 mins), Gwion Edwards (sub Jack Baldwin, 39 mins), Junior Morias, Jack Marriott.
Unused substitutes: Conor O’Malley, Danny Lloyd, Leo Da Silva Lopes, Idris Kanu.
Wigan: Jamie Jones, Nathan Byrne, Chey Dunkley, Dan Burns, Reece James, Lee Evans. Michael Jacobs, Nick Powell (sub Max Power, 63 mins), David Perkins, Gavin Massey (sub Ruan Colclough, 63 mins), Ivan Toney (sub Will Grigg, 85 mins).
Unused substitutes: Matija Sarkic, Callum Elder, Alex Bruce, Gary Roberts, Referee: Chris Sarginson.
Goals: Posh - Morias (47 mins & 85 mins), Marriott (90 mins).
Wigan - Jacobs (33 mins), Colclough (86 mins).
Cautions: Posh - Doughty (foul), Grant (foul).
Wigan - Burn (dissent), Byrne (foul).
Referee: Chris Sarginson 6
Attendance: 6,095 (559 Wigan).