It’s taken 90 minutes for new Peterborough United manager Graham Westley to de-bunk a few personal myths.
A one-dimensional long-ball manager? Not on this evidence. While Posh were creating pretty passing patterns in midfield areas, Bradford were the team forced to resort to lumping the ball forward to an ineffective, giant striker.
Reliant on smart set-pieces for goals? Nope. There was one very innovative corner early in the game which involved Michael Bostwick charging into the penalty area from the halfway line at the last minute, but Posh controlled possession so well, they often looked confident of scoring from open play.
Excessive gamesmanship/time wasting. Of course Posh slowed the game down at 2-0 as any team with such a lead away from home would do. That’s just sensible, not poor sportsmanship.
Limited tactically: One presumes Westley played a part in Chris Forrester and Bostwick changing positions at half-time. It worked wonders as Forrester’s first Football League goal proved.
Arrogant? There is no doubt that Westley exudes self-confidence, but he ignored the opportunity to wallow in his own brilliance after the game and instead passed the credit on to his assistant Grant McCann.
And praising McCann was a pleasing touch. Westley was in the fortunate, and unusual, position of taking over a dressing room that was content and in decent form thanks to McCann’s influence following the unlamented departure of Dave Robertson.
Some would still have insisted on stamping their influence on the team, but Westley took something of a back seat during the preparation for this game and Posh continued their post-Robertson improvement as a result. The only team change was forced with Bostwick replacing midfielder Jermaine Anderson who started his three-match suspension for non-violent, violent conduct.
Westley’s wonders didn’t quite reach his own twin targets of 600 passes and 25 shots though, but they came out on top in the only statistic that matters - the goal count.
Two second-half goals from Lee Angol and Chris Forrester in the space of three minutes sealed a second successive League One away win. Both were the end products of sweeping passing moves - neither involved the manager’s alleged signature long-ball.
Angol struck from tap-in range 10 minutes into the second-half after a fine sequence of passes started by Forrester and continued by Callum Elder and Souleymane Coulibaly before Marcus Maddison’s left-foot snap shot was spilled by home ‘keeper Brad Jones right into Angol’s path.
And minutes later Maddison fed Coulibaly who, after a few trademark twists and turns, fired in a shot that was blocked straight into Forrester’s stride and he converted, rather unconvicingly, under the body of Jones. It was a sweet moment for the Irishman whose ability to keep possession under pressure in the second-half was eye-catching.
The goals were well-timed by Posh as Bradford enjoyed their best spell in the opening moments of the second-half. They won a succession of corners and substitute Steven Davies (who had come on in the first-half after Paul Anderson had broken his leg following a heavy, but legal, challenge from Bostwick) was denied a goal with a six-yard header by Posh ‘keeper Ben Alnwick’s reflexes.
Apart from a James Hanson header and a wicked deflection that caught Alnwick out in the first-half, and a free header missed by Devante Cole 10 minutes from time, Posh protected their lead in some comfort. Full-backs Elder and Michael Smith both performed well, while Ricardo Santos earned praise for his central defensive performance from his delighted manager.
Westley must also have been impressed with Erhun Oztumer’s general excellence before the break and Bostwick’s 90-minute display which was comfortably his best performance of the campaign.
Oztumer and Maddison revelled in the space that an an extra midfielder and the sheer slowness of their opponents allowed them. Before the break Posh were restricted to long shots (only Smith forced Jones into a save) but there was a suspicion that unless angry home boss Phil Parkinson stopped bawling at officials and changed his own team’s strategy Posh would prevail.
Before the match Westley announced he was a big fan of Angol and the big, strong striker with a pleasing ability to control the ball under the tightest of marking almost scored a third Posh goal with a header from substitute Jon Taylor’s free kick.
Like no other Posh manager, Westley probably needed a strong start. His appointment received a hugely negative, instant reaction, but the travelling fans at the Coral Windows Stadium were chanting his name while it was still 0-0 and saluted him passionately at the final whistle.
A week is a long time in football.
Posh: Ben Alnwick, Michael Smith, Callume Elder, Gaby Zakuani, Ricardo Santos, Michael Bostwick, Chris Forrester (sub Jack Collison, 90 + 3 mins), Erhun Oztumer (sub Jon Taylor, 83 mins), Marcus Maddison, Souleymane Coulibaly (sub Conor Washington, 76 mins), Lee Angol. Unused substitutes: Dion-Curtis Henry, Andrew Fox, Alex Davey, Leo Da Silva Lopes.
Bradford: Brad Jones, Stephen Darby, Rory McArdle, Reece Burke, James Meredith, Paul Anderson (sub Steven Davies, 35 mins), Lee Evans, Gary Liddle (sub Billy Knott, 67 mins), Mark Marshall (sub Dylan Motley-Henry, 83 mins), James Hanson, Devante Cole. Unused substitutes: Ben Williams, Nathan Clarke, Greg Leigh, Tony McMahon.
Goals: Posh - Angol (56 mins), Forrester (58 mins).
Cautions: Posh - Angol (unsportsmanlike conduct).
Bradford - Anderson (foul), Burke (foul), Knott (foul), Evans (dissent).
Referee: Paul Tierney.
Attendance: 17,970 (458 Posh).