Can Marcus Maddison fire Peterborough United, and himself, to the Championship?
It was October 2014 when Barry Fry insisted new signing Marcus Maddison would be the best signing of the Darragh MacAnthony era at Peterborough United.
That was quite some claim when you consider some of the names who had come before him - Mackail-Smith, Assombalonga, Gayle and Tomlin, to name just four.
Yet the hype was understandable at the time. Maddison, a £250,000 signing from Gateshead, had scored five goals in 10 starts as Posh made a flying start to the season, sitting in second place. At the time you would not have believed more than four years later he would still be playing in League One.
Yet for many reasons both club and player are where they were back then, pushing for promotion to the Championship.
It would be unfair to say Maddison has failed to deliver on his talent - you only have to look at how he features high in the lists of top assist makers across the top four divisions (the BBC’s Sam Edwards has recorded 47 for him since the start of last season) - but he has yet to deliver on Fry’s prophecy while other far less talented players have beaten him into the division above.
There have been great games and some great goals, but perhaps it is no coincidence that with Darren Ferguson in the dugout (he was Maddison’s manager when he first signed for the club) that the forward put in the sort of 90 minute, rampaging performance against Wycombe Wanderes yesterday (Saturday, March 2) which thrilled Posh fans when he first joined.
There was even a trademark free-kick, something which seemed to have gone missing from his game since his early days at London Road.
Credit must go to the player, but also to Ferguson who ditched the diamond and found a formation which got the most out of his destructive, creative talents. A 3-4-2-1 formation (at least that’s how it appeared) allowed Maddison and Lee Tomlin to wreak havoc in the space between Wycombe’s defence and midfield and brought a return to form for Matt Godden up front, resulting in a 4-2 victory.
One match against opponents on a run of three straight defeats - and no goal from any of their players in open play for six matches - is not something to get carried away about, but these are the type of opponents who Posh sometimes struggle to beat. And a glance at Posh’s March fixture list shows a run of matches where they will be expected to pick up plenty of points: Bradford (23rd), AFC Wimbledon (24th), Coventry (8th), Southend (13th).
It only took seven minutes yesterday for Maddison to shine. A cleared corner came back to him from Joe Ward, and from the left he fizzed in a cross to the back post where Godden fired in.
Three minutes later and Maddison picked the ball up from a delightful Tomlin flick and slid in Godden who held off a challenge to roll the ball in. After waiting 11 games for a goal, he now had two in quick succession.
Maddison also won and curled in a free-kick from the right later in the first-half, before finishing off a flowing break which involved Tomlin and Godden to find the corner with his right foot.
There was even one thrilling run which saw Maddison leave two defenders in their wake, while another cross was also converted by Godden who was just offside.
Remarkably, after scoring four great goals this was far from a comfortable win. Ryan Tafazolli headed into his own to make it 2-1 after just 16 minutes, and a spilled cross from Conor O’Malley allowed Matt Bloomfield to make it 3-2 before the break.
Ferguson, who could celebrate a first home win in his third spell at the club, acknowledged it was too open in the first-half.
Still, after a frustrating 2019 which has been hampered by too many first-half red cards there was plenty to enjoy yesterday, and Posh now sit level on points with Doncaster in sixth place.
Rovers may have a game in hand, but they have picked up just two points in three matches. Posh just need their frontline to replicate this performance and a play-off place will be firmly within their grasp once again.
Posh: Conor O’Malley, Jason Naismith, Ben White, Ryan Tafazolli, Daniel Lafferty, Alex Woodyard, Joe Ward, Callum Cooke (sub Louis Reed, 70 mins), Lee Tomlin (sub George Cooper 85 mins), Marcus Maddison, Matt Godden.
Unused substitutes: Matty Stevens, Tyler Denton, Rhys Bennett, Kyle Dempsey, Aaron Chapman.
Wycombe: Ryan Allsop, Jason McCarthy, Sido Jombati, Anthony Stewart, Joe Jacobson, Matt Bloomfield (sub Nathan Tyson, 70 mins), Dominic Gape, Curtis Thompson, Nick Freeman, Adebayo Akinfenwa, Alex Samuel (sub Luke Bolton, 86 mins).
Unused substitutes: Marcus Bean, Yves Ma-Kalambay, Scott Kashket, Michael Harriman, Paris Cowan-Hall.
Goals: Posh - Godden (7 and 10 mins), Maddison (31 and 66 mins). Wycombe - Taffazoli own goal (16 mins), Bloomfield (38 mins)
Cautions: Posh - Cooper (foul). Wycombe - Jacobson (foul), Thompson (foul)
Referee: Seb Stockbridge 7
Attendance: 6,484 (556 Wycombe)