Peterborough United won a thrilling clash at Gillingham 4-2 today (September 29) to return to the top of League One.
In a breathless encounter Posh led 1-0 through Jamie Walker at half-time, trailed 2-1 early in the second half, before scoring three unanswered goals in the final 30 minutes. The last two for Ivan Toney and substitute Callum Cooke followed superb length-of-the-pitch passing moves. Siriki Dembele also netted.
Gillingham played a full part in an absorbing contest, but Posh power and strength in depth ultimately overwhelmed them.
Second-placed Posh went gung-ho with an all-out attacking approach involving first League One starts of the campaign for maverick winger Marcus Maddison and £600k striker Toney, as well as a second start for gifted on-loan midfielder Walker.
In contrast out of form Gillingham - no wins in their last eight competitive matches - left top scorer Tom Eaves on the substitutes’ bench and recalled former Posh centre-back Gaby Zakuani to a back four labelled ‘too nice’ by their manager the previous weekend. Zakuani of course reserves all his niceness for matters off the pitch.
But anyone expecting the home side to try and restrict a side keen to protect a perfect winning away record were completely wrong.
Both sides went at it from the first whistle and delivered a cracking first-half full of great saves and scoring opportunities.
Posh were first to threaten when Maddison and Matt Godden combined to send Walker through, but Gills ‘keeper Tomas Holy made a half save enabling a covering defender to clear.
Holy then went full stretch - and he has quite a wingspan - to keep out a Maddison curler before the home ‘keeper made a breathtaking save from a close-range Jason Naismith header after Ryan Tafazolli had won a Maddison corner.
Within 60 seconds Gills were pressing at the other end and forced Posh ‘keeper Aaron Chapman to make three top saves in the same attack. Chapman got down low to keep out Reece Charles-Cook and Callum Reilly either side of parrying a deflected Charles-Cook strike away from danger.
But Posh made the breakthrough on 24 minutes when good work from Naismith enabled Matt Godden to deliver a first-time right-wing cross which Toney touched into the path of Walker and the on-loan man finished first-time with his left-foot.
Gills kept coming forward and Posh always looked dangerous on the break. Six minutes were added at the end of the first-half during which Siriki Dembele went to ground in the penalty area which caused a rush of anger from Evans who believed his young winger had been shoved in the back and TV replays suggested he had a right to be moody.
Those six minutes were added after Posh centre-backs Tafazolli and Bennett clashed heads. Tafazolli didn’t reappear for the second half handing Josh Yorwerth his first meaningful League One action of the season.
And it took under 10 minutes for Gills to take advantage of some Posh re-organisation. First Callum Reilly scored from the edge of the penalty area after a corner had been half cleared and then Mark Byrne scored from 25 yards out wide - his shot finding the corner to the disappointment of Chapman who appeared slow to react.
Chapman immediately had to save well from Dean Parrett before Posh fashioned a rapid double response of their own.
First, on the hour, Maddison’s low pass found Dembele who turned and finished expertly and within five minutes a terrific move led to a stunning Toney finish for 3-2.
Maddison started the move on the edge of his own area with a clever pass to Walker. He fed Godden who found Dembele and the little winger played the ball out wide to Toney who curled a beauty into the top corner.
Posh had to repel many crosses, but always looked likely to score again on the break.
And when they did it was another stunner four minutes from time.
Alex Woodyard started this one with a fine tackle deep inside his own half. Dembele picked up the loose ball, ran 40 yards with it and slipped it to substitute Mark O’Hara.
He kept possession under pressure, found Maddison who passed it unselfishly on to Cooke. Cooke left Zakuani on his backside before finishing expertly. That was Posh’s 17th goal in five League One away matches.
That sealed the three points which, coupled with a late penalty for Wycombe at Portsmouth sent Posh back to the top.
Posh; Aaron Chapman, Jason Naismith, Colin Daniel, Rhys Bennett, Ryan Tafazolli (sub Josh Yorwerth, 46 mins), Alex Woodyard, Jamie Walker (sub Mark O’Hara, 73 mins), Marcus Maddison, Siriki Dembele, Matt Godden (sub Callum Cooke, 82 mins), Ivan Toney.
Unused substitutes: Mark Tyler, Louis Reed, Jason Cummings, Joe Ward.
Gillingham: Tomas Holy, Barry Fuller, Gaby Zakuani, Max Ehmer, Dean Parrett, Regan Charles-Cook (sub, Tom Eaves, 50 mins), Callum Reilly (sub Josh Rees, 66 mins), Connor Ogilvie, Mark Byrne, Brandon Hanlon, Josh Parker.
Unused substitutes: Tom Hadler, Luke O’Neill, Bradley Garmston, Alex Lacey, Conor Wilkinson.
Goals: Posh - Walker (24 mins), Dembele (60 mins), Toney (64 mins), Cooke (88 mins).
Gills - Reilly (50 mins), Byrne (53 mins).
Cautions: Posh - Dembele (delaying the restart), Walker (foul), Evans (dissent), Raynor (dissent).
Gillingham - Byrne (foul), Charles-Cook (foul), Reilly (foul), Fuller (foul), Patterson (assistant manager, dissent).
Referee: Lee Swabey 5.
Attendance: 4,407 (478 Posh).