A penny for Grant McCann’s thoughts this morning (March 14).
It’s three games since Peterborough United abandoned the arms-folded approach and all have been won, two of them ‘inspired’ by visible passion in the technical area.
And yet Posh haven’t played particularly well in any of those matches. In fact they were dreadful for most of the second-half at rock-bottom Bury last night (March 13) until the team’s regular rescue act of Marcus Maddison and Jack Marriott delivered just as three minutes of added time, or extra pain as it first appeared, started. ‘Maddison to Marriott, goal’ is becoming something of a cliched phrase, four words written more than ‘Cobblers didn’t win again’ this season.
Maddison’s first-time pass as a loose ball in the centre of the pitch arrived at his feet was excellent, but Marriott’s lobbed finish over advancing goalkeeper Connor Ripley, something of a personal speciality, was even better. One magical moment was predictably greeted with great joy by the 175 fans who made the long trip north and by the excitable characters near the Posh dugout.
Someone, someday will work out why teams often get a bounce in results from a new manager. Posh will clearly play a different way under a boss who likes to get the ball forward more quickly (witness the number of first-time blind passes Chris Forrester has started to make) which, for the moment at least, is rather satisfying for those of us who were getting fed-up with square and backward passes achieving very little. Midfielder Anthony Grant, the most obvious casualty of Evans’ arrival, will have to speed up his use of the ball to have any chance of a game for the rest of the season.
To be fair direct football was the only way to go last night. The teams were asked to provide entertainment on a ploughed field so the mitigation for a quite awful spectacle was obvious.
Indeed one of the better Posh performances, notwithstanding an excellent all-round defensive effort from his players, came from Evans after the game, a 15-minute cameo which included a level of hype last seen in the early days of Barry Fry’s tenure.
He certainly is a most quotable manager. Last night’s gems included references to ‘custard pies’ and ‘tweety pies’, ‘these players are younger than my daughters’, and calling rock-solid Andrew Hughes ‘the best left-back in League One’ when he wasn’t even the best left-back on view at Gigg Lane. Greg Leigh’s forceful bursts from the back for Bury were a major source of danger last night.
Evans is no mug though. His record demands respect and his current players, although one suspects he wouldn’t have signed a few of them himself, are responding to his methods. Posh were the better side in the first-half and defended stoutly when Bury were at their best after the break, and there are statistics available to suggest this was a decent win despite the home team’s desperate plight at the bottom of the table.
Bury were 13 points from safety when Ryan Lowe became their third manager of the season and the win they deserved last night would have narrowed that gap to five points. They’d lost one of their previous eight matches and they play on a pitch which was the very definition of a ‘leveller’. Posh ultimately won, and not for the first time this season, because they have a goal machine in their side whereas the likes of Bury do not.
Jay O’Shea shot wide from a presentable chance in the very first minute last night and in the second period, Danny Mayor, Rohan Ince and George Miller all shot wide after patient passing had created good openings. Otherwise the skills of Leigh and Mayor down the left floundered on the excellence of Posh centre-backs Jack Baldwin and Steven Taylor.
Posh were at their best in the 15 minutes leading up to the break when Danny Lloyd, preferred to Omar Bogle and played slightly behind Marriott, came alive, but shots were usually blocked before they reached Ripley, most noticably Marriott’s well-controlled volley from a Hughes cross.
Posh disappeared as an attacking force in the second-half until Bogle’s arrival 20 minutes from time, but just as a point to move them into a play-off place for the first time since December 30 looked likely, they pinched all three points to move clear in sixth place.
Staying there won’t be easy. but at least Posh have proved they can do it on a cold northern night in front of a small, quiet crowd on a playing surface more suited to farm animals.
Posh: Jonathan Bond, Liam Shephard, Andrew Hughes, Jack Baldwin, Steven Taylor, Chris Forrester, Leo Da Silva Lopes, Joe Ward (sub Omar Bogle, 70 mins), Marcus Maddison (sub Ryan Tafazolli, 90 mins), Danny Lloyd (sub George Cooper, 86 mins), Jack Marriott.
Unused substitutes: Conor O’Malley, Junior Morias, Michael Doughty, Jermaine Anderson
Bury: Connor Ripley, Craig Jones (sub Phil Edwards, 46 mins), Greg Leigh, Adam Thompson, Peter Clarke, Danny Mayor, Jay O’Shea, Rohan Ince, Neil Danns (sub James Hanson, 78 mins), Harry Bunn, George Miller.
Unused substitutes: Joe Murphy, Andrew Tutte, Stephen Dawson, Callum Styles, Tsun Dai.
Goals: Posh - Marriott (90 mins).
Cautions: Bury - Ince (foul).
Referee: David Webb.
Attendance: 2,784 (175 Posh).