The travelling support sneaked into three figures, the passionate chairman went Christmas shopping and even the football mad director of football didn’t stay until the end.
That reflects the level of foreboding when Posh are due in Fleetwood, a pleasant enough seaside town, but one which has hosted two of the most dismal performances in recent times. It’s a long way from home, particularly in December, a month when lights stay on for the whole day in this gloomy north west corner of the country.
But illumination was eventually provided just after 5pm by the smiles on the faces of the Posh camp who snatched a remarkable victory despite trailing 2-1 with 87 minutes played. The late strikes from Jack Marriott and Danny Lloyd, and the failure of home top scorer Devante Cole to power a close range header under the crossbar in the final seconds, ensured those firing up social media accounts to hate on Grant McCann, Darragh MacAnthony and the younger players were left frustrated.
Posh defended nervously throughout this game and created very little until Marcus Maddison started to thrill with his crossing and passing, but there was character aplenty from a squad who are clearly fighting for their club and their manager.
McCann was seasonally jolly after the game mixing deadpan sarcasm (‘the referee was outstanding, got every decision right’) with generosity (‘I’m going to invite Danny Lloyd’s family to every game as he always scores in front of them’) and a dig at his critics (‘we’ve lost one of our last six games which is a better statistic than the negative ones that keep getting dragged up’).
McCann has now collected almost 49% of the available league points in his Posh managerial career, the best since Darren Ferguson’s first spell in charge at London Road, which is positive enough for now, but he will ultimately be judged on league position rather than a points percentage.
For now he is delivering on his chairman’s demand to have Posh challenging for promotion at Christmas. This win leaves Posh just three points shy of sixth-placed Charlton, a team McCann’s men outplayed without managing to beat last month.
Posh reached nowhere near those heights yesterday, but they dug in on a bitterly cold day and took full advantage of some quite brilliant creative play from Maddison, who for almost an hour was a peripheral figure, often due to the inability of others to offer an adequate service, but who ensured he would again dominate the headlines thanks to two wonderful passes and a free-kick strike that proved too hot to handle for home goalkeeper Alex Cairns.
Maddison in the headlines as a transfer window approaches is not necessarily a good thing - especially as the team’s other creative force Gwion Edwards faces a lenghty spell on the sidelines after damaging ankle ligaments yesterday - but his cross which enabled Michael Doughty to head Posh level was sumptuous, yet eclipsed by the 60-yard pass to Marriott which dragged Posh level three minutes after falling behind again. Marriott’s control and finish was that of a man high on confidence in front of goal and set up a first three point haul on the road since August, a fact confirmed when Lloyd rushed into to pounce on Cairns’ howler minutes later.
The barnstorming finish rather papered over the cracks supplied by a nervy defensive display which continued into added time when Posh were forced into employing Lloyd and Jermaine Anderson as wingbacks and rookie Alex Penny as a third central defender. Cole really should have equalised, but his header smacked into the crossbar.
Fleetwood boss Uwe Rosler was distinctly unimpressed after the match and no wonder. “I’ve never lost a game like that before,” he moaned after reflecting on the free kick Jack Sowerby placed against the crossbar two minutes after Cian Bolger had volleyed his side into a 2-1 lead. Moments later Maddison, who had skimmed the top of the crossbar himself with a 35-yard hit, was supplying his own ‘ball of the century’ to turn the game on its head.
It’s a first win at this ground for Posh which might partly explain why some foul-mouthed members of the home crowd peppered their visitors with multiple chants (the word ‘cheat’ is the only one permissable on this page) and there was apparently a mini-skirmish in the tunnel.
Lloyd certainly wasn’t ‘cheating’ when he was hacked down in the penalty area midway through the second half, one of many offences missed or ignored by a rather indifferent referee.
Amari’i Bell had given Fleetwood the lead on the half hour mark when Ryan Tafazolli’s poor clearance landed at his feet. Cole missed a golden chance to score a second goal after a Steven Taylor miscue before the break which might well have sealed a home win.
As it was Posh rallied and eventually ensured a planned post-match Christmas party in Manchester was a much jollier affair.
Posh: Jonathan Bond, Alex Penny, Andrew Hughes, Ryan Tafazolli (sub Ricky Miller, 84 mins), Steven Taylor, Anthony Grant, Michael Doughty, Leo Da Silva Lopes (sub Jermaine Anderson, 60 mins), Marcus Maddison, Gwion Edwards (sub Danny Lloyd, 8 mins), Jack Marriott.
Unused Substitutes: Conor O’Malley, Chris Forrester, Idris Kanu, Jack Baldwin
Fleetwood: Alex Cairns, Lewis Coyle, Amari’i Bell, Nathan Pond (sub Ashley Hunter, 90 mins)., Ashley Eastham, Aiden O’Neill (sub Jack Sowerby, 63 mins), Kyle Dempsey, Cian Bolger, George Glendon, Wes Burns (sub Jordy Hiwula, 58 mins), Devante Cole.
Unused Substitutes: Chris Neal, Joe Maguire, Markus Schwabl, Baily Cargill.
Goals: Posh - Doughty (56 mins, Marriott (87 mins, Lloyd 90 mins).
Fleetwood - Bell (29 mins), Bolger (83 mins).
Cautions: Fleetwood - O’Neill (foul).
Referee: Anthony Backhouse 4
Attendance: 2,273 (136 Posh).