Sometimes in football, in sport even, there are days that just defy logic.
Buster Douglas beating Mike Tyson in his pomp, Japan beating South Africa in a rugby union World Cup, Holland beating England at cricket and Robbie Savage passing his interview to become a football pundit for the national media.
Posh getting thumped by Bury would never normally be classed as that huge an upset, until the statistics leading up to a grim day at Gigg Lane were studied.
The home side hadn’t won a competitive match of any sort since September 27, a run of 20 games, while Posh hadn’t conceded more than two goals in a League One match all season and only top six sides Scunthorpe and Fleetwood had beaten them by a margin of more than one goal.
Organised defence backed up by an outstanding young goalkeeper had helped overcome perceived deficiencies at the other end of the pitch and turned Posh into lively play-off contenders under a bright, and very popular, rookie manager.
Posh promptly took the lead after four minutes through Tom Nichols, who reached double figures for the season with a tap-in after erratic home goalkeeper Rob Lainton had spilled a Gwion Edwards shot, but Bury were level within three minutes and, remarkably, 4-1 up after 26. all goals coming from former Everton striker James Vaughan, a fine player at this level, but one who had been in action during Bury’s rapid slide down the League One table.
A fifth goal followed 18 minutes from time following a rare mistake from goalkeeper Luke McGee, and either side of Posh managing to hit the crossbar three times in the second-half. To complete a miserable day for Grant McCann and his men the team bus reportedly conked out on the way home. This was the opposite of a ‘Carlsberg day’ - ‘a cheap cider from the off licence day’ perhaps.
Of course it would be easy to over-react and blame intense January transfer window speculation, the fall-out from a high-profile FA Cup match and a team selection that found room for a striker stepping up from St Albans, but not for chief goal creator Marcus Maddison.
But, for one, McCann was not having any of that, well not the first two points anyway, The Posh boss manages to condemn and criticise while retaining an aura of calm. He admitted to embarrassment, shame and, most damningly, accused his players of a lack of commitment during the match-defining period in the first half. He also issued the standard apology to the 288 travelling fans and pledged this day would never be repeated again while he was in charge.
McCann certainly faces the biggest managerial test of his short career. He will have been disturbed by how easy Bury pressured star man Chris Forrester into mistakes simply by detailing Hallam Hope to force him into rushed passes. Two of Vaughan’s goals, including an outstanding finish to level the scores in the seventh minute, arrived after the Posh captain lost possession in dangerous areas.
McCann will also worry that teenager Leo Da Silva appears to be stuck in a rut, that his left-back doesn’t offer the attacking threat the midfield diamond formation demands to be successful, and that with 21 games to go, the best forward pairing remains a mystery. Junior Morias played two fine first-half passes, the first of which at 2-1 down prompted a superb stop from Lainton to deny Paul Taylor, but struggled, like the rest of his team-mates, to get on the end of numerous crosses into the Bury area in a second-half when substitute Marcus Maddison inspired decent improvement.
Bury weren’t four goals better than Posh. They have the worst defensive record in League One and Posh stretched them and by-passed them down the flanks with enough regularity to have given the Shakers some shaky moments after the break. Lee Angol, one of three substitutes introduced at half-time, struck the cross bar twice, once with the aid of Lainton’s finger-tips, while Maddison also clipped the top of the bar with a curling shot.
Put Vaughan in the Posh side and they’d probably have won. He also netted with an unmarked six-yard header and two similar finishes when given too much time and space by a defence which ditched its normal reliability to become horribly rickety. Vaughan bemoaned afterwards he could have been celebrating a double hat-trick as he glanced a header just wide before the break and side-footed against a post after it.
Substitute George Miller completed the scoring after intercepting a misguided from McGee and converting from a tight angle. When McGee is gifting goals, you really do know you’re having a dismal day.
It was a 90 minutes to forget on a day of strange results in League One. Sheffield United, who had been breezing towards promotion, were duffed 4-1 at Walsall, an average side even when the wizard of Oztumer is strutting his stuff.
But the Blades have the comfort of knowing their day of disaster followed a sequence of wins and can be glossed over more readily. For Posh the run of one League defeat in 13 matches has become a run of no wins in four and the top six are threatening to sneak away.
One consolation for McCann, and the club’s hardy fans, was a performance so poor by those attracting most transfer attention, any scouts in attendance would have ripped up their initial recommendations and suggested instead a bid for Vaughan.
Posh: Luke McGee, Michael Smith, Andrew Hughes, Michael Bostwick, Ryan Tafazolli (sub Lee Angol, 46 mins), Chris Forrester, Gwion Edwards, Leo Da Silva Lopes (sub Martin Samuelsen, 46 mins), Paul Taylor (sub Marcus Maddison, 46 mins), Tom Nichols, Junior Morias. Unused substitutes: Mark Tyler, Jerome Binnom-Williams, Brad Inman, Callum Chettle.
Bury: Rob Lawton, Greg Leigh, Anthony Kay, Reece Brown, Cameron Burgess, Scott Burgess, Jacob Mellis (sub Kelvin Etuhu, 76 mins), Taylor Moore (sub Neil Danns, 55 mins), Hallam Hope, Tom Pope (sub George Miller, 68 mins), James Vaughan. Unused substitutes: Ben Williams, Jacob Bedeau, Callum Styles, Jack Mackreth.
Goals: Posh - Nichols (4 mins).
Bury - Vaughan (7 mins, 17 mins, 23 mins & 26 mins), Miller (72 mins).
Cautions: Posh - Tafazolli (foul), Bostwick (foul).
Referee: Sebastien Stockbridge 6
Attendance: 2,820 (288 Posh).