It took just 77 seconds and four Wigan passes for joy to turn to despair for Peterborough United last night (October).
There hadn’t even been enough time for Leeds United to change managers again between shirtless Posh substitute Souleymane Coulibaly celebrating an 81st-minute equaliser with his trademark somersault and Max Power smashing home the winning goal for the visitors. Wigan kicked-off, played two square passes and two forward ones, and that was enough for Power to surge into the penalty area unmolested to claim the three points ‘The Latics’ just about deserved.
It was a madcap minute that pretty much summed up the high-risk, albeit very entertaining, style that manager Graham Westley has employed in recent games. Coulibaly’s goal was wonderfully crafted, but immediately undermined by some horrific marking and non-existant tracking back. Ironically Westley’s very positive, and very necessary, substitutions helped Posh get level, but also helped them lose the game.
It is of course no disgrace to lose to a club with such an illustrious recent history. Wigan will be leading promotion contenders this season thanks to a playing budget likely to be far in excess of most League One clubs. They might even win the division if they can inject some pace and stubborness into a back four that often creaked alarmingly whenever Posh attacked with speed, verve and imagination, which they often did.
Westley said afterwards that he enjoyed the performance from his side, but hated the result which was an assessment probably shared by the majority of another poor midweek crowd. Wigan’s impressive young manager Gary Caldwell insisted he was ‘disappointed’ with his team’s display which was an indicator of the expectation levels of a club still bolstered by Premier League parachute payments.
Posh will be kicking themselves this morning though. They lived on their nerves defensively all night yet found enough second-half spirit to claw their way level from 2-0 down with goals from the excellent Erhun Oztumer and Coulibaly. Oztumer’s follow-up after veteran Wigan ‘keeper Jussi Jaaskalianen had parried a fine shot from Conor Washington, arrived just past the hour mark and completely against the run of play, but Coulibaly’s goal, with virtually his first touch of the ball, was the result of fine passing by Jermaine Anderson, Jon Taylor and Oztumer at a time when Posh were dominant. Oztumer’s vision and Taylor’s relentless running were highlights of a decent attacking display.
Sadly Wigan sub Grant Holt’s fine pass enabled Power to instantly turn the game on its head again. That goal deflated Posh and the visitors saw the rest of the game our disappointingly comfortably.
Westley blamed naivety at both ends of the pitch for his second defeat as Posh boss. Taylor (twice) and Michael Bostwick (with a header from corner) had early opportunties to score for Posh in a bright start, but after 15 minutes Wigan were 2-0 ahead. The speed and force of on-loan Middlesbrough forward Yanic Wildschut did the damage as he burst through an alarmingly soft centre of the Posh defence to open the scoring and, within four minutes, did something similar down the left flank to set up Reece James for a low strike that was deflected into the net by Will Grigg, most likely by accident.
Posh were all at sea at the back, but it would be wrong to blame the defence alone. Midfield runners were rarely tracked effectively and Wigan had the quality to take advantage. Grigg and Chris McCann came close to adding to Wigan’s lead before the break, while Posh ‘keeper Ben Alnwick needed to be alert to keep out Michael Jacobs’ free-kick in the early stages of the second half at a time when the visitors were bossing possession and territory.
A couple of positive substitutions from Westley helped change the flow as struggling defenders Ricardo Santos and Michael Smith were replaced by more attack-minded players. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough to rescue a point.
It’s 18 goals in the last three matches at the ABAX Stadium though and, after the low entertainment-level of early season, that’s to be applauded. Posh could have increased that tally last night if Gaby Zakuani had directed a couple of set-piece opportunites bedfore the break more accurately, if Washington had accepted scoring chances in both halves and if Lee Angol had not wasted one of Callum Elder’s fine crosses by poking the ball over the bar from eight yards.
Plenty then for Westley to be encouraged by and for him to work on ahead of the return of Posh’s most successful manager of all time this weekend (October 24).
Posh: Ben Alnwick, Michael Smith (sub Souleymane Coulibaly, 79 mins), Callum Elder, Ricardo Almeida Santos (sub Jermaine Anderson, 60 mins), Michael Bostwick, Erhun Oztumer (sub Kyle Vassell, 86 mins), Chris Forrester, Jon Taylor, Conor Washington, Lee Angol. Unused substitutes: Dion-Curtis Henry,Andrew Fox, Harry Anderson, Jack Collison.
Wigan: Jussi Jaaskelainen, Reece James, Leon Barnett, Donervon Daniels. Craig Morgan, Max Power, David Perkins, Chris McCann, Michael Jacobs (sub Tim Chow, 67 mins), Yanic Wildschut (sub, Craig Davies, 76 mins), Will Grigg (sub Grant Holt, 62 mins). Unused substitutes: Richard O’Donnell, Don Cowie, Donald Lowe, Jordy Hiwula.
Goals: Posh - Oztumer (61 mins), Coulibaly (82 mins).
Wigan - Wildschut (11 mins), Grigg (15 mins), Power (83 mins).
Cautions: Posh - Forrester (foul), Bostwick (foul), Coulibaly (taking shirt off), J. Anderson (foul), Vassell (foul).
Wigan - McCann (foul)
Referee: Oliver Langford 5
Attendance: 4,765 (260 Wigan).