Stuff Stamford Bridge, ignore the Etihad, the real shock of January 24 was Peterborough United winning a game
This Posh team would struggle to have beaten an egg for most of the last three months so any victory can justifiably be described as seismic, even one at Notts County, the happiest of hunting grounds for most of the past 12 years.
Luck played a small part as Marcus Maddison’s opening goal was skilfully created, yet deflected into the Notts County net, but Posh were worthy winners against a team whose athleticism is far more impressive than their technical ability. Posh were far from great, but they played with spirit, within a sensible formation, and with heart. For a team with one win in their 12 previous matches that will do for now.
Presumably over 1,300 Posh fans travelled home with smiles on their faces. Hell, even manager Darren Ferguson’s permanently down-turned mouth almost broke into a grimace, probably because he finally gave evidence at a post-match press conference when his own immediate future wasn’t the burning question of the day.
In fact his position didn’t even warrant a mention. Instead Ferguson was allowed to revel in his team’s character and the excellence of midfielder Harry Beautyman, the man singled out by the manager for special praise.
Beautyman played well - he irritated County’s chief irritant Alan Smith which is worth a gold star in itself - as did three centre-backs, a goalkeeper and Conor Washington who delivered his best ‘mini-me’ impression of Craig Mackail-Smith. Hard work won this day - flowing football will hopefully make an appearance as Posh attempt to make the unlikeliest push for promotion.
One win every month will probably not achieve a play-off place and eight points from a possible 39 would normally make talk of going up laughably optimistic, but this is a strange (many would say rubbish) division this season and Posh are now just three points off a top six spot despite some quite awful results and performances.
In isolation this result means very little. The law of averages as well as excellent recent history at Meadow Lane was on Posh’s side today, but stringing two wins in a row together has been beyond them since the middle of October. Gary Johnson’s Yeovil, who also boast an away win at County this season, probably won’t be quaking in their boots when they arrive at The ABAX Stadium next Saturday (January 31).
For now though Ferguson should be allowed to wallow in his survival for another seven days at least. Just like the team, his own performance was much improved despite an interrupted preparation which involved a loan of a new defender whuch lasted all of one morning.
Central defender Shaun Brisley, who hadn’t started a Posh game since August 30, wasn’t supposed to play at County, but he was brought back into the line-up on Friday morning. If he felt annoyed that he’d originally been overlooked he didn’t show it, He played between Michael Bostwick and matchwinner Christian Burgess in a 3-5-2 formation and, apart from a 20-minute spell before the interval, they bossed a County forward line led by the imposing figure of Hungarian Balint Bajner, a 6ft 5in tower of variable talent.
They weren’t rock solid and on-loan Posh ‘keeper Scott Loach twice made terrific stops in one-on-one situations, in the first-half against Bajner and after the break when little Billy Daniels raced clear. Bajner did well to stay on his feet when riding a reckless challenge from Burgess which would have led to an obvious red card and a penalty had he tumbled. A game-defining moment as it turned out as Burgess, the fall guy in defeat in the previous game, turned out to be the hero here when his soft, but well-directed header, from a Joe Newell corner somehow crept by a defender on the goal-line and into the net off a post.
It was a good comeback fromn Burgess, In fact it was a decent comeback from most of the team. Ferguson gambled on recalling teenager Jermaine Anderson into central midfield and dropping his captain Jack Payne. He also re-inroduced Kyle Vassell to his attack for the first time since the end of November, although his input was less impressive, most notably when missing a close-range sitter which had been teed up superbly by Washington on the stroke of half-time.
It was 1-1 at the time as Maddison’s 25 yarder in the 13th minute was cancelled out when Garry Thompson smacked home his ninth goal of the campaign with a sumptous long-range volley after Newell had foolishly left him unmarked.
County finished the half so strongly regular Posh watchers probably feared the worst after the break, but an anticipated County surge never really materialised, Often they resorted to slinging crosses into the Posh penalty from deep positions and most were gobbled up by Bostwick and Brisley. Loach did have to get down well to keep out a Will Hayhurst free-kick, but Posh coped well defensively and usually passed the ball better than their hosts.
The much-maligned Anderson’s raking 50-yarder to Newell which led to the winning set-piece was a superb delivery - the teenager even galloped to the edge of the area to force County ‘keeper into a fine save at the end of the move.
Carroll also did well to divert a Bostwick header wide in the first-half following a Maddison free-kick.
All of this was viewed by Ferguson sitting in the directors’ box after he decided not to appeal against a two-game touchline ban for abusing a useless official. Referee Graham Scott was one of the best performers on the pitch today - another major shock worthy of a headline.
Posh: Scott Loach, Michael Bostwick, Shaun Brisley, Christian Burgess, Michael Smith, Joe Newell, Jermaine Anderson, Harry Beautyman, Marcus Maddison (sub Erhun Oztumer, 77 mins), Kyle Vassell (sub Luke James, 77 mins), Conor Washington (sub Aaron Mclean, 89 mins). Unused substitutes: Dion-Curtis Henry, Jack Payne, Kgosi Ntlhe, Harry Anderson.
Notts County: Roy Carroll, Hayden White, Hayden Mullins, Haydn Hollis, Blair Adams, Will Hayhurst, Alan Smith (sub Gary Jones, 46 mins), Curtis Thompson, Garry Thompson (sub Alefe Santos, 77 mins), Billy Daniels (sub Ronan Murray, 63 mins), Balint Bajner. Unused substitutes: Kevin Pilkington, Mustapah Dumbaya, Elliot Whitehouse, Jordan Cranston.
Goals: Posh - Maddison (13 mins), Burgess (62 mins).
County - G. Thompson (41 mins).
Cautions: Posh - Brisley (unsportsmanlike conduct), Burgess (foul), Smith (foul).
County - Smith (foul), Carroll (dissent).
Referee: Graham Scott 8
Attendance: 5,960 (1,323 Posh).