Clearly Graham Westley’s Peterborough United will not die wondering.
The recently-appointed manager’s pre-Posh reputation for dull, unimaginative football laced with spoiling, time-wasting tactics were either a fallacy or Westley was force-fed his new club’s DNA when visiting chairman Darragh MacAnthony for his job interview.
This was breathless, frantic, and at times brilliantly entertaining, stuff at Vale Park. Well the second-half was once Westley had reacted to a rather insipid opening 45 minutes by throwing caution to the wind and replacing midfielder Jermaine Anderson with a third striker in Souleymane Coulibaly.
Westley probably didn’t factor the concession of two penalties into his thinking - Vale failed to convert either of them - and for 10 minutes of the second-half the home side, already a goal to the good, threatened to run riot as Posh adjusted to their gung-ho approach, but they eventually dug in and carved numerous scoring opportunities of their own.
It’s likely that such an outrageously positive approach will be punished on occasion - it could well happen when pre-season League One promotion favourites Wigan visit the ABAX Stadium on Tuesday (October 20) - but on this day fortune smiled on the brave and Posh left Vale Park with a welcome point.
Not that the man himself was entirely satisfied. “Some people will be happy with an away point,” Westley stated. “But me? I’m about winning football matches and so is this club.”
Post-match press conferences in an age when every word is instantly scrutinised by the football population are another thing Westley has improved since he arrived at Posh. He’s even meeting the media within five minutes of the final whistle contrary to another cautionary tale which preceded his appointment.
Ultimately this game will be remembered for three spot kicks awarded by Richard Clark, a referee who never threatened to convince with the accuracy of his decision-making. Vale’s Michael O’Connor and Sam Foley missed theirs, but Michael Bostwick thundered home his opportunity from 12 yards in typically thunderous fashion 10 minutes into the second-half. If the UK does ever scrap Trident, Bostwick’s dead-ball ferocity could be employed as the next deterrent.
Those penalty incidents enabled Posh goalkeeper Ben Alnwick to steal the family honours ahead of baby brother Jak Alnwick who guarded the vale goal. Both played extremely well, but Ben Alnwick’s superb one-handed save to keep out O’Connor’s penalty six minutes after the interval was worthy of a man-of-the-match award on its own.
Alnwick had rather unfortunately conceded the spot-kick seconds after flying through the air to keep out Colin Daniel’s long-range sizzler. The Posh number one was rather harshly adjudged to have fouled Vale’s tiny terror Enoch Andoh after chasing his save to the goal-line, a decision evened out a few minutes later when Coulibaly fell over under minimal contact when trying to retrieve his own mis-control of Conor Washington’s pass.
The third penalty was rather more conclusive five minutes from time when Posh centre-back Gaby Zakuani wrestled impressive Vale striker Uche Ikpeazu to the ground. Foley’s spot-kick struck the bar, and then Alnwick’s head before dribbling behind for a corner.
It was a relief for Zakuani who, alongside Ricardo Santos, had tried manfully to defuse the threat of the strapping Ikpeazu. When Posh employ all-out-attacking tactics it’s vital the back four and Bostwick in front of them remain rock solid and alert. They did in the main here after Andoh had profitted from Bostwick’s failure to track Byron Moore into the penalty area four minutes before the break and Oztumer-sized Andoh had beaten Alnwick to a near post cross to give Vale a lead they deserved.
Alnwick saved well with his legs from Ikpeazu before the goal and thrillingly at full stretch from Carl Dickenson just after it. Alnwick also performed well to keep Andoh out after the break when Vale also muffed several great crossing opportunities created by bright and athletic football.
But it wasn’t all one-way traffic. Jon Taylor and Lee Angol - the latter after a fine through ball from Michael Smith - both tested the younger Alnwick and, after the equaliser, Posh had three golden chances to get in front themselves, two of them in the same incident.
Taylor created them both midway through the half, first by squaring perfectly for Angol whose first-time sidefoot was saved by the goalkeeper’s feet (before Washington’s follow-up attempt was blocked superbly by a defender), and then with a cross that located Coulibaly completely unattended eight yards from goal, but his header was weak and tipped away from danger by Alnwick.
The game then settled down into basketball mode with both sides attacking and both sides threatening, but neither side managing a breakthrough.
Posh fans were undoubtedly the happier about that, especially as star forward Marcus Maddison was an absentee with a sore ankle.
Westley had suggested before the game that the wide Vale Park pitch would suit his side’s expansive style of football, but the midfield diamond formation leaves space out wide which the home side often threatened to exploit.
It was a rare managerial misjudgement.
Posh: Ben Alnwick, Michael Smith, Callum Elder, Gaby Zakuani, Ricardo Almeida Santos, Michael Bostwick, Jermaine Anderson (sub Souleymane Coulibaly, 46 mins), Jon Taylor, Chris Forrester, Conor Washington (sub Harry Anderson, 64 mins), Lee Angol (sub Kyle Vassell, 84 mins): Unused substitutes: Dion-Curtis Henry, Leo Da Silva Lopes, Jack Collison, Andrew Fox.
Port Vale: Jak Alnwick, Ben Purkiss, Carl Dickinson, Remie Streete, Richard Duffy, Enoch Andoh, Michael O’Connor (sub Ryan Lloyd, 82 mins), Sam Foley, Byron Moore (sub Chris Birchall, 66 mins), Colin Daniel (sub Louis Dodds, 71 mins), Uche Ikpeazu. Unused substitutes: Sam Johnson, Ryan McGivern, Sam Kelly, AJay Leitch-Smith.
Goals: Posh - Bostwick (pen, 55 mins).
Vale - Andoh (41 mins).
Cautions: Posh - Smith (foul).
Vale - Duffy (foul).
Referee: Richard Clark 5
Attendance: 4,864 (454 Posh).