Peterborough United 1 Oxford United 2
Oxford United's magnificent away form continued as Phil Edwards and Conor McAleny sealed another three points at Peterborough this afternoon. After two defeats in a week, Michael Appleton asked for a positive response from his side and they reacted superbly to keep their play-off dreams alive with an important 2-1 win after Craig Mackail-Smith netted a late consolation for ten-man Posh.
Mind you, it has become customary for Simon Eastwood to make at least one worldy during the 90 minutes and this time he got it out of the way nice and early with a flying save to keep a Leonardo Da Silva Lopes effort out after nine minutes, Edwards helping him out with a follow up clearance to deny the Posh an early opener. Centre-halves Curtis Nelson and Chey Dunkley also made two vital challenges to help Eastwood out in the first 15 minutes, laying the foundations for another battling defensive performance..
United then came into their own. The first chance came after 20 minutes when Rob Hall’s superb first touch took him behind the home defence only for a sliding defender to cut out the pull back as McAleny homed in. McAleny then had a 23rd-minute blast smothered away by former United trialist Ryan Tafazolli but from the resulting corner Hall’s ball in was smashed home by the forehead of Edwards from eight yards out. For a right-back, Edwards is a very dangerous forward…
Hall and Maguire, nominally the wide men, were creating chaos whenever they drifted inside and Hall drilled another effort wide on 26 as United threatened a second. It remained agonizingly close. Kane Hemmings was a stud’s length away from turning in a Marvin Johnson cross on 29 minutes, McAleny was denied by an outstanding save by Luke McGee on 36 and McAleny and Hall threw themselves at a Maguire cross a minute later that fizzed between both of them and the gaping net.
Peterborough were rattled and should have been 2-0 down in the first two minutes of the second half. McGee made an excellent save to push a curling Ledson effort round the post and then Nelson’s header was hacked off the line as the Posh tried to hang on.
Captain Chris Forrester blasted a 50th-minute effort at goal from 25 yards that Eastwood somehow just about brushed over the top at full stretch but otherwise the home side were having to firefight as United kept pouring forward, with Ledson and Lundstram running the midfield. Johnson and Edwards had low efforts blocked, a McAleny shot fell kindly for the boys in blue and it was as comfortable as you can ever be at 1-0 up.
All that was needed was a second and on 71 it almost inevitably came along. Hemmings, non-stop all afternoon, burst clear down the left with men streaming up to his right he, wisely, chose the magnificent Maguire who carried on the momentum before squaring a perfect pass to McAleny who made the finish look easy, as good players tend to do.
With nothing to lose, the Posh threw caution to the wind and set up a bandstand finish. Andrew Hughes rattled the bar with a header from one corner before Michael Bostwick headed a mirror image wide of the opposite post. Eastwood tipped a Taylor effort round the post after 78 minutes and Peterborough had tried their luck plenty of times from long range or set pieces but otherwise found United's defence in typical mean mood.
Posh were reduced to ten men on 85 when Lopes lopped Maguire over to earn a second yellow card, accompanied away from the action by plenty of home fans who headed for the exit, believing that the game was gone. Those fans missed Craig Mackail-Smith's 100th goal for the club when he sent a 92nd-minute shot across Eastwood, but it was too little, too late by then.
The away fans, meanwhile, were loving their return to London Road. A terrific team performance, front to back. The final push for the play-offs starts here....
Report by Chris Williams, pictures Darrell Fisher, stats by OPTA
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