An Ivan Toney goal in the second half was enough to earn Peterborough United all three points at the Kassam Stadium this afternoon. In the tightest of games a precise finish from Toney was enough to push Peterborough back towards the play-offs while ending United's five game unbeaten run.
United, kicking towards the fence end in the first half, were fortunate to see a Jason Naismith blast come back off the post in the fourth minute as the visitors started strongly, forcing two early corners and pushing the U’s back but then the Yellows started to grow in to the game and went close after 10 minutes when a fine passing move ended with the influential Cameron Brannagan firing inches wide from the edge of the box.
United have pace up front and Jerome Sinclair, preferred to Jamie Mackie up front, stretched the game down the middle forcing Peterborough’s back line a couple of yards deeper and allowing James Henry some space to work in between the defensive lines, while Gavin Whyte was a thorn in the Posh side all afternoon down the right. Henry fired a free kick into the wall and shouldered a header goalwards on 27 but neither keeper truly had a save to make in the first half hour despite some neat approach play from both teams
The game then opened up for fifteen minutes with the dangerous Toney wasting Posh’s best chance of the first half by heading meekly wide when unmarked after 38 minutes and Ruffels fluffing his lines by volleying over on 44. Brannagan drew a good save from Conor O’Malley with a powerful effort on 45 and the balance of play had been with United in the opening, goalless, period.
Peterborough had a George Cooper free kick go wide in the opening exchanges of the second half but the game got bogged down on a difficult worn playing surface and when Whyte fizzed a cross towards Henry on 59 minutes it bobbled over the top scorer's boot when the goal appeared to be at his mercy.
The ever-eager Jamie Hanson tested O'Malley's handling with a low drive on 62 and Jordan Graham's trickery was a constant outlet on the left but there still weren't too many clear cut chances and Jamie Mackie and Marcus Browne were thrown on for the last 20 minutes to try and crack a particularly determined Peterborough back line.
The threat all game came from the creativity of Marcus Maddison and the power of Toney and on 76 it was that combination that decided the match. Awarded a free kick on the right, Maddison fooled everyone by looking towards the back post but then sliding the ball down the right channel instead for the unmarked Toney. From an acute angle Toney took precise aim and fired across Eastwood to win the game with his 19th goal of the season.
A touch harsh on United, who had matched their promotion-chasing visitors for most of the game and now had to scramble to try and salvage even a point, not helped by playing the last few minutes a man light after Whyte took a blow to the head when bravely closing down a defender.
That didn't dampen the enthusiasm or stop United giving it their all in pursuit of an equaliser - even Eastwood went up for a last-minute corner - but the Posh had just a little bit too much for them and a first home defeat of 2019 ended with the U's dropping a place into the relegation zone. They undoubtedly have the ability to get themselves out of trouble and have had a tricky run of games that have seen them face four of the top seven at home in recent weeks, but the time for promise is gone. Time to start delivering.
Report by Chris Williams. Pictures by Steve Daniels, stats by OPTA