Ten man Oxford United were beaten 2-1 by Peterborough United at the Kassam Stadium this afternoon, but not without a fight.
Trailing to goals from Jack Taylor and Ephron Mason-Clark at the break, United hit back through Billy Bodin's first goal of the season but couldn't quite find an equaliser despite a heroic effort after Matty Taylor's red card.
As with so many games between the sides, there was drama for the entire 90 minutes.
Taylor and Bodin both tested windshields at the west end of the ground before Bodin had the ball in the net after four minutes, only to be denied by a late flag. However, a minute later the Posh were ahead when the lively Mason-Clark raced down the left and squared the ball for Taylor to slide home the opener past the exposed Simon Eastwood.
Eastwood then had to claw the ball away as it threatened to dip under his bar after ten minutes, and although United’s Taylor fired another effort over the bar after 20 minutes, the visitors were 2-0 up after half an hour when two weak challenges allowed the ball to reach Mason-Clark, who fired beyond the diving Eastwood to double the lead.
United almost hit back when a Bodin header hit the post and when a clipped Marcus Browne effort was deflected onto the roof of the net, but the fact remained that they hadn’t mustered a shot on target in the first half.
What they so desperately needed was an early goal in the second half and, six minutes in, it was Bodin who found the net, plunging forward to head into the bottom left corner beyond the dive of keeper Lucas Bergstrom.
Now the crowd had something to get behind and the revival was on, but only briefly. Tempers were rising and when Taylor challenged Ronnie Edwards on half way, the United striker reacted by pushing Edwards to ground. I stand to be corrected when people see replays, but it looked like a push to the collar bone, maybe a yellow card, but ref Andy Woolmer was summoned by assistant Ian Cooper and Taylor was heading disconsolately for the dressing room.
Oxford was a city of two Taylors, one a scorer the other sent off, and an angry home crowd now got right behind the ten men to try and inspire them to a second goal. Peterborough played it clever and took the sting out of the game where they could, but there was no questioning the commitment or determination of the Yellows as they threw everything that had at the visitors.
They thought they had scored when Marcus Browne let fly on 75 minutes, only for Edwards to stick out a lunging boot and somehow deflect it up and over the bar; a miraculous escape as the Posh soaked up non-stop pressure. That second goal just wouldn't come though, and as much as the red card played a huge part, a defeat is still a defeat.
Nothing wrong with the team spirit, effort or passion, but you can't give a good side like Peterborough a two-goal lead and expect too much out of the game.
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Report by Chris Williams, pictures Steve Daniels, Steve Edmunds and Rex Shutterstock