PETERBOROUGH UNITED 3, LINCOLN CITY 3: What a game and what a season! Posh are back in the Championship after an incredible comeback against Lincoln City
Peterborough United are celebrating promotion from League One after a miracle comeback against Lincoln City at the Weston Homes Stadium today (May 1).
Posh were 3-0 down with 25 minutes to go against the only team who could deny them a Championship place, but fought back incredibly with top scorer Jonson Clarke-Harris grabbing a point and promotion from the penalty spot in the 96th minute.
It looked a terrible decision from otherwise impressive referee John Busby after Sammie Szmodics went down under Anthony Scully’s challenge, but frankly, apart from the visitors, who cared? Certainly no-one in the Posh camp once Clarke-Harris had smashed home the spotkick to claim his 31st goal of the League One season and complete a 3-3 draw.
Clarke-Harris also scored with a deflected free kick 15 minutes from time after Siriki Dembele had started the comeback with a neat near post finish.
How unlikely it all looked when a slick Lincoln side took advantage of some sloppy defending to score twice in the final 15 minutes of the first half through Scully and a Jorge Grant penalty.
And when Scully added a superb third goal on 53 minutes it looked like promotion would be settled on the final day of the season, particularly as star Posh midfielder Jack Taylor limped off soon afterwards.
Both sides missed big chances with Tom Hooper’s awful spoon over the bar at 3-1 proving the most crucial.
As expected midfielder Reece Brown returned to the starting line-up, but Posh did revert to wing-backs, a system they employed with some success at Sincil Bank in January.
Kick-off was accompanied by songs of support by the Posh fans outside the stadium, but the visitors made the better start with a fumble from goalkeeper Josef Bursik from a Morgan Rogers cross requiring a goalline clearance from Frankie Kent.
Rogers then tested Bursik from distance before Posh settled into the game. Half chances came and went with Dan Butler and Jonson Clarke-Harris teeing up shots in quick succession for Szmodics and Dembele, the first was struck straight at Imps ‘keeper Alex Palmer and the second well blocked by a defender.
Posh manager Darren Ferguson predicted a cagey affair and Lincoln were happy to let their hosts have the ball and then pounce on the break.
And in the 32nd minute the nightmare started for Posh. Nathan Thompson lost the ball high up the pitch and although former Posh winger Harry Anderson was pushed wide by a Rogers pass Mark Beevers didn’t do enough to stop a cross that reached Scully completely unmarked inside the six yard box. He didn’t miss.
Clarke-Harris headed wide from a Beevers cross, but then on the stroke of half-time disaster struck again.
There appeared little danger with Thompson shepherding a ball away from the area, but once his trademark flop to win a free kick failed, Rogers took possession and Thompson compounded his error by fouling the on-loan Manchester City for an obvious penalty. Grant missed a spot-kick against Posh earlier this season, but this one he planted into the corner.
It left Posh with a mountain to climb and they should have started that ascent within two minutes of the re-start but Clarke-Harris missed the target with his head from two yards out following Joe Ward’s free kick.
And it looked a key moment when Scully curled home a beauty from 20 yards after some fine passing.
Rogers missed an immediate chance to make it 4-0 before substitute Ethan Hamilton’s surging run and a precise cross from the excellent Dan Butler enabled Dembele to flick home in the 65th minute.
It seemed like a mere consolation as the visitors still looked comfortable on the ball and threatening on the break.
Rogers was soon steaming through the Posh defence to tee up Hooper for his forgettable moment.
And 15 minutes from time Clarke-Harris ensured a nervy finale with a 25-yard free kick which took a huge deflection on its way to the back of the net.
Clarke-Harris then headed a corner against the crossbar from a Butler corner, but when Frankie Kent headed wide from another set-piece the game looked up.
But one final thrust into the penalty area, a generous decision and Clarke-Harris’s trusty left boot ruined that theory.
Fireworks were promptly let off outside the ground, but on this occasion they were welcome.
What a game. What a season. What a team.
Posh: Josef Bursik, Dan Butler, Frankie Kent, Mark Beevers, Nathan Thompson, Reece Brown (sub Mo Eisa 90 mins), Jack Taylor (sub Ethan Hamilton, 61 mins), Joe Ward, Siriki Dembele, Sammie Szmodics, Jonson Clarke-Harris
Unused substitutes: Dan Gyollai, Louis Reed, Harrison Burrows, Ricky-Jade Jones, Niall Mason.
Lincoln: Alex Palmer, Regan Poole, Lewis Montsma, Tim Eyoma, Cohen Brammall, Liam Bridcutt (sub McGrandles, 63 mins), Jorge Grant, Anthony Scully, Harry Anderson (Tayo Edun, 87 mins), Morgan Rogers, Tom Hopper (sub Callum Morton, 80 mins).
Unused subs: Sam Long, Max Sanders, Jamie Jones, Remy Howarth.
Goals: Posh - Dembele (65 mins), Clarke-Harris (75 mins & 90 + 6 mins).
Lincoln - Scully (32 mins & 55 mins), Grant (pen, 45 + 1 min).
Posh - Taylor (foul).
Lincoln - Bridcutt (foul).
Refereree: John Busby 7.