Peterborough United blow the League One play-off race wide open after superb second-half performance against Derby County

Posh celebrate their second goal v Derby. Photo: David Lowndes.Posh celebrate their second goal v Derby. Photo: David Lowndes.
Posh celebrate their second goal v Derby. Photo: David Lowndes.
Peterborough United blew the League One play-off race wide open after a superb second-half display against Derby County at the Weston Homes Stadium on Saturday.

Posh were perhaps fortunate to be level at the break after a poor 45 minutes, but came alive in the second-half to win the game 2-0 with goals from Ephron Mason-Clark. and a first for the club from Nathanael Ogbeta.

It was a real Jekyll and Hyde display from Posh who nonetheless responded well to some mid-match tactical changes from manager Darren Ferguson.

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The upshot is the gap between Posh and the play-off places is now a point and a team with three wins in a row should now be carrying plenty of confidence forward.

Posh stiker Jonson Clarke-Harris attacks a header in the game against Derby. Photo: David Lowndes.Posh stiker Jonson Clarke-Harris attacks a header in the game against Derby. Photo: David Lowndes.
Posh stiker Jonson Clarke-Harris attacks a header in the game against Derby. Photo: David Lowndes.

This was a bigger game for Posh than Derby. Defeat would have been near-fatal for Posh hopes of play-off action, but a loss for the Rams now adds pressure and nerves to a team who play promotion-chasing Ipswich Town next time out.

As expected Posh made just one change to a winning side with Josh Knight replacing Ronnie Edwards in a central defensive position. Edwards is on international duty with England.

Ricky-Jade Jones and Dan Butler returned to the substitutes bench with Joel Randall dropping out of the matchday squad.

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Derby reacted to their shock home reverse at the hands of Fleetwood by making four changes. Former Posh winger Nathaniel Mendez-Laing retained his place.

And Posh didn’t turn up in the first-half. Derby’s press was organised and effective and when Posh did win some possession they couldn’t keep hold of the ball.

A strong wind caused issues, but giving the ball away in bad areas, not tracking runners and passing the ball slowly and inaccurately were greater concerns. Posh boss Darren Ferguson was so irritated he changed formation to a back three after half an hour.

Derby bossed the ball for almost the entire first half, but suffered from some inaccuracy themselves. Mendez-Laing was a problem down the Derby right, but his crossing didn’t match his ball-carrying skills.

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But for all their dominance Derby created just one big chance. Actually Posh created it when Knight lost possession by the touchline. Moments later Conor Hourihane was through on goal. The angle wasn’t great, but he had teammates crying out for a pass and then complaining when a shot was kicked away by Posh ‘keeper Will Norris.

Posh offered nothing apart from a cross from Harrison Burrows that Jonson Clarke-Harris couldn’t quite reach.

Ferguson reacted again at the break by making two substitutions as Dan Butler replaced Knight to slot in as the left-sided centre-back and Kwame Poku made an appearance as a straight swap for Burrows.

And Posh almost responded with a goal within four minutes. A strong run forward from Jack Taylor was followed by some impressive physicality from Mason-Clark. The ball came back to Taylor who curled wide of a post.

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Sixty seconds later Norris was flying through the air to keep out a fine 20-yard strike from Spurs loanee Harvey White.

But then Posh struck. Again Taylor was the driver through midfield and this time Ephron-Clark accepted the pass and fired hard past Derby ‘keeper Joe Wildsmith at his near post.

Ogbeta, who had been pushed into a much more advanced position, saw a 30 yarder tipped over by Wildsmith and a mishit Poku shot almost created a goal for Clarke-Harris, but Wildsmith was bravely out to smother.

Derby still carried a threat. A surging Lewis Dobbin run ended with a clip over the bar. Substitute Tom Barkhuizen headed wide, but this was a different Posh side now and they were overpowering a suspect defence.

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The order had clearly been given to play the ball forward and rewards were reaped. From a corner, Posh didn’t win a single one in the first-half, Taylor’s shot was superbly tipped onto the bar by Wildsmith.

But eight minutes from time victory was confirmed. Nuisance value from Clarke-Harris and Mason-Clark saw the ball into Poku’s feet. He really should have squared to Ogbeta, but Wildsmith saved his shot into the on-loan defender’s path for a simple tap-in.

Posh: Will Norris, Nathan Thompson, Nathanael Ogbeta, Frankie Kent, Josh Knight (sub Dan Butler, 46 mins), Oliver Norburn, Jack Taylor, Harrison Burrows (sub Kwame Poku, 46 mins), Joe Ward (sub Ben Thompson, 85 mins), Jonson Clarke-Harris, Ephron Mason-Clark (sub Ricky-Jade Jones, 85 mins). .

Unused substitutes: Hector Kyprianou, Kabongo Tshimanga, Will Blackmore.

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Derby: Joe Wildsmith, Craig Forsyth, Haydon Roberts, Eiran Cashin, Harvey White, Max Bird (sub Louie Sibley, 78 mins), Conor Hourihane (sub James Collins, 73 mins), Nathaniel Mendez-Laing (sub Tom Barkhuizen, 66 mins), Korey Smith, Lewis Dobbin, David McGoldrick.

Unused substitutes: Luke McGee, Tony Springett, Curtis Davis, Jake Rooney.

Goals: Posh – Mason-Clark (52 mins), Ogbeta (83 mins).

Cautions: Posh – Kent (foul), Taylor (unsportsmanlike conduct), B. Thompson (time wasting).

Derby – White (unsportsmanlike conduct).

Referee: Carl Brook 8.

Attendance: 12,060 (approx 3,800 Derby).