Peterborough United reach the automatic promotion places after a performance full of quality and then grit

Ephron Mason-Clark of Peterborough United in action with Josh Vela of Fleetwood Town. Photo: Joe Dent/theposh.comEphron Mason-Clark of Peterborough United in action with Josh Vela of Fleetwood Town. Photo: Joe Dent/
Ephron Mason-Clark of Peterborough United in action with Josh Vela of Fleetwood Town. Photo: Joe Dent/
Peterborough United jumped up to second place in League One after a game they should have won 6-0 and yet almost ended up drawing at Fleetwood Town on Saturday.

Remarkably give the mismatch we witnessed, in pure football terms at least, it took a deflected strike from Archie Collins and a brilliant save from goalkeeper Nicholas Bilokapic to secure a 1-0 win.

That was a real head scratcher as Posh should have been out of sight in the first quarter. They certainly shouldn’t have relied on some resolute defending in the final quarter to preserve the three points.

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In-form Posh predictably named an unchanged side as they prepared to continue their charge towards the play-off places. Even the bench was the same as the week before.

Out-of-form Fleetwood made three changes as they sought to arrest an horrific run of form which had yielded five straight defeats and no goals scored in over eight hours of football.

Manager Lee Johnson paired former Posh favourite Jack Marriott with powerful centre-forward Jayden Stockley in a his bid to steer the Cod Army out of the relegation zone. Former Posh midfielder Ryan Broom also started for the hosts.

And for the opening 10 minutes this looked like a top v bottom clash as Posh ripped Fleetwood apart with the speed and quality of their attacking play. They could easily have been 4-0 up before the home side had seen any possession, but instead Posh relied on a huge deflection four minutes before the break for their advantage.

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Ricky-Jade Jones missed a second minute sitter after excellence from Kwame Poku and Peter Kioso, and on five minutes Hector Kyprianou headed an Ephron Mason-Clark cross against a post – he probably should have scored.

Within 60 seconds a Joel Randall shot from 20 yards deflected onto the roof of the net and two minutes after that Fleetwood ‘keeper Jay Lynch was forced to beat away a Poku shot with Mason-Clark’s follow-up well blocked.

There was a full five minutes before the next opportunity arrived with Mason-Clark teeing up Randall on the edge of the penalty area, but he shot inexplicably wide when under very little pressure.

Mason-Clark, who was rampant down the left wing, was next to try his luck, but Lynch flung himself to his right to save on 25 minutes and after Jones had shot straight at Lynch after a fine Poku pass, Fleetwood started to believe this could be their day.

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Marriott saw two shots blocked by Josh Knight and Ben Heneghan headed a free kick over from eight yards after one of many soft decisions that went against Posh, but Darren Ferguson’s men then broke away to gain a lead they deserved.

The build-up down the left was initially quick before Mason-Clark fed Collins 25 yards from goal. He decided to try his luck and fortune certainly favoured him as a wicked bounce off home midfielder Josh Vela took the ball swerving into the bottom corner.

Posh started the second half as they started the first by completely dominating the ball without managing to find a finish.

To be fair to Jones he was denied a goal by a quite brilliant save from Lynch on 52 minutes.

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It came from a Posh break with Poku showing great control before setting Randall away. His left-footed cross was perfect and Jones arrived at pace to head home. His connection was good, but Lynch somehow clawed the ball to safety with one hand.

Other crossing opportunities came and went before it was Posh ‘keeper Bilokapic’s chance to shine. Substitute Maleace Asamoah had only replaced the ineffective Broom a couple of minutes earlier when he unleashed a curler towards the top corner, but the Aussie stretched his lengthy arm to make a great save and tip over the bar.

It led to the first corner of the game for the home side and Posh had to scramble it clear.

The extreme pace of Jones almost led to a second Posh goal, but Lynch grabbed the ball at the second attempt.

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Marriott left the scene with 11 minutes to go and Bilokapic had to be quick off his line to thwart his replacement Cian Hayes after a knockdown from a set piece.

The scene was now set for a frantic finish and Fleetwood provided it by going long and direct to win a few set pieces.

Their chance of a first goal arrived in added time when a delightful left wing cross found Heneghan six yards from goal, but Bilokapic stood firm to save.

An equaliser would have been a travesty, but this Posh side, for all their brilliant football, like to make life difficult for themselves away from home.

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Posh: Nicholas Bilokapic, Harrison Burrows, Ronnie Edwards, Josh Knight, Peter Kioso, Hector Kyprianou, Archie Collins, Ephron Mason-Clark, Joel Randall (sub Ryan De Havilland, 84 mins), Kwame Poku (sub David Ajiboye, 89 mins), Ricky-Jade Jones (sub Malik Mothersille, 89 mins).

Unused subs: Fynn Talley, Jadel Katongo, Romoney Crichlow, Jonson Clarke-Harris.

Fleetwood: Jay Lynch, Carl Johnston, Brandon Wiredu, Bosun Lawal, Josh Vela (sub Callum Dolan, 70 mins), Ben Heneghan, Josh Earl, Phoenix Patterson, Ryan Broom (sub Maleace Asamoah, 60 mins), Jack Marriott (sub Cian Hayes, 79 mins), Jayden Stockley.

Unused subs: Stephen McMullan, Harrison Holgate, Connor Teale, Finlay Armstrong,

Goal: Posh – Collins (42 mins).

Cautions: Fleetwood – Vela (foul), Lawal (foul).

Referee: Will Finnie.

Attendance: 2,973 (311 Posh).