Peterborough United stun Portsmouth in five goal thriller to keep play-off hopes alive going into final match
Peterborough United claimed a stunning victory at Fratton Park tonight to keep their League One play off hopes alive (April 30).
Posh ended Portsmouth’s automatic promotion hopes with a superb 3-2 win thanks to two goals from Ivan Toney and another from Lee Tomlin after a quite magnificent spectacle.
Posh now need to beat Burton Albion at home on the final day of the season (May 4) and hope Doncaster don’t beat Coventry at the Keepmoat Stadium.
Posh survived intense pressure to lead 2-0 after 27 minutes, but looked vulnerable when Pompey drew level with still half an hour to play.
But it was Posh who claimed the winning goal through Toney 15 minutes from time to set up a tense final day and help seal promotion for top two Luton and Barnsley.
Uniquely, possibly, the hopes of four clubs rested on this match.
Confusing for those keeping tabs on all outcomes, but for Posh the equation was clear and simple. They had to win or start preparations for a seventh straight season in the third tier.
It wasn’t ideal then that striker Matt Godden was absent because of illness, while midfielders Louis Reed and George Cooper were both missing because of injury.
Manager Darren Ferguson made five changes - in truth it could have been many more judged on Saturday’s wretched display at Walsall - with centre-backs Ryan Tafazolli and Ben White recalled, as were Tomlin Joe Ward and Toney. Josh Knight moved into midfield to partner captain Alex Woodyard and delivered one of several outstanding individual displays.
Siriki Dembele was left on the substitutes’ bench, while Pompey, who had won seven of their last eight League One matches, were unchanged from their bruising draw at Sunderland over the weekend.
James Vaughan was playing up front, a name to provoke shudders among Posh fans after a four-goal spree in 20 minutes against Grant McCann’s side a couple of years ago.
And with both sides needing to win it shouldn’t have been a surprise to witness a breathless first-half.
Pompey started like the proverbial train with right winger Jamal Lowe prominent.
Brett Pitman poked a shot wide from a left wing cross in the second-minute and, roared on by a raucous home crowd, Ronan Curtis saw two shots blocked, once by teammate Lowe.
But just when Posh fans - and those of Barnsley and Luton - were fearing the worst Posh scored from their first attack in the 13th minute.
Knight started it with a terrific through ball to Marcus Maddison who had drifted beyond his marker down the right flank. Maddison beat one defender and crossed perfectly for Tomlin to strike first time into the corner.
The goal rocked Pompey who were unsettled again when Jason Naismith went past left-back Lee Brown before squaring for Toney whose first time shot was deflected and saved.
White then produced a fine block to thwart Vaughan before Posh scored again after home centre-back Matt Clarke had needlessly conceded a corner. Maddison floated it perfectly for an Toney to head powerfully home in the 27th minute.
Pompey responded strongly, they had to really, but the goal they certainly deserved arrived courtesy of a double dose of good fortune as Pitman made a right hash of his shot at goal, but the ball ran kindly to Ben Close who mishit a shot into the ground and into the net.
Posh had six minutes to survive to the break and they almost succumbed in the last of them as Lowe and Curtis led a breakaway which ended with Posh ‘keeper Aaron Chapman booting the latter’s shot to safety.
Although trailing, Pompey were causing so many problems they probably fancied their chances of a come-from-behind win.
They should have equalised in the 55th minute when substitute Viv Solomon Otabor pulled the goal back, but Naismith blocked Close’s shot and Tafazolli somehow stopped Lowe’s follow-up.
But Pompey didn’t have to wait long to equalise when a long free kick was poorly defended enabling former Posh defender Christian Burgess to take advantage of a lot of space to fire home.
It now looked long odds on a home win, but Tafazolli should have restored Posh’s lead when he headed a Maddison free-kick against the bar from around a yard out.
At the other end Pompey missed a glorious chance to get in front for the first time after a Maddison free kick shot at goal was charged down. It led to a three-on-one break which Solomon-Otabor ruined by running offside before Pitman had given him a simple tap-in pass.
And Posh made him pay within two minutes as Maddison’s long ball forward was chested down by Toney to Dembele. Toney took possession again and finished superbly in front of the 235 travelling fans.
That goal sucked the life out of Pompey. They still threw balls into the penalty area, but they created nothing else.
Posh kept playing positively and there were superb celebrations at the final whistle by a team who took a lot of stick, most of it from the manager, at the weekend.
To be fair the home crowd also gave both sides a generous ovation after a pulsating contest.
osh: Aaron Chapman, Jason Naismith, Daniel Lafferty, Josh Knight, Ben White, Ryan Tafazolli, Alex Woodyard, Joe Ward (sub Siriki Dembele, 65 mins), Lee Tomlin, Marcus Maddison, Ivan Toney.
Unused substitutes: Conor O’Malley, Tyler Denton, Callum Cooke, Harrison Burrows, Mathew Stevens, Rhys Bennett.
Portsmouth: Craig MacGillivray, Nathan Thompson, Christian Burgess, Matt Clarke, Lee Brown, Tom Naylor, Ben Close, Jamal Lowe, Brett Pitman, Ronan Curtis (sub Viv Solomon-Otabor, 53 mins), James Vaughan (sub Oliver Hawkins, 46 mins).
Unused substitutes: Alex Bass, Anton Walker, Omar Bogle, Bryn Morris, Gareth Evans.
Goals: Posh - Tomlin (13 mins), Toney (27 mins & 75 mins).
Pompey - Close (39 mins), Burgess (59 mins).
Cautions: Posh - Tomlin (dissent), Ward (foul), Woodyard (foul), Maddison (unsportsmanlike conduct).
Pompey - Brown (unsportsmanlike conduct), Lowe (foul).
Referee: Dean Whitestone 8.
Attendance: 18,235 (235 Posh).