Posh forced to work hard for victory , but they remain on the up in League One

Action from Posh v Exeter. Photo: David Lowndes.Action from Posh v Exeter. Photo: David Lowndes.
Action from Posh v Exeter. Photo: David Lowndes.
Peterborough United have jumped up to fifth in League One after a hard fought 3-1 win over Exeter City at the Weston Homes Stadium on Easter Monday.

Posh cruised through an uncompetitive first half to take a 2-0 lead into the break thanks to an own goal and a terrific finish from Ephron Mason-Clark.

But Exeter replied early in the second-half and enjoyed plenty of possession, helped by a strong wind at their backs, before Jonson Clarke-Harris settled a few nerves with a goal 20 minutes from time.

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And a good day became a great one as Bolton Wanderers and Derby County dropped points at home. Posh had reason to thank local rivals Cambridge United and MK Dons for staging second-half comebacks. Posh visit Cambridge next Saturday.

Posh predictably named the same starting line-up and substitutes following their victory stroll at Shrewsbury on Good Friday. They were expecting a much tougher game against a mid-table side enjoying a fine season following promotion from League Two.

That didn’t really materialise in the first-half. Posh grabbed control of the game in the early stages and generally kept hold of it. They were patient and probing rather than decisive though and needed a slice of good fortune to claim an early lead.

One visiting centre-back had already sliced a Joe Ward cross over his own bar when a Kwame Poku centre from the right wing was miskicked into his own net by Alex Hartridge.

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Exeter did enjoy a brief spell of dominance midway through the first-half when Ronnie Edwards was required to block a shot from tricky Josh Key, but Posh, with the elements in their favour, were soon back on top.

Jack Taylor saw a 20-yard shot deflected wide after some neat passing, and a fine pass from Nathan Thompson to Ward looked set to lead to a second-goal, but, with Clarke-Harris waiting to pounce, his cross was intercepted.

Clarke-Harris then shot wide with a first-time shot from outside the area after some more intricate passing and at that time Posh led without having had a shot on target.

That changed four minutes before the break when Oliver Norburn’s delightful chip forward was expertly controlled by Mason-Clark who then delivered a precise lob over Exeter goalkeeper Jamal Blackman and into the net.

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Exeter made a second substitution at the break and within two minutes replacement Rekeem Harper had scored after some sloppy, casual defending and a poor piece of goalkeeping from Will Norris. Harper was given too much time to volley goalwards, but the shot was straight at the Posh ‘keeper who somehow diverted it behind him and into the corner of the net. It was a sad way to concede your first goal for four and a half games.

And it was almost 2-2 on 52 minutes when a deep cross from the right was headed against a post by first-half substitute Jack Sparkes.

Posh were suddenly being pressed and they weren’t enjoying it. A deep free kick was converted at the far post by Pierce Sweeney just past the hour mark, but only after a shove in the back according to referee Charles Breakspear.

Impressive centre forward Sam Nombe then glanced a header wide from a corner as Posh continued to rock.

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Posh switched formations to three centre-backs to try and stem the flow with 20 minutes to go and were rewarded instantly.

They managed to get possession and keep it for once. They won a couple of free kicks and when the ball was switched wide to Nathanel Ogbeta the chance came and fell to the right man.

Sweeney headed a whipped cross towards his own goal. Blackman blocked it, but the ball fell kindly for Clarke-Harris who forced the ball home.

The wind picked up further in the last quarter of an hour making it hard for Posh to get out of their own half, but they defended stoutly, forcing the hosts to take pot shots from distance, none of which troubled Norris.

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It’s five wins in six unbeaten games now, decent stats to take into the last five games of the season and particularly to Cambridge next Saturday, a team enjoying a resurgence themselves in their battle against relegation.

Posh: Will Norris, Nathanael Ogbeta, Frankie Kent, Ronnie Edwards, Nathan Thompson, Jack Taylor, Oliver Norburn (sub Hector Kyprianou. 76 mins), Ephron Mason-Clark (sub Ricky-Jade Jones 85 mins), Kwame Poku (sub Josh Knight, 85 mins), Joe Ward, Jonson Clarke-Harris.

Subs: Will Blackmore, Dan Butler, Harrison Burrows, Kabongo Tshimanga.

Exeter: Jamal Blackman, Josh Key, Pierce Sweeney, Will Aimson, Alex Hartridge (sub Jonathan Grounds, 78 mins), Jack Caprice (sub Demetri Mitchell, 59 mins), Kevin McDonald (sub Jack Sparkes, 29 mins), Harry Kite (sub Rakeem Harper, 46 mins), Archie Collins, Sony Cox (sub James Scott, 78 mins), Sam Nombe.

Unused subs: Harry Lee, Pedro Borges,

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Goals: Posh – Hartridge (og, 9 mins), Mason-Clark (41 mins), Clarke-Harris (71 mins),

Exeter – Harper (47mins).

Cautions: Posh – Clarke-Harris (delaying the restart), Kyprianou (foul).

Exeter – Kite (foul), Caldwell (manager, dissent), Harper (foul).

Referee: Charles Breakspear 7.

Attendance: 8,261 (Exeter to follow).