REPORT: Fleetwood Town 0, Peterborough United 1: It’s as you were at the top after stunning finishes all over League One
Top scorer Jonson-Clarke struck late as Posh picked up three valuable points on the road at Fleetwood.
And my word it was needed, to rescue an indifferent display and to ensure Posh didn’t lose their second spot in the division. Incredibly, promotion rivals Hull and Sunderland also claimed late winning goals to leave the top three as it was before kick off.
Posh will probably take that. They have emerged from a tricky away game unscathed and five of their last eight matches are at home, starting with the big one against Sunderland on Monday.
Posh did finish today’s game strongly after star men Jack Taylor and Siriki Dembele emerged from the bench and after a change of formation to three at the back.
Dembele’s swerving 25 yarder was well saved by Alex Cairns in the home goal and when the goalkeeper misjudged the flight of the corner Mark Beevers couldn’t control his header. Posh must have feared the worst from a fixture that has not delivered much good news in the past.
But in the 89th minute Clarke-Harris was tripped on the edge of the penalty area and he converted the free kick with question marks asked about Cairns’ positioning.
There was a surprise before the game as Taylor and Dembele were both named on the substitutes’ bench despite recovering from injury, although a 7-0 win in the previous outing would ordinarily demand the same starting line-up.
This was no ordinary situation though. There’s a strong argument for fielding the strongest possible line-up when you are nine matches from automatic promotion and facing far tougher opponents than last weekend.
Fleetwood included ex-Posh players Danny Andrew and Kyle Vassell in their starting line-up.
Posh started well. They pushed Joe Ward and Harrison Burrows high to exploit the space left by the home wing-backs and it almost paid dividends in the opening minutes.
A first minute Dan Butler corner caused problems and in the fifth minute Clarke-Harris had a great chance to repeat last week’s opening goal. Ward was again the provider, finding the Posh top scorer free six yards from goal, but instead of the composed finish from last week Clarke-Harris went for power and Cairns made a fine stop.
Clarke-Harris was close to converting a Burrows cross from the other flank midway through the half before Posh lost control of the match.
All of a sudden the Fleetwood wide players were more prominent. Christy Pym did well to gather one Ben Garner strike before the hosts missed two great chances to take the lead in the final five minutes of the half.
Garner poked the ball from close range straight at Pym and in the final minute of five minutes added on for a referee injury, Wes Burns volleyed high over the bar from six yards after Posh struggled to clear their lines.
Posh started the second-half well as Burrows saw a shot charged down, but again they couldn’t sustain possession or pressure and the cavalry in the shape of Taylor and Dembele arrived just past the hour mark.
Fleetwood were the first to threaten though with Pym having to beat away a Sam Finley strike from outside the area.
Andrew then fizzed a 20-yard free kick just wide before the left wing-back found space in the Posh area 15 minutes from time. His shot was true, but struck Nathan Thompson and crashed into the crossbar.
Posh switched to wing-backs late in the game and they gained control of the ball and late pressure finally paid off thanks to Clarke-Harris.
Dan Butler almost added some undeserved gloss on the scoreline with a thunderous last-minute strike which Cairns managed to divert behind.
Posh: Christy Pym, Dan Butler, Frankie Kent, Mark Beevers, Nathan Thompson, Reece Brown (sub Jack Taylor, 63 mins), Louis Reed (sub Ethan Hamilton, 90 mins), Joe Ward, Sammie Szmodics, Harrison Burrows (sub Siriki Dembele, 63 mins), Jonson Clarke-Harris.
Unused subs: Dan Gyollai, Mo Eisa, Niall Mason, Idris Kanu
Fleetwood: Alex Cairns, Danny Andrew, Callum Connolly, Jordan Rossiter (sub Barry McKay, 90 mins), Sam Finley (Harvey Saunders, 74 mins), Dan Batty, Ged Garner (sub Callum Camps, 74 mins), Harrison Holgate, James Hill, Wes Burns, Kyle Vassell
Unused subs: Joel Coleman, Janoi Donacien, Harrison Biggins, Ryan Rydel
Goals: Posh - Clarke-Harris (89 mins).
Fleetwood - Connolly (foul).
Referee: Ben Speedie 7 (sub Graham Salisbury, 43 mins 7),