REPORT: Peterborough United 1, Plymouth Argyle 0: Clarke-Harris strikes as Posh bounce back to winning form
Posh were good value for a much bigger victory, but missed a host of clearcut chances before and after a 41st minute winning goal from Jonson Clarke-Harris - his first goal in five matches.
It led to a nervy final quarter which included seven minutes of added time, but Posh were well organised in defence and Plymouth failed to create a decent scoring opportunity.
Posh made two changes to their starting line-up with Frazer Blake-Tracy replacing Niall Mason at the back and Ryan Broom coming in for injury victim Joe Ward. Manager Darren Ferguson reverted to his wingback formation for the game.
Plymouth made five changes to the side beaten 5-1 at Fleetwood at the weekend with ex-Posh player George Cooper one of the men to step up.
Posh started well. Their tempo was much better. Their passing was much more accurate against a team who hadn’t won an away game before tonight.
And the difference in Clarke-Harris now he had two players buzzing around him was immense.
Siriki Dembele was outstanding in the first period, dropping into space and running at defenders, two of whom were cautioned for fouling him.
It was the strength of Clarke-Harris and the skill of Dembele that set up Sammie Szmodics for a 15th-minute opportunity, but his shot was weak and easily saved by Plymouth ‘keeper Michael Cooper.
Frankie Kent and Reece Brown sent 25 yard strikes at goal, the first was saved comfortably and the second whistled past an upright.
Dembele wriggled free in the area following a Clarke-Harris pass 10 minutes before the break, but shot wide with his weaker left foot.
But the pair combined to open the scoring in the 41st minute with Dembele’s clever pass finding Clarke-Harris all alone in the area and the big man’s finish across Cooper was emphatic.
Posh ended the half in control, but it wasn’t all one-way traffic. Plymouth started quite negatively as befits a side thumped in their previous outing, but became more ambitious as the half wore on.
One delicious Cooper cross defeated Posh ‘keeper Christy Pym, but Luke Jephcott made a hash of a chance at the far post. A free kick 20 yards out from Conor Grant cannoned into the Posh wall.
The second-half was an even affair, but Posh created all the good chances.
Dembele just failed to control a superb chip from Jack Taylor and Szmodics headed a difficult chance following Dembele’s chip over the bar.
On 61 minutes a superb pass by Szmodics found left wing-back Dan Butler rampaging forward, but his clean strike struck the outside of the post.
And 15 minutes from time Posh should have wrapped the points up. Clarke-Harris did well to reach a left-wing cross first, but powered his shot straight at goalkeeper Cooper and as the ball was worked back into the penalty area Dembele danced through two tackles, but shot wide.
Clarke-Harris limped off straight away which was worrying for a team starting to pick up injuries.
Plymouth pressed hard for the equaliser with substitute Niall Mason making a superb block to thwart dangerous Danny Mayor.
Posh saw out the added time fairly comfortably.
Posh: Christy Pym, Dan Butler, Mark Beevers, Frankie Kent, Frazer Blake-Tracy, Ryan Broom (sub Niall Mason, 76 mins), Jack Taylor, Reece Brown (sub Ethan Hamilton, 76 mins), Sammie Szmodics (sub Louis Reed, 84 mins), Siriki Dembele, Jonson Clarke-Harris (sub Mo Eisa, 77 mins).
Unused subs: Dan Gyollai, Louis Reed, Idris Kanu, Serhat Tasdemir.
Plymouth: Michael Cooper, Kelland Watts, Scott Woottton, Joe Edwards (sub Byron Moore, 72 mins), Ryan Hardie (sub Frank Nouble, 65 mins), Danny Mayor, Conor Grant (sub Ben Reeves, 71 mins), Tyrese Fornah, Jerome Opoku, Luke Jephcott (sub Dom Telford, 82 mins), George Cooper.
Unused subs: Luke McCormick, Will Aimson, Panutche Camara.
Goals: Posh - Clarke-Harris (41 mins).
Cautions: Posh - Dembele (foul).
Plymouth - Wootton (foul), Opoku (foul).
Referee: Tom Nield 8.