REPORT: PETERBOROUGH UNITED 2, STOKE CITY 2: Clarke-Harris on the spot to save the day for Posh after a tale of two late penalties
The visitors looked to have secured the win when Josh Knight was adjudged to have handled a Tyrese Campbell cross and Lewis Baker slotted home the penalty with just six minutes to go. It was a decision from referee Geoff Eltringham that led to Posh boss Grant McCann having words with the official on full-time.
Perhaps luckily for Mr Eltringham Posh had equalised from the spot two minutes into added time. Jonson Clarke-Harris bagged his second of the game with unerring accuracy after Posh substitute Ricky-Jade Jones had been hauled down when bearing down on goal. Remarkably a referee, who was poor throughout, issued no card to the offender.
Stoke started the game better and deserved their 28th minute lead through Jacob Brown. Clarke-Harris equalised with a fine finish six minutes later.
Expectations for a great spectacle had not been high. The bottom two in the Championship form table over the last six matches were welcomed by a gusty wind and the bumpy London Road playing surface.
As expected Posh named the same starting line-up that performed so well at Bournemouth, although Sammie Szmodics was replaced by Kwame Poku on the bench, presumably because of injury.
Stoke left former Posh goalkeeper Josef Bursik on their bench.
Posh found out-of-form Stoke tougher than cash-rich Bournemouth. The visitors set up in a similar way to Posh with three centre-backs and a pair of wingbacks, but they played the system in a far superior way for the opening half-an-hour.
Stoke almost scored on seven minutes when right wing-back Demeaco Duhaney’s curler from the edge of the season looked all over a goal until Dai Cornell’s fingertips diverted the ball onto a post.
Stoke dominated the midfield battle and shut down any attacking threat from the Posh wide players so their opening goal came as no surprise.
Ronnie Edwards made a great tackle in his own area on Steven Fletcher, but Jeando Fuchs immediately passed the ball away. Two passes later and Brown was finishing expertly past Cornell.
To be fair Posh responded well and levelled within six minutes. Centre-back Josh Knight accepted a short pass from Edwards and drove towards the Stoke area. His pass to Fuchs was accurate and Clarke-Harris accepted a lay-off to curl home superbly from the edge of the area.
Frankie Kent then headed a Joe Ward free kick over the bar before Stoke assumed control again without creating a chance before the half-time whistle arrived.
Posh started the second-half with promise winning a couple of corners, one after a fine run and shot from Harrison Burrows.
But Stoke should have taken the lead just before the hour when excellent left wing-back Josh Tymon skipped past Edwards and delivered the perfect for the onrushing Brown who shot over from close range. Brown had been moved to right wing-back at the break.
Clarke-Harris then turned Posh saviour at a defensive free kick when winning a key header at the far post.
Posh sent on speedster Jones on 65 minutes and his first involvement was terrific as he skipped past his man and chipped to the back post, but there were no takers. Ward’s cross was then dropped by Stoke goalkeeper Jack Bonham, but onto the back of Clarke-Harris and off for a goalkick.
A bit of pinball in the Stoke area 15 minutes from time looked set to give Fuchs a shooting chance, but he was crowded out. Jack Taylor’s overhead kick was then gathered by Bonham.
The two penalties were then followed by what looked like a decent late shout for another Stoke spot-kick, but referee Eltringham ruled otherwise.
It was breathless stuff, albeit it low on quality and Posh moved a point closer to safety. Not enough to be brutally honest, but at least manager Grant McCann has them fighting.
Posh: Dai Cornell, Harrison Burrows (sub Bali Mumba, 71 mins), Frankie Kent, Ronnie Edwards, Josh Knight, Joe Ward, Jeando Fuchs, Oliver Norburn, Jack Taylor (sub Joe Taylor, 81 mins), Jack Marriott (sub Ricky-Jade Jones 65 mins), Jonson Clarke-Harris.
Unused subs: Will Blackmore, Mark Beevers, Jorge Grant, Kwame Poku.
Stoke: Jack Bonham, Josh Tymon, James Chester, Phil Jagielka (sub Ben Wilmot, 67 mins), Taylor Harwood-Bellis, Demeaco Duhaney (sub Josh Maja, 46 mins), Joe Allen, Lewis Baker, Jordan Thompson (sub Tyrese Campbell, 71 mins), Jacob Brown, Steven Fletcher.
Unused substitutes: Josef Bursik, Mario Vrancic, Romaine Sawyers, D’Margio Wright-Phillips.
Goals: Posh - Clarke-Harris (34 mins & pen, 90 + 2 mins).
Stoke - Brown (29 mins), Baker (pen, 84 mins).
Cautions: Posh - Clarke-Harris (unsportsmanlike conduct)
Stoke - Allen (foul), Fletcher (foul).
Referee: Geoff Eltringham 5
Attendance: 9,060 (Stoke to follow).