REPORT: Peterborough United 3, Northampton Town 1: The Championship edges closer after the traditional win over Cobblers at London Road
Peterborough United edged even closer to promotion back to the Championship after recording their traditional win over local rivals Northampton Town at the Weston Homes Stadium tonight (April 16).
A fifth brace of the season from Sammie Szmodics and a penalty from Jonson Clarke-Harris - his 30th goal in all competitions - secured a 3-1 win after Cobblers had drawn level just before the break from the penalty spot.
Cobblers, who are fighting for their lives and competed well throughout, were undone by the superior forward firepower of Posh. And that’s been a regular theme of this most unusual of seasons.
Posh are now off top spot only on goal difference. They and leaders Hull have an eight-point advantage over third place Sunderland who have a tough game at Blackpool tomorrow.
And it’s seven Football League wins in a row over the club’s fiercest rivals.
As expected Posh named a full strength team with fit-again Szmodics replacing Mo Eisa from the side that won convincingly at struggling Swindon last weekend. It was the first time in five games that Posh had started with both Szmodics and Siriki Dembele.
Cobblers gave a first start to striker Alex Jones who scored three times against Posh in the 2016-17 season, two for Port Vale and one for Bradford City.
Posh delivered their usual slow start, but restricted Cobblers to a fourth minute long shot from Bryn Morris which was saved comfortably by Josef Bursik.
Posh eventually found their stride and started to dominate possession. The ball behind the defence to Joe Ward looked an obvious tactic, but the timing of the pass with the run was constantly off.
Posh did take the lead in the 33rd minute when some patient keepball ended with Dembele finding Dan Butler and his low cross to the near post was finished expertly by Szmodics.
But for some reason Posh promptly switched off and let the visitors grab control of the game.
Alarms were few, but two minutes before the break disaster struck. Nathan Thompson’s volleyed backpass was left by Mark Beevers who panicked as Alex Jones bore down on Bursik. A slight movement by the skipper into Jones’ path promoted a fall and a penalty decision from referee Lee Swabey that was hard to argue against. Sam Hoskins coverted the spot-kick with ease.
Posh restored their advantage four minutes into the second half when finally they synchronised a pass and move. Jack Taylor’s fine through ball enabled Szmodics to spring the offside trap. He lobbed ‘keeper Jon Mitchell before walking the ball into an empty net. It was a classy combination.
Cobblers almost responded immediately with Beevers forced to block a Jones shot before Frankie Kent made a well-timed tackle.
Clarke-Harris was inches away from a third Posh goal after a decent Szmodics pass found Taylor in the visiting area. His low cross was drilled just out of the top scorer’s reach.
The impressive Taylor was now starting to run the game. He began pinging long, accurate balls into dangerous areas and he played a massive part in the game-killing third goal on 67 minutes.
Ward was the recipient of Taylor’s precision. He found himself behind the defence and although his ball back to Thompson was far from perfect, Hoskins tried to nick it off the Posh defender and was instead adjudged to committed a foul. Clarke-Harris ignored last weekend’s penalty miss to finish emphatically from 12 yards.
Cobblers saw a lot of the ball in the final quarter, but the bigger threat still arrived at the other end once Bursik had got down well to keep out an effort from substitute Danny Rose.
Szmodics’ bid for a hat-trick after a Clarke-Harris lay off was foiled by Mitchell and when Mitchell saved Taylor’s strike and a follow-up from substitute Harrison Burrows, Szmodics shot over from the edge of the penalty area.
Job done by Posh then. Over to Blackpool and Fleetwood, who visit Hull, now to help the push for promotion closer to the line.
Posh: Josef Bursik, Dan Butler, Frankie Kent, Mark Beevers, Nathan Thompson, Joe Ward, Reece Brown (sub Ethan Hamilton, 88 mins), Jack Taylor, Siriki Dembele (sub Harrison Burrows, 62 mins), Sammie Szmodics, Jonson Clarke-Harris (sub Ricky-Jade Jones 88 mins)
Unused subs: Dan Gyollai, Niall Mason, Mo Eisa, Louis Reed.
Northampton: Jonathon Mitchell, Micheal Harriman, Lloyd Jones, Fraser Horsfal, Joseph Mills (C), Bryn Morris, Shaun McWilliams (sub Danny Rose, 70 mins), Ryan Watson, Sam Hoskins, Alex Jones (sub Ricky Korboa, 77 mins), Mark Marshall (sub Caleb Chukwumekeka, 59 mins).
Unused subs: Charlie Woods, Cian Bolger, Ryan Edmondson, Liam Cross.
Goals: Posh - Szmodics (33 mins & 49 mins), Clarke-Harris (pen, 67 mins).
Northampton - Hoskins (pen, 43 mins).
Cautions: Posh - Beevers (foul).
Northampton - McWilliams (foul), Rose (simulation), Jones (dissent).
Referee: Lee Swabey 7