Two classy goals, but Peterborough United forced to hang on for victory against 10-man Oxford United

Kwame Poku of Peterborough United celebrates scoring his goal at Oxford. Photo: Joe Dent/theposh.comKwame Poku of Peterborough United celebrates scoring his goal at Oxford. Photo: Joe Dent/
Kwame Poku of Peterborough United celebrates scoring his goal at Oxford. Photo: Joe Dent/
Peterborough United hung on to win a breathless, bonkers League One game at Oxford United on Saturday.

It finished 2-1 to Posh courtesy of classy finishes from Jack Taylor and Kwame Poku, but the way they had to hang on against 10 men following a red card for Oxford striker Matt Taylor just before the hour was rather worrying.

The hosts had not long pulled a goal back and looked far more likely to score again and, to be honest that stayed the same when they were a man light, who also happened to be their top scored.

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But, after the travails that have followed this team on the road this season, there should still be satisfaction at digging in and securing the win. For all their possession Oxford never tested Lucas Bergstrom in the Posh goal with Ronnie Edwards making the best save of the match on the goalline when Marcus Browne looked certain to equalise.

Nathan Thompson of Peterborough United in action with Marcus Browne of Oxford United. Photo: Joe Dent/ Thompson of Peterborough United in action with Marcus Browne of Oxford United. Photo: Joe Dent/
Nathan Thompson of Peterborough United in action with Marcus Browne of Oxford United. Photo: Joe Dent/

The day was also a triumph for August signing Ephron Mason-Clark who delivered two assists on the first Football League start of his career and was denied a third by a wide-awake assistant.

Cobblers referee Andy Woolmer, not a friend of Posh on many occasions in the past, was another central figure courtesy of a horribly inconsistent display which had the home side, and manager Karl Robinson, howling in rage for most of the afternoon,

Pre-match talk of ‘nine or 10’ Posh absentees proved unduly pessimistic. although manager Grant McCann did make five changes to the side that started the last League One match.

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Midfielder Jeando Fuchs and forward Ricky-Jade Jones failed to recover from injuries picked up in games at Wycombe Wanderers, but the rest were all present in the matchday squad, although Kell Watts, perhaps surprisingly, was left on the substitutes’ bench alongside Nathan Thompson, Ben Thompson and Josh Knight as Posh looked to claim just a third away of the season.

Hector Kyprianou was handed just a fourth League One start, alongside Taylor with Joe Ward preferred to Nathan Thompson at right back and Edwards selected ahead of Josh Knight in a back four. Edwards was deployed as left centre-back with Frankie Kent shifted to the right.

It was clear from an early stage that goals looked likely. Posh managed two in the first-half, which could have been matched by home side with better finishing.

Oxford thought they had taken the lead in the sixth minute with Billy Bodin’s low left foot drive, but an offside flag saved the day, and within a minute Posh had opened the scoring.

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It was a fine move too with Hector Kyprianou freeing Dan Butler who laid the ball off to Mason-Clark and his precision cross from the left was expertly volleyed home on the sidefoot by Taylor.

Home ‘keeper Simon Eastwood then had to scramble across his goal to thwart Kent after Edwards and Jonson Clarke-Harris had won headers from a corner.

Joe Ward then limped out of the action after suffering an impact injury when struggling to retrieve his own poor piece of control. Nathan Thompson was a handy enough replacement.

Oxford flooded players forward and their movement was at times excellent with Matt Taylor escaping behind the Posh defence before firing over from a tricky angle.

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And Posh then found a second goal just past the half hour mark and again Mason-Clark was involved exchanges passes with Clarke-Harris before showing strength to shrug off a defender. A simple pass was then finished expertly by Poku from 20 yards.

It was almost 3-0 and a hat-trick of assists for Mason-Clark three minutes later when his volleyed cross following a set-piece was touched home Kent, with the home side this time saved by an offside flag.

Oxford dominated the rest of the half as Posh became rather passive and Bodin should have pulled a goal back from a long throw, but instead headed against a post.

Browne then saw a deflected shot then land on the top of the Posh net as a half punctuated by an endless stream of free kicks came to an end.

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Posh continued to be pushed back at the start of the second-half and it was no surprise when Oxford pulled a goal back in the 51st minute.

The manner of it was hugely frustrating though as a cross was allowed to come over from the left. It was flicked on by an unmarked attacker and converted on the dive by Bodin, who was also unmarked.

Posh looked unnerved, but received a boost from a moment of madness from Oxford striker Taylor who appeared to strike Edwards after the Posh teenager had conceded a free kick. Championship referee Woolmer was looking straight at the incident, but didn’t brandish a red card until his assistant became involved. Boss Robinson was also cautioned in the aftermath.

The extra man didn’t help Posh who lacked calmness and composure on the ball and who defending. Burrows, whose standing is such he was man marked by Marcus McGuane in this game, almost pulled off an audacious lob and Poku saw a shot blocked after quick thinking by Burrows at a set piece.

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Clarke-Harris also wasted a couple of good crossing positions, but it was generally all-out attack from the home side, although once Edwards had pulled off his superb save, the hosts were kept at arms length, especially when Posh switched to three at the back for the final 15 minutes.

Oxford are a much better side than their league position suggests so this might look like a very good result in a few weeks, but for now there were as many questions as answers about the performance.

Posh: Lucas Bergstrom, Dan Butler, Frankie Kent, Ronnie Edwards, Joe Ward (sub Nathan Thompson, 14 mins), Hector Kyprianou, Jack Taylor (sub Ben Thompson, 80 mins), Harrison Burrows, Ephron Mason-Clark (sub Jack Marriott, 80 mins), Kwame Poku (sub Kell Watts, 80 mins), Jonson Clarke-Harris.

Unused subs: Will Blackmore, Josh Knight, Joel Randall.

Oxford: Simon Eastwood, Sam Long, Elliott Moore, Stuart Findlay (sub Tyler Goodrham, 83 mins), Ciaron Brown, Marcus McGuane (sub Djavan Anderson, 89 mins), Billy Bodin, Cameron Brannagan, Kyle Joseph, Matt Taylor, Marcus Browne.

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Unused subs: Ed McGinty, Alex Gorrin, Jodi Jones, Lewis Bate, Steve Seddon.

Goals: Posh – Taylor (7 mins), Poku (31 mins)

Oxford – Bodin (51 mins).

Sending off: Oxford – Taylor (violent conduct)

Cautions: Posh – Kyprianou (foul), Butler (foul).

Oxford – Moore (dissent), Browne (foul), Goodrham (foul), Robinson (manager, dissent).

Referee: Andy Woolmer 4

Attendance: 8,210 (687 Posh).