Peterborough United can prepare for another season in League One. If they hadn’t already before today’s (March 11) 2-1 home defeat at the hands of Oxford.
Posh applied plenty of pressure during the game, but found Oxford ‘keeper Simon Eastwood in outstanding form.
But the visitors were more clinical. Phil Edwards scored from a first-half corner before on-loan Everton player Conor McAleny tapped in a second goal 17 minutes from time.
Craig Mackail-Smith’s 100th goal for Posh arrived in stoppage time and couldn’t save his side from a third defeat in a row. Posh are now 12th in League One.
Manager Grant McCann’s ‘back to basic’s pledge inevitably meant a return to the midfield diamond and for the opening 20 minutes it looked a wise move.
Paul Taylor was employed at the tip and was outstanding in that opening period, pinging accurate passes galore, but good crossing positions were wasted, apart from Mackail-Smith’s pull-back for Leo Da Silva Lopes whose stinging ninth-minute shot drew a great save from visiting ‘keeper Simon Eastwood.
But Oxford weathered the pressure and as soon as they started to dominate the ball they scored. Michael Bostwick, back in midfield, and Ryan Tafazolli made fine blocks to keep Oxford at bay, but Edwards made the most of a free header from a 24th-minute corner to power his side ahead.
And the goal sucked the confidence out of Posh. Oxford started passing the ball with accuracy and attacked with pace and good movement.
They looked the most likely to score the second goal and almost did when a left-wing cross from Marvin Johnson reached McAleny, but his close range sidefoot was well saved by Luke McGee.
Posh lost right-back Michael Smith to what looked like a foot injury enabling Harry Anderson to make his first appearance of the season.
Oxford were perhaps lucky McAleny only received a yellow card for hurling Jack Baldwin to the ground, moments after successfully delaying a Posh throw-in.
Posh started the second-half reasonably well once Baldwin had hooked a loose ball from a corner off the line, but Tom Nichols shot over when well paced and Mackail-Smith’s close range shot form a corner was blocked by a defender.
Chris Forrester’s 25 yard drive was then well saved by Eastwood on the stretch.
But once again Oxford roused themselves and once again showed Posh how to both penetrate and convert chances.
Posh survived many pinball moments in their own area thanks to some fine blocks by Tafazolli and co until the inevitable second goal arrived 17 minutes from time.
One chipped pass over Bostwick’s head was followed by a cut-back from Rob Hall which McAleny tapped home from close range.
Posh initially responded well with Andrew Hughes headed against the crossbar from a Taylor corner and Bostwick headed another set-piece wide.
Taylor, who played well throughout, saw a 20-yard shot tipped round the post by Eastwood, but any hopes on an unlikely comeback were ended when Posh midfielder Leo Da Silva Lopes was dismissed for collecting a second yellow card of the half four minutes from time.
Mackail-Smith kept running until the end and his reward was a milestone goal in the 93rd minute from an unlikely angle.
Moments earlier he’d been denied by another superb Eastwood save after a gine headed knockdown by Junior Morias.
Posh: Luke McGee, Michael Smith (sub Harry Anderson, 28 mins), Andrew Hughes, Jack Baldwin (sub Brad Inman, 67 mins), Ryan Tafazolli, Michael Bostwick, Chris Forrester, Leo Da Silva Lopes, Paul Taylor, Craig Mackail-Smith, Tom Nichols (sub Junior Morias, 67 mins).
Unused substitutes: Mark Tyler, Jerome Binnom-Williams, Martin Samuelsen, Anthony Grant.
Oxford: Simon Eastwood, Curtis Nelson, Phil Edwards, Chey Dunkley, John Lundstrom, Ryan Ledson, Rob Hall (sub Liam Sercombe, 80 mins), Marvin Johnson, Chris Maguire, Conor McAleny (sub Joe Rothwell, 78 mins). Kane Hemmings (sub Toni Martinez, 83 mins).
Unused substitutes: Jack Stevens, Joe Skarz, Christian Ribeiro, Josh Ruffles.
Goals: Posh - Mackail-Smith (90 + 3 mins).
Oxford - Edwards (23 mins), MacAleny (73 mins).
Sending-off: Posh - Da Silva Lopes (second cautionable foul).
Cautions: Posh - Taylor (foul), Da Silva Lopes (foul).
Oxford - McAleny (unsportsmanlike conduct), Ledson (foul).
Referee: Mark Heywood 7
Attendance: 5,469 (1,130 Oxford).