Ivan Toney’s 19th goal of the season delivered a vital League One win for Peterborough United at Oxford United today (February 16).
Toney struck with a clinical finish after Marcus Maddison’s clever free kick had caught Oxford napping 15 minutes from time.
It wasn’t a pretty win - it was never going to be on a dreadful playing surface - but Posh won’t care about that. Indeed, pre-match manager Darren Ferguson said he would be happy with a scrappy single goal success and that’s exactly what he got to claim the first three-point return of his third spell in charge.
Given that Oxford have not been beaten by promotion challengers Sunderland, Barnsley or Portsmouth at the Kassam Stadium in recent weeks, and given Posh’s hopeless recent record against these opponents, the result should be savoured rather than knocked.
Managers Ferguson and Karl Robinson put on some fine footballing spectacles in the time when MK Dons were serious Posh rivals. Sadly the first-half was nothing like those quality encounters, although mitigating circumstances were in evidence, noticably that ugly playing surface.
Posh made three changes to their last starting line-up with on-loan Leicester centre-back Josh Knight making his debut in place of Rhys Bennett, Kyle Dempsey replacing sickness victim Callum Cooke and Daniel Lafferty playing instead of last weekend’s red card victim Tyler Denton.
Unfortunately Knight’s debut lasted 21 minutes before he hobbled off to be replaced by Ryan Tafazolli.
Posh started brightly and almost scored in the fifth minute when George Cooper’s fine pass was accepted on the run by Jason Naismith. He struck his shot well, but it cannoned off a post to safety.
After that Posh’s narrow formation invited trouble on the uneven grass and they only threatened again 10 minutes before the break when Maddison’s perfect free kick was headed wide by an unmarked Toney.
Oxford were little better, despite winning numerous free kicks from fussy referee Ross Joyce. Cameron Brannagan should have hit the target from Gavin Whyte’s cutback, while James Henry headed a right wing cross over when well placed.
Remarkably what looked a clear trip by Alex Woodyard on Whyte inside the penalty area went unpunished by a referee whose eagle eyes allowed very little contact in the rest of the half.
Brannagan let fly impressively towards the end of the half, but O’Malley saved well.
At least Posh kept 11 men on the pitch for 45 minutes despite an early caution for Ben White and a yellow for simulation for Maddison which looked ridiculously harsh.
The second-half was without incident, apart from a fine O’Malley save from Jamie Hanson’s 20-yarder until Toney struck.
Maddison and Tomlin came close to adding a second Posh goal before a final flurry from a home side who had been reduced to 10 men by a late injury to Whyte led to a couple of penalty appeals.
Nothing doing said Joyce as Posh moved to within a point of the top six.
Posh: Conor O’Malley, Jason Naismith, Daniel Lafferty (sub Rhys Bennett, 71 mins), Josh Knight (sub Ryan Tafazolli, 22 mins), Ben White, Alex Woodyard, Kyle Dempsey, Joe Ward, George Cooper (sub Lee Tomlin, 59 mins), Marcus Maddison, Ivan Toney.
Unused substitutes: Aaron Chapman, Louis Reed, Matt Godden, Matt Stevens.
Oxford: Simon Eastwood, Rob Dickie, Curtis Nelson, Jamie Hanson, John Mousinho (sub Samir Carruthers, 79 mins), Cameron Brannagan, Josh Ruffels, Jordan Graham, James Henry (sub Marcus Browne, 69 mins), Gavin Whyte, Jerome Sinclair (sub Jamie Mackie, 69 mins).
Unused substitutes: Jack Stevens, Sam Long, Ahmed Kashi, Nico Jones.
Goals: Posh - Toney (76 mins).
Cautions: Posh - White (foul), Maddison (simulation), Woodyard (foul).
Oxford - Hanson (foul), Dickie (foul), Browne (foul).
Referee: Ross Joyce 5
Attendance: 6,451 (490 Posh).