Lee Tomlin’s birthday goal was a highlight as Peterborough United won at home on a Saturday (January 12) for the first time since August 18.
Substitute George Cooper, who replaced Tomlin 20 minutes from time, also scored as Posh beat out-of-form Rochdale 2-1 in League One at the ABAX Stadium.
A 90th strike from Ethan Hamilton ensured a nervy finale for Posh who held on to move back into the top six
Posh made just one change from the team that won comfortably at Stamford Bridge in their last outing with midfielder Kyle Dempsey making his debut in place of Louis Reed. The 4-2-3-1 formation was retained with Tomlin at the centre of it. Dale, who had conceded 17 goals in their previous four games, employed a defensive 5-4-1 system.
And it was Tomlin who shone in the opening period thanks to his clever flicks, passing range and a quality goal midway through the half.
Moments earlier Tomlin had got in the way of Ryan Tafazolli’s header from a corner, but as the ball was recycled the talisman picked it up on the left-hand side of the area and curled perfectly into the corner.
Posh deserved that lead. Jason Naismith was still employed as a centre-back to launch the ball forward to sole striker Ivan Toney, but there were also some decent passing moments.
Left-back Daniel Lafferty accepted Joe Ward’s deep early cross and fired in a shot that was hacked off the line and Ward should have shot after Tomlin and Marcus Maddison had combined to send him through. Instead he crossed and the ball was cleared.
Posh almost extended their lead when Dempsey’s piledriver was splendidly saved by Dale ‘keeper Josh Lillis and they should have made it 2-0 when Maddison’s floated free kick found Tafazolli unmarked eight yards from goal. The centre-half didn’t even hit the target.
Dale enjoyed spells of possession and found some joy attacking Ward in the right-back position, but created little.
The visitors threw two substitutes on at the break and adopted a more attacking formation and they missed a great chance to equalise almost immediately.
Callum Cooke failed to track Callum Camps from a throw-in, but the Dale midfielder shot horribly wide from inside the penalty area.
Toney then headed a precise Tomlin cross wide before Maddison struck the inside of a post after a thrilling forward run and right foot shot.
Tomlin was far less effective in the second-half and was taken off 20 minutes from time.
Posh then had to withstand strong pressure with goalkeeper Aaron Chapman making fine saves to thwart Dale substitute Brad Inman, Callum Camps and Ian Henderson.
Posh then broke out to seal the points with a fine finish from substitute Cooper after a Maddison pass four minutes from time, but Dale pulled a goal back with a stunning strike from on-loan Manchester United debutant Hamilton that appeared to fly through Chapman’s hands.
Four minutes added time was spent in and around the Posh area, but the home side survived to gain a valuable win.
Posh: Aaron Chapman, Joe Ward (sub Ben White, 87 mins), Daniel Lafferty, Jason Naismith, Ryan Tafazolli, Callum Cooke, Kyle Dempsey (sub Alex Woodyard, 81 mins), Marcus Maddison, Lee Tomlin (sub George Cooper, 70 mins), Siriki Dembele, Ivan Toney.
Unused substitutes: Conor O’Malley, Louis Reed, Matt Godden, Matt Stevens.
Rochdale: Josh Lillis, Joe Rafferty, Jim McNulty, Ryan Delaney (sub Ethan Ebanks-Landell, 46 mins), Stephen Dooley (sub Brad Inman, 77 mins), MJ Williams (sub Calvin Andrew, 46 mins), Callum Camps, Rory Holden, Ethan Hamilton, Ian Henderson, Matty Done.
Unused substitutes: Magnus Norman, Kgosi Nthle, Aaron Wilbraham, Daniel Adshead.
Goals: Posh - Tomlin (23 mins), Cooper (85 mins).
Dale - Hamilton (90 mins).
Cautions: Posh - None
Dale - Done (foul), Hamilton (foul), Rafferty (foul).
Referee: Darren Drysdale