Peterborough United’s five-game plan for the rest of 2018

Ivan Toney celebrates his goal for Posh at Exeter.
Ivan Toney celebrates his goal for Posh at Exeter.
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Peterborough United manager Steve Evans is confident his side will still be challenging for an automatic promotion place in League One at the start of the new year.

Posh have five League One matches before a New Year’s Day home game against Scunthorpe and Evans reckons all will be tough starting with tomorrow’s game against improving Oxford United at the ABAX Stadium (December 8, 3pm).

Posh goalkeeper Conor O'Malley is pushing for a start against Oxford.

Posh goalkeeper Conor O'Malley is pushing for a start against Oxford.

Posh, who are fourth just two points behind second-placed Sunderland, also have away games at Shrewsbury (December 15), Barnsley (Boxing Day) and Accrington (December 29) as well as a home clash with Walsall (December 22) before entertaining Scunthorpe.

Oxford are 19th, but have won four of their last five competitive matches. They’ve lost just one of their last 12 competitive games and have beaten Posh on all four occasions since winning promotion from League Two in 2015-16. Last season they scored four second-half goals to win 4-1 at the ABAX Stadium, but they have yet to win an away game in League One this season.

“We are hosting a good side tomorrow,” Evans stated. “Ignore their league position. They had a bad start because key men were injured, but they are in the middle of a good spell now. They have good players and a good manager in Karl Robinson. I saw Karl recently and congratulated him on coming through a tough start. He’s done a brilliant job and I’m pleased Oxford stuck with him.

“But we are determined to stay near the automatic promotion places. If we are still fourth and still this close to the top two on January 1 I will be very pleased because it would mean we have done well in five tough games before then.

“Oxford and Shrewsbury are in good form, while Barnsley and Accrington have already beaten us at home. Three of those games are away, but we are a good side away from home.”

Evans could well revert to the starting line-up that dominated last Saturday’s FA Cup tie with Bradford City for 85 minutes, although goalkeeper Conor O’Malley and striker Jason Cummings did well enough in Tuesday’s Checkatrade Trophy win at Exeter to believe that have a chance of starting tomorrow.

Cummings is battling club top scorer Matt Godden for the right to start alongside in-form Ivan Toney. Toney has scored five goals in his last six Posh appearances.

“Ivan is not only a handful physically and in the air,” Evans said. “He’s also very talented with the ball at his feet. He’s hit form in recent games and he’s only going to get better.

“I took a strong side to Exeter because I wanted to erase the memory of five mad minutes in our previous game. It was a long slog, but the lads will be fresh enough to do themselves justice tomorrow.”

Posh chairman Darragh MacAnthony should be at the match tomorrow. He’s in the UK for six weeks when Evans will state his case for the arrival of new players during the January transfer window.

“I’ve been making plans and suggestions a lot lately,” Evans added. “I do want to freshen the squad up a little. There will be departures of players who have not made much of an impression, but that’s just natural football evolution.”

Before tomorrow’s match Posh will hold a minute’s silence for former club owner Peter Boizot who died earlier this week.