Sheffield United were hit by a late sucker punch from Martin Samuelson as Peterborough triumphed 3-2 at Bramall Lane this afternoon.
Nigel Adkins’ side appeared destined to earn a share of the spoils when Jack Baldwin scored an own goal during the closing stages after Conor Washington, Billy Sharp and then Erhun Oztumer had all hit the target.
But the visitors substitute landed what proved to be a decisive blow when he swept the ball past George Long with five minutes of normal time remaining.
Peterborough’s strength under new manager Graham Westley is ploughing forward rather than trying to contain and frustrate. In Washington, described by the former Stevenage and Preston North End chief as a Premier League player in the making, they possess someone capable of carrying out those instructions to good effect. He was responsible for scoring the first goal of what proved to be an absorbing first-half before Sharp levelled from the penalty spot.
United, who created numerous promising opening and opportunities, really should have led at the break. Instead, soon after the start of the second-half, they found themselves behind again when Oztumer beat George Long from distance.
The contest also marked Jose Baxter’s return from exile and, having replaced Conor Sammon in the 49th minute, he nearly made an immediate impact with a deflected shot which spiralled just wide.
Baldwin’s own goal appeared to have secured a point for United late on but Samuelson restored Peterborough’s lead almost immediately and ensured they avenged August’s defeat at London Road.
United entered this match searching for a fifth straight win in all competitions and fourth in the league. Adkins has attributed much of that recent upturn in form to consistent team selections. So it was no surprise to see him make only one enforced change with Conor Sammon replacing the injured Matt Done.
With the conditions condusive to fast, attacking football, both United and Peterborough demonstrated plenty of intent during the early exchanges with the hosts clearly wary of Washington’s prowess while Billy Sharp and Chris Basham attempted to put the visitors on the back foot. The latter with a series of crunching challenges rather than guile.
Sharp unleashed a vicious 12th minute shot which flew just over Ben Alnwick’s crossbar after ghosting across the edge of the penalty box. The near miss momentarily rattled Peterborough’s rearguard who struggled to clear a series of looping balls into the area. But they survived and, in the 18th minute, took the lead. Predictably, through Washington. Only a superb block from David Edgar prevented the former non-league striker from claiming a second from an acute angle after Sammon had seen a half-hearted penalty appeal waved away at the other end of the pitch.
United roused themselves and deservedly drew level 13 minutes before the interval with Sharp, having seen a low drive rebound back off the foot of the post, attracting the foul which saw him convert from the penalty spot. Paul Coutts saw a free-kick palmed away by Alnwick following an excellent run by Basham while Sammon twice went close. First, he blasted a volley into the turf before a Peterborough marker stopped his attempt on the turn from reaching the goalkeeper.
Peterborough could count themselves fortunate to still be on level terms when the two teams trooped-off at the interval. They took full advantage of the fact they were when Oztumer looped home after teasing Hammond in the 49th minute. The United midfielder created a chance for Baxter soon after but the pace was taken off his shot by a Peterborough defender. Likewise in the 75th minute when he weaved his way through a crowded midfield towards the edge of the area.
Long parried away a strike from Marcus Maddison as Peterborough broke effectively following a United corner. Baldwin turned home beyond his own goalkeeper when Basham met Martyn Woolford’s cross in the 83rd minute but, as the crowd urged United on in search of a winner, Peterborough pounced through subsitute Samuelson who expertly created the time and space to sweep the ball past Long.
Sheffield United: Long, Brayford, Basham, Coutts, Sharp, Collins, Woolford, Sammon (Baxter 56), McEveley (Adams 72), Edgar, Hammond. Not used: Howard, Flynn, Campbell-Ryce, Reed, K Wallace.
Peterborough United: Alnwick, Smith, Baldwin, Taylor, Oztumer, Maddison (Samuelson 78), Almeida-Santos, Washington, Beautyman, Fox (Wilson 46), Forrester (Addison 90). Not used: Angol, Henry, Coulibaly, Nicholson.
Referee: Darren Bond (Lancashire)