Mark Perrow reports from Ashton Gate
City produced another four-goal showing to leapfrog Peterborough and remind the Ashton Gate faithful of the heady heights of August.
It was a performance worth comparing to the early season victories over Crystal Palace and Cardiff City, as goals from Paul Anderson, Stephen McManus and a Sam Baldock brace did the damage.
Posh had Tomlin dismissed after 11 minutes for an elbow on Greg Cunningham, before cancelling out Anderson’s opener through Grant McCann’s penalty.
Level at the interval, City took control in the second half to brush aside a Peterborough side who had won three games before visiting the West Country.
Baldock scored twice, secondly from the penalty spot in between a McManus header which somehow crept inside the near post.
Prolific striker Dwight Gayle partially reduced the deficit late on, but could not deflate the home fans who could finally celebrate a first home win in ten attempts to move off the bottom of the npower Championship table.
Derek McInnes made one change to his side which ultimately never took to the field against Watford on Boxing Day.
Anderson, who started at Ipswich last time out and technically never lost his place, returned in place of Liam Fontaine, dropped to the bench for the first time all season.
In an unusual formation, Albert Adomah and Richard Foster were deployed as wing-backs, with Cunnningham as a left-sided central defender and Anderson in the hole behind Jon Stead and Baldock up front.
But City’s new-look approach did not take long to make an impact. Neil Danns twice fired over from distance before Anderson finished off a well worked move to break the deadlock.
It was captain Cole Skuse’s ball over the top which had Peterborough defenders chasing their own goal, and it was a race won by Baldock, who reached the byeline and stood up an inviting cross for Anderson to head home from six yards.
Two minutes later it should have been two, as Baldock robbed Michael Bostwick on the edge of the defender’s own box. But with the former West Ham United striker bearing down on goal, he snatched at his shot and pulled it wide.
It was a real let off for the visitors, but, determined to shoot themselves in the foot, Posh gifted their hosts further reason to cheer with a moment of madness from Tomlin.
Cunningham was in for an eventful afternoon, and was on the receiving end of a stray elbow from his opponent in a completely innocuous off the ball incident which left referee Andrew Madley little option but to dismiss the Peterborough forward.
Everything seemed to be going against Darren Ferguson’s men, but City were in equally generous mood in handing United a route back into the game out of nothing.
A harmless ball over the top was half-heartedly chased by George Boyd, who rapidly gained interest when Cunningham let the ball bounce and attempted a stooping header back to his goalkeeper.
But by now Boyd was favourite to reach it, and duly beat Tom Heaton to the ball in taking it wide of City’s number one and being upended by the keeper for an obvious penalty.
The only difficult decision for Madley was whether or not to even up the numbers, but Heaton was generously not deemed the last line of defence and escaped with a booking.
Recalled midfielder Grant McCann, only in the side after West Bromwich Albion recalled George Thorne from a loan spell at London Road, duly found the bottom corner to equalise.
Peterborough could not believe their luck, but City reacted well to the setback. Baldock’s pass down the line looked to be heading out of play but Adomah sprinted to keep it in and pulled the ball across first time for Anderson, only for the goalscorer to shoot tamely at Bobby Olejnik in the Peterborough goal.
Anderson should have done better but was still looking lively, and his pass into the feet of Baldock was followed by a sharp turn and shot just off target from the striker.
City were already showing their superiority over the ten men, as Anderson sent a low curler narrowly wide before setting up Baldock for City’s second.
The duo had looked bright throughout the first half, and when Baldock played the ball into the former Nottingham Forest man, Anderson unselfishly resisted the urge to shoot and returned the ball for the 23-year-old to convert his eighth goal of the season.
There was no doubt about the dominant force as the first half drew to a close, and City might have held a two-goal lead before the interval through Baldock again. Latching on to a cute Stead through ball, he hit the ball first time but against the face of the near post with Olejnik beaten.
Baldock has a habit of scoring against Peterborough, and must have known there would be further opportunities after the interval. The first of which came from another intelligent pass from his strike partner, but a potential one-on-one duel with Olejnik was halted by the excellent recovery work of Posh captain Tommy Rowe.
City would have to wait until just before the hour mark to find the inevitable third – a soft one from the visitors’ point of view – as Adomah’s flighted corner was headed down by McManus and somehow escaped Olejnik’s grasp on the goal-line with Baldock potentially obstructing his view.
Peterborough’s day was going from bad to worse, and with it so was their discipline. Adomah’s low ball into the box was collected by Anderson just before Bostwick brought him down for another clear penalty, neatly tucked away by Baldock to Olejnik’s right as the Austrian guessed wrong.
Two goals in four minutes had well and truly killed off the already fading challenge of the ten men, who by now were merely seeking damage limitation.
Posh continued to plug away, as substitute Danny Swanson tested Heaton at his near post and Boyd dragged one across goal either side of a wonder strike from Stead which rattled the angle of post and bar from 35 yards but somehow stayed out.
There was still time for Gayle to add an air of respectability to the scoreline with his side’s second a minute from time, latching on to a long ball and finishing smartly low past Heaton to score on his sixth successive appearance for his new club.