Mark Perrow reports from Ashton Gate
Sean O’Driscoll’s tip for promotion showed exactly why he expects them to stay at the right end of the Sky Bet League One table with a ruthless display at Ashton Gate.
Impressive striker Britt Assombalonga scored two eye-catching goals in the second half, by which time Posh already led through Tyrone Barnett’s opener and saw a Lee Tomlin penalty saved by Frank Fielding.
O’Driscoll named three changes to his side victorious in the Bristol derby ten days ago, as usual suspects Frank Fielding, Greg Cunningham and Sam Baldock all returned to starting duties at the expense of Elliot Parish, Nicky Shorey and Marlon Harewood, who were all on the bench.
With all footballing logic suggesting chances galore, the first of note arrived when Scott Wagstaff seized upon a misplaced pass in midfield and surged towards goal, only to be denied a clear opportunity by the timely recovery of Peterborough defender Nathaniel Knight-Percival.
Next to threaten was a teasing Cunningham cross which somehow evaded everyone inside the six-yard box.
The first statement of intent from the visitors involved club record signing Assombalonga, whose header from Mark Little’s right-wing cross was just glanced beyond the far post.
But it was Posh who landed the first major blow, as right-footed left-back Craig Alcock cut back on to his stronger side and sent a skidding shot towards the near post which Fielding should have gathered, but instead only succeeded in pushing the ball straight to Barnett, who tapped in from close range.
And within three minutes things nearly went from bad to worse for City, as Fielding went from zero to hero.
When Assombalonga beat the offside trap, he turned sharply inside the retreating James O’Connor, whose outstretched leg duly provided the striker with the opportunity to go to ground for what looked a clear penalty.
Up stepped top scorer Tomlin, but Fielding made amends for his earlier error with a fine save diving to his left.
It was a moment to ignite the home crowd, but City were still struggling to give them much to cheer in an attacking sense.
Only a long-range shot dragged well wide by Marlon Pack was worth mentioning – it was easily the least City had created in any 45 minutes at Ashton Gate this season.
The subdued mood among the home fans was not helped by Jay Emmanuel-Thomas spurning the best chance their team had created early in the second half.
When Cunningham flighted another cross into the danger zone, a defensive header only succeeded in landing at the feet of the in-form forward, but he elected to take the chance first time with seemingly an age to set himself, and instead sent his shot high and wide of goal.
Within a matter of seconds City were two down, as Assombalonga struck a spectacular second, rifling a left-footed shot like a tracer bullet into the top corner on his supposedly weaker left foot.
The goal did spark a better passage of play from the Robins, as derby day hero Joe Bryan waltzed his way past two defenders, before Emmanuel-Thomas took control of the situation and worked the ball on to his left foot only to lash his shot too high again.
Head coach O’Driscoll handed a late debut to former Nottingham Forest winger Stephen McLaughlin, who forced Posh keeper Bobby Olejnik into a routine save from distance, before Assombalonga added to his growing reputation.
First he wriggled out of a seemingly impossible situation to set up Barnett for a chance which should’ve been converted, before showing a clean pair of heels to Cunningham to race through and put the result beyond any doubt with a classy chip over Fielding.
Substitute Harewood and skipper Baldock both came close to maintaining City’s record of scoring in every match this season, but the free-scoring visitors held on for a rare clean sheet.