Darren Ferguson piled praise on his “relentless” Peterborough players after they followed up EFL Trophy success by boosting their automatic promotion bid.

Posh jumped to within six points of second-placed Derby – and also boast two games in hand – by brushing aside struggling Vale.

Joel Randall broke the deadlock in the final seconds of the first half with a blast that took a double deflection on its way past Connor Ripley after Harrison Burrows’ short corner.

EFL Trophy final hero Burrows doubled the advantage from the penalty spot 11 minutes into the second half and the Posh captain was again the architect when his 86th-minute cross was headed into his own net by Alex Iacovitti to compound Vale’s misery as they dropped back into the bottom four on goal difference.

Delighted Posh boss Ferguson said: “That is as well as we have played at home for a long time.

“It was a really good performance from my team… mature, confident, some great football and a clean sheet.

“We didn’t panic when the first goal took a while to come and then we had complete control in the second half.

“I was really pleased with the result but the manner of the performance at this stage of the season is what delighted me the most.

“People might have wondered what we would look like after Sunday but we were so fresh physically and running all over them.

“These lads are relentless. I have to give them and the staff a lot of credit.

“We know Derby drew and dropped points but we just keep looking at the next game. I’ve already watched Oxford today and we’ll look no further ahead than that on Saturday.”

Vale boss Darren Moore admitted: “It was a difficult night for us.

“If we could have got to the break with the scores level, it might have created a bit of anxiety around the place.

“But the first goal on the stroke of half time really changed my team-talk and gave us a mountain to climb in the second half.

“Peterborough are an excellent and free-scoring team with a lot of attacking options and move the ball really well. Up to a point, the boys stuck to the gameplan to nullify and contain them well.

“It’s just disappointing to concede the first and second goals in the manner we did from corners as we’d worked on that.

“The first goal took two deflections and the second one is a switch-off at the far post which leads to a penalty.

“The third one is then an own goal but I’ve got no complaints in terms of the commitment and energy the boys showed.”

Paul Simpson hailed hat-trick hero Jon Mellish after Carlisle produced one of the shocks of the season in Sky Bet League One.

Matchwinner Mellish bagged a first career hat-trick as the basement boys left Posh’s automatic promotion hopes in tatters with just their sixth win of a miserable season.

Mellish headed Simpson’s men into a 27th-minute lead, which he doubled with a smart volley three minutes into the second half.

The midfield ace completed his treble just before the hour with another spectacular volley before captain Harrison Burrows pulled a goal back for the hosts.

Substitute Jonson Clarke-Harris hit the bar late on as Darren Ferguson’s high-fliers flopped to fall 10 points behind the top two.

Simpson said: “I’m absolutely delighted for the players and the staff but even more happy for the supporters who made the long journey.

“The lads deserve huge credit for the way they went about it and they were three fantastic finishes from Jon. It’s a brilliant win and it’s all about getting some respect and pride back.

“I told Jon I wanted him to get his crazy legs going and cause problems and everyone saw that is what he did!

“We were brave to go short with our first corner and it led to Jon getting himself a free header for a good goal and the next two are fantastic finishes.

“And when we had to change to a back-five to shore things up, he slotted in at centre-back and did a good job.

“He’s an important player for us and he’s had a tough season in terms of goals as he usually gets a lot more, but a hat-trick like this is a great reward.”

Stunned Peterborough boss Darren Ferguson said: “It’s a terrible result and I’m very disappointed.

“How do I explain today? Probably the best way is that collectively we had an off-day and I include myself in that.

“Forget about league tables and how many points you have – if a team performs like we did today they will get beaten.

“We conceded three really soft goals and the lack of quality in the last third is not something I’ve seen from my players this season.

“You can get away with it when two or three players aren’t at it – but not when we all got a three out of 10.

“Maybe I gave the lads too many days off and maybe I could have made changes sooner. These are all things I have to question before I look at the level of performance.

“We’ve got a mountain to climb to get into the top two, but I’m experienced enough to know there is no reason to press the panic button.”

Portsmouth took another big step towards the League One title with a vital 1-0 victory at promotion rivals Peterborough.

Australian striker Kusini Yengi climbed off the bench to grab the only goal in the 77th minute to send an army of 4,000 Pompey fans wild.

Yengi slammed his seventh of the season past Posh keeper Jed Steer to complete a ruthless breakaway after being picked out by fellow substitute Gavin Whyte’s pass.

And that was enough to extend the table-toppers’ unbeaten run to 12 games while bringing Posh’s five-match winning streak to an end.

Captain Harrison Burrows was inches away from giving Posh a first-half lead when steering a low shot past the far post.

Top-scorer Ephron Mason-Clark came even closer to breaking the deadlock when blasting against the bar.

That was soon followed by the best Pompey opportunity of the opening period as Colby Bishop headed a Marlon Pack free-kick straight at Steer.

Malik Mothersille saw a volley fly across the face of goal as Posh started the second half well, but it was Pompey who eventually made the breakthrough to move nine points clear of third place and closer to a Championship return.

Peterborough continued their charge back into League One automatic-promotion contention by beating play-off chasing Stevenage 3-1.

Harrison Burrows’ spot-kick, a stunning first league goal for 19-year-old Jadel Katongo and Kwame Poku’s clincher earned a fifth straight league success.

Stevenage would arguably have been disappointed to still be level at the break after being the dominant first-half side, so Luther James-Wildin’s reckless challenge on Ephron Mason-Clark to gift the hosts a 44th-minute penalty – coolly converted by Burrows – will have come as a hammer blow to former Posh boss Steve Evans.

Evans’ Stevenage also had the first big chance of the second period when Posh keeper Jed Steer pulled off a full-stretch save to keep out top-scorer Jamie Reid’s header.

But it was Posh who found the net again as Manchester City loanee Katongo embarked on a marauding run from inside his own half, exchanged passes with substitute Malik Mothersille and steered a low shot past Taye Ashby-Hammond in the 64th minute.

Mothersille was again the architect when Poku sealed the points with a ferocious 77th-minute finish before Nick Freeman hit a consolation in the 85th minute for Stevenage as they slipped to a first defeat in five games.

Peterborough’s promotion push faltered yet further as Karamoko Dembele’s stoppage-time winner consigned them to a fourth consecutive defeat at home to Blackpool.

Dembele, the younger brother of former Posh hero Siriki, fired in just three minutes from time to give Blackpool a 2-1 win, just their fourth away from home this season.

The hosts had led at the break thanks to Hector Kyprianou’s clever near-post header from Harrison Burrows’ corner that took goalkeeper Dan Grimshaw by surprise.

The hosts were in control until the 56th minute, when keeper Jed Steer conceded a penalty having rushed from his line to attempt a punch but fouled Kyle Joseph in the process.

Shayne Lavery stepped up and smashed his effort into the corner as Steer correctly dived to his right.

The Tangerines were in control from that moment on and claimed the three points in the 91st minute when Dembele saw a powerful effort from just outside the box deflected by Posh defender Romoney Crichlow to wrong-foot Steer.

Exeter manager Gary Caldwell hailed his side’s comeback as they stunned promotion-chasing Peterborough 2-1 at St James Park.

After Harrison Burrows converted a first-half penalty, Posh missed several chances to increase their lead before they had Michael Olakigbe sent off after picking up a second yellow card.

That galvanised Exeter, with Reece Cole’s free-kick ending up in the back of the net off some combination of goalkeeper Nicholas Bilokapic and Dion Rankine before Jadel Katongo headed a superb Cole cross into his own net to complete a remarkable comeback for the Grecians.

“They are a very good team and asked a lot of questions of us in the first half,” Caldwell said. “I thought defensively we were good and restricted them to little, we had a problem down our right-hand side where we were a bit loose and that led to the goal.

“We didn’t have a lot of shots to defend, we were patient in how we pressed and asked them to build up with lots of passes, which kept them in front of us, so I was happy with that, but I thought we could have been braver in possession and quicker with our passing.

“Too many times we passed back and put each other under pressure, but I think it is a fantastic win and the first time we have won ugly.

“The sending-off had a big impact in the game but in the second half I thought we were a yard quicker, we had more impetus in that second half and that led to the red card, so all credit to the players for changing that mentality at half-time and coming out and making the game different in the second half.”

Posh boss Darren Ferguson was left to rue his side’s profligacy as he said: “The game changed when we didn’t kill them off, we had so many opportunities to kill them off at the start of the second half – and the end of the first half – and even with 10 men, we had the better chances with our pace on the counter attack.

“The sending-off is naive and the young boy is distraught in there because he feels like he’s let his team down – which he hasn’t, we win and lose together. It’s a silly challenge, a naive challenge and I thought it was a soft sending-off but it’s irrelevant, he’s given it.

“I thought we were comfortable with 10 men and it took a free-kick – a good free-kick – to get them back into the game, but they weren’t hurting us. Our shape was good, we looked the more threatening team with the better chances.

“I am repeating myself because in so many games this season we are missing chance after chance and it is catching up with us now.”

Exeter staged a rousing comeback to beat the 10 men of promotion-chasing Peterborough 2-1 and ease their League One relegation fears in the process.

Posh went in front on 32 minutes when Will Aimson’s clumsy tackle on Ephron Mason-Clark gifted Posh a penalty, which Harrison Burrows stroked home.

Jack Aitchison then missed a glorious chance to equalise when Josh Knight’s pass went straight to him, but he inexplicably shot straight at the floored Peterborough goalkeeper from 10 yards.

In the second half, Exeter’s Vili Sinisalo made a brilliant stop to deny Michael Olakigbe in a one-on-one, then another to keep out Ricky-Jade Jones before Posh were reduced to 10 men when Olakigbe picked up a second yellow card for a foul on Vinnie Harper on 56 minutes.

Exeter upped the tempo with Harper striking the post from 25 yards before Reece Cole’s superb free-kick on 75 minutes brought about the opener – his shot also struck the post and looked to have crossed the line off unfortunate keeper Nicholas Bilokapic, with Dion Rankine on hand to make sure.

Five minutes later, it was 2-1 as Cole’s superb cross from the right was headed into his own net by Jadel Katongo.

Posh rarely threatened thereafter with the defeat denting their promotion hopes, but Exeter are up to 14th with the win.

Grant McCann’s return to London Road ended in defeat as Peterborough moved into the FA Cup third round with a 2-1 win against Doncaster after surviving a late fightback.

Harrison Burrows opened the scoring after just three minutes with an incredible piece of luck that saw his cross from the left sail over everyone and bounce into the top-right corner.

Kwame Poku and Ricky-Jade Jones both wasted great one-on-one opportunities to add to the lead in the first half but it was Ephron Mason-Clark, a McCann signing, that added the second after 53 minutes.

After picking up the ball on the right of the box, he cut inside and hit a brilliant curling effort right into the bottom corner.

The League Two side responded to the setback well and pulled a deserved goal back with 15 minutes to play when Mo Faal powered home a header from Joe Ironside’s cross.

Doncaster almost completed the comeback in stoppage time but Kyle Hurst’s volley crashed back off the post.

Darren Ferguson was relieved to survive an “unprofessional” second-half wobble as his side held off a fightback from 10-man Blackpool to win 4-2 at Bloomfield Road.

Posh appeared to be cruising as goals from Kwame Poku, Harrison Burrows and Ricky-Jade Jones put them 3-0 up inside an hour against a home side who had Oliver Casey dismissed shortly after the restart.

But the hosts scored twice in the space of four minutes through Kenny Dougall’s header and Sonny Carey, who was first to the rebound when Nicholas Bilokapic parried James Husband’s shot to set up a grandstand finish.

It needed a stoppage-time strike from Ephron Mason-Clark, who had earlier missed a penalty, to make the points safe and Ferguson was left to reflect on a mixed performance.

“We were excellent for 60 minutes and we stuck to the game plan,” he said.

“We were very good and we were dominant. But even at 2-0 we got sloppy, and then a great third goal and you’re thinking ‘game over, just manage it. Can we put a real statement out and put them to the sword?’.

“Then 15 minutes later, we’re hanging on. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. We were all over the place and it was just unprofessional.

“We managed to see it through and a good counter-attack and a great finish by Ephron. Any time you come here and you win, it’s a great result because these will be in the top six, I’m absolutely certain of that.

“We’ve now gone to Bolton away, Barnsley away, these away, Portsmouth away; a lot of teams that will probably end up in the top six, I think, and we’ve come out pretty unscathed.”

Posh climbed to fourth following their victory while Blackpool sit seventh, three points outside the Sky Bet League One play-off places.

Tangerines boss Neil Critchley had nothing but praise for the way his side battled back into the contest.

“I’m proud of a team that’s given absolutely everything in really difficult circumstances,” he said.

“If you’re going to lose a game of football, then lose like that.

“I’m disappointed to lose, obviously. I think we could have started the game better, I thought we were a little bit tentative, which was not the message before the game, but I thought we grew into it.

“Our response to going 3-0 down was magnificent, unbelievable. The players gave absolutely everything. At 3-2, we had them, we felt we could get something out of the game at that moment in time.

“You could see tiredness towards the end and we made a mistake and they scored. So much happened during the game. Even though we’ve lost, I’m still very positive about what I saw in the second half, especially.”

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.