A STUNNING second-half display saw Oxford United bounce back to form in some style as high-flying Peterborough United were cut to ribbons at London Road.

A fourth straight defeat looked on the cards for Pep Clotet’s men when they went in at half-time trailing to Jack Marriott’s goal.

The visitors had also lost Rob Hall to injury, but they produced their best 45 minutes of the season to smash Posh to pieces.

Jack Payne was instrumental, having a hand in all four goals.

First, his cross was headed in by Josh Ruffels, before Wes Thomas quickly raced on to the midfielder’s pass to blast United in front.

Payne should have made it 3-1 himself, but made amends by teeing up Joe Rothwell to stretch a lead which was added to late on when the Huddersfield Town loanee’s shot was parried into Agon Mehmeti’s path.

It came in front of a joyous away end, whose celebrations will have been made extra sweet after miserable trips to Blackpool and Bury in the past fortnight.

Thomas returned to the starting line-up, replacing Gino van Kessel in one of four changes from the 3-0 midweek defeat at Bury.

Christian Ribeiro, Rothwell and Payne also came into the starting XI, but within ten minutes one of those who had dropped to the bench was thrust into the game.

Hall came off second best in a block tackle on the edge of the Peterborough box and could not continue. Ryan Ledson replaced the winger, prompting a reshuffle in midfield which saw Rothwell pushed wide.

Despite the setback, United carved out the game’s first clear chance, on 12 minutes.

Payne picked Jack Baldwin’s pocket out wide and stayed upright as the defender snapped at his heels, before cutting the ball back for Thomas. The pass was a little firm and just behind the striker, who fired wide of the near post from ten yards.

Oxford Mail:

  • Wes Thomas takes on two Peterborough United players

It was a miss United quickly rued, as they fell behind two minutes later.

Anthony Grant’s pass cut through the visitors’ back four, who appealed in vain for offside as Marriott raced through and beat Simon Eastwood.

United had folded after falling behind four days earlier and they had to weather a spell from a buoyant home side, who went more direct than normal.

Ricky Miller steered a shot over from Andrew Hughes’s knockdown, while Ryan Tafazolli headed a decent chance from a corner just over.

On the half-hour, Curtis Nelson was booked for hauling down Miller and from the resulting free-kick Eastwood made a stunning one-handed save to deny Steven Taylor’s header.

Aside from a set piece which Ricardinho fired a yard over the bar, United had struggled to create as clear a chance as Thomas’s early effort.

Oxford Mail:

  • Ryan Ledson came on after ten minutes to replace Rob Hall

But as the half wore on, their patient football began to cause Peterborough problems.

United’s biggest issue was a reluctance for players to pull the trigger around the box, perhaps showing a lack of confidence.

Rothwell and Payne turned down chances to try their luck from around the edge of the box in favour of one more touch, which allowed Peterborough to snuff out the danger.

The most glaring example came in stoppage-time.

Good pressing from United forced Baldwin into a loose pass, which Rothwell anticipated. The midfielder broke into the penalty area, but instead of shooting he tried to square for Thomas and the backtracking Baldwin cleared for a corner.

It was an error, but encouraging signs were there – and they bore fruit in style at the start of the second half.

United started brightly and forced a couple of early corners.

The second set piece was taken short and Payne hung up a deep right-footed cross which Ruffels headed back across goal and into the far corner of the net.

Within five minutes, Posh goalkeeper Jonathan Bond was beaten again.

Ledson’s desire saw him win the ball in midfield and find Payne, who slipped in Thomas to emphatically smash the ball into the far corner.

It set up a thrilling second half where chances flowed at both ends.

Payne should have extended the lead just after the hour mark, but he wanted to take an age to convert James Henry’s pass and ended up prodding at Bond from eight yards.

Payne also headed over from Ribeiro’s cross, while at the other end Eastwood made routine saves to deny Leo Da Silva Lopes and Maddison.

The visitors had to dig in and John Mousinho stood out playing at centre half for the first time.

United needed the cushion of a third goal and 15 minutes from time it arrived on the break.

Rothwell provided the finishing touch with a cool first-time finish at the end of a sweeping move which saw Henry sprint down the right and find Payne, who squared.

It got even better for the noisy travelling fans seven minutes from time.

Another terrific move saw Henry feed Payne, whose low shot was parried to Mehmeti, who could not miss from close range.

Marriott hit the crossbar late on, but United saw out the closing stages to claim a morale-boosting win.

Peterborough Utd (3-4-1-2): Bond, Taylor, Baldwin, Tafazolli, Da Silva Lopes, Anderson (Doughty 63), Grant, Hughes (Lloyd 70), Maddison, Miller, Marriott.

Unused subs: O’Malley, Shepherd, Forrester, Penny, Kanu.

Booked: Miller.

Oxford Utd (4-4-1-1): Eastwood, Ribeiro (Carroll 73), Nelson, Mousinho, Ricardinho, Hall (Ledson 10), Rothwell, Ruffels, Henry, Payne, Thomas (Mehmeti 80).

Unused subs: Shearer, Williamson, Mowatt, Van Kessel.

Booked: Nelson, Ricardinho.

Referee: Tom Nield (West Yorkshire).

Attendance: 6,153 (757 visitors).