The Twohundredpercent Play-Off Jamboree: Peterborough Head For Old Trafford

By on May 19, 2011 in English League Football, Latest | 23 comments

If you wanted to see a hint of the essence of the unconfined joy of football coupled with a hint at the traditions of the game in England, it was on display behind the goal at Peterborough United’s London Road this evening. When, at the third attempt, Craig Mackail-Smith bundled the ball over the goal-line to complete the home side’s over-turning of what had been, at one point during the first leg, a 3-1 deficit, the terrace behind the goal exploded under lights turned amber by decades of tobacco smoke, a joyous explosion of care-free abandon.

London Road has two such terraces, one at each end of the ground. The Moyes End, which sits opposite it, has its final hurrah this evening before being demolished and replaced by something thoroughly modern. Fifty-odd miles down the M1, there is already something thoroughly modern. Peterborough United travelled to Buckinghamshire at the weekend and, after a good start, almost saw their world cave in. With a man sent off and having fallen two goals behind, it was starting to look as if they might have missed their window of opportunity of making the Old Trafford final.

This, though, was only part of the story of the first leg. Peterborough United took almost 4,400 supporters to the first leg, and this was a match played out in front of banks and banks of empty, black tip-up seats in a crowd of 12,600. With no 2018 World Cup coming to England and almost universally unloved, the experiment of transplanting a club almost sixty miles feels, after seven and a half years, as ragged as it ever has. It feels as if it is failing and, while football supporters have a tendency towards sympathy for those of other clubs in trouble, it seems difficult to believe that it would be sadly missed.

So, Peterborough United had the groundswell of public support behind them. How must it have felt in the away dressing room before where, deep in their subconsciences, the players must have known that the only people willing them to win were what passes for their support? How must it have felt to take the pitch to an atmosphere something akin to that of a bear-pit? Peterborough’s support was making an evening of it tonight, creating a wall of noise to carry their team to the final. There was no need for any embellishment to “create” an atmosphere on the part of the stadium team at London Road this evening. The job was being performed for them by Peterborough’s supporters.

After eleven minutes, the roof over the London Road End almost lifted off as Peterborough took the lead, and it was a goal of sumptuous cheek and skill. A free-kick on the right-hand side of the penalty area seemed primed for a lofted cross towards the six yard area, but instead Grant McCann opted to curl the ball over the wall, catching the goalkeeper completely unaware, and dropping it into the corner of the net. In the lead on the night but only level on aggregate, the chances kept coming to put Peterborough in frornt. Grant Basey whipped over a low cross which Craig Mackail-Smith and James Wesolowski only narrowly missed. Mackail-Smith also forced a save from the goalkeeper and, whilst the ball rattled the crossbar at the other end of the pitch, by half-time it felt as if there was an irresistable momentum behind Peterborough United this evening.

The second goal arrived nine minutes into the second half. Peterborough have been impressive in attacking positions all season, and the second goal demonstrated tenacity and instinctive finishing. George Boyd’s shot was blocked by the goalkeeper and Mackail-Smith, having seen his first effort blocked by a defender, bundled the ball over the line. London Road erupted – a sheer wall of noise and celebration behind the goal. The visitors threw themselves forward in search of a goal to force the match into extra-time, but they started to come undone at the seams. Two of their players started pushing and shoving at each other and, if anything, the match ended with Peterborough looking more likely than not to increase their lead, with Mackail-Smith hitting the base of the post and another shot fizzes across the face of goal.

At full-time follows another joyful pitch invasion. In the Peterborough supporters this evening, we have seen amongst best that English football has to offer. They were full-heartedly behind their team from the beginning to the end of this match, and the team itself also deserves congratulating for battling back from a point during the first leg at which it might have seemed as if a place in the final was slipping away from them. Moreover, for the criticism that may be offered in the direction of manager Darren Ferguson, there can be no question that his team has been the most attractive to watch in the bottom two divisions of the Football League this season. They held a narrow lead for most of the second half this evening, but it often felt as if they were almost pathologically unable to stop attacking. It may prove to be different matter against Huddersfield Town in the final, but tonight, against supine opposition, it was an irresistable force to which their rivals – sentenced to another season in League One by this result – had no response. The Football League play-offs have been a delight to watch so far, and this match was no exception. The final seems likely to be a fascinating affair.

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    23 Comments

  1. Brilliantly Done!

    ursus arctos

    May 19, 2011

  2. it goes without saying, nicely done.

    MrPoo

    May 19, 2011

  3. Excellent article… Wonderful for Peterborough and such a shame to see The Franchise lose. (And it should have been by more if it hadn’t have been for that bizarre refereeing decision to award a freekick when playing the advantage would have seen Peterborough go 3-0 up.) – So, theres only one Dons in a Play-Off Final… The mighty AFC WImbledon. And wouldn’t it be cruel to phone the Franchise box office on 01908 622900 and see if you can get Final tickets!

    Alfred Waz

    May 20, 2011

  4. Are the well dones for not mentioning them by name?

    If not – am I missing an acrostic or something? I already missed the excellent one Rob did in his article about Ken Bates…

    CTT

    May 20, 2011

  5. Great article. Those Mk fans who watch football in their soulless venue can only dream of a real football arena steeped in history and atmosphere that was London Road on this fabulous night.

    One Micky Halsall

    May 20, 2011

  6. For those of us less purile in our football understandings MK Dons have twice the support and a 100x better stadium than the Wombles had in 2003. Whilst no-one argues that the original decision lacked precedent the relaity is that the consequences are all good. AFC thrive with a more coherant support at Kingsmeadow (not withstanding how they acquired the lease), MK provide one of the biggest conibations in the South with a professional football team. Time to move on from the kingergarden grudges and go to the big school of forgiveness and tolerance. Their exists 30-50 clubs in the top 5 divisions with fly-boy owners, iffy game-plans, moral indecency and offences against football, MK Dons are not the only lightening rod! How any article can basically call for MK Dons to rot and ignore Peterboroughs history and recent tribulations (Barry Fry everyone favourate lower league Harry Redknapp…) without realising the hypocricy it is promoting is beyond me. (for the record, fan of famous norther club owned for the last 2 weeks by a charleton whose been “chairman” since 2006).

    M G

    May 21, 2011

  7. No-one has ever argued that Milton Keynes shouldn’t have a senior football club, MG. The argument is that if the town wanted one it should have started from the bottom like everybody else, rather than parachuting in somebody else’s club.

    If I moved into your house and changed the locks, you would probably call the police. If the police then said, well, that’s okay, actually, you would probably be angry about it. Would it become acceptable for me to have taken your house if my family subsequently had a reasonable standard of living and I tidied up the front garden a bit? Would your complaints be a “kingergarden grudge”? Why, exactly, should they move on? Because it’s uncomfortable for MK Dons supporters? Well, if that’s the case, other football clubs are available.

    I know the argument that “Wimbledon would have gone bust otherwise”. Well, fine. If that was the case, then that needed to happen naturally. And if you think that this site doesn’t mention “with fly-boy owners, iffy game-plans, moral indecency and offences against football” other than this one, then you clearly haven’t spent very long reading it.

    Ian

    May 21, 2011

  8. I’ll stick to the point about MK battering rather than engage a somewhat limited analogy. Todays momentious achiwement by AFC of getting from Combined Counties to League 2 in 9 seasons should be appaulded, however if they react to a league cup draw or a L1/L2 game next season with MK Dons in the way they reacted to the potential meeting in this seasons FA Cup then the gloss comes off.

    This close season would be a good time for The MK people to drop the “Dons” tag, to say they wern’t the old Wombles and just continue to create their own history. MK’s route map into league football in hardly unique it is just that most of the examples of slight of hand/mergers etc took place 100 years ago. But it is also AFC’s job to accept MK’s reality as a league side and set an example of maturity.

    As an aside I quite like what MK Dons do as a club, young managers given a chance to progress. As another aside, you can see the Kingsmeadow floodlights from my back garden and hear the crowd roar.

    MG

    May 21, 2011

  9. I note my contributions are “awaiting moderation”. Ah yes the great crime of not seeing AFC as all sweetness and light!! God knows what would happen if I postulated my FCUM views…..

    MG

    May 21, 2011

  10. their is a “the” missing from before “next season”.

    MG

    May 21, 2011

  11. While I don’t usually interact with idiots, the “MK Dons have twice the support and a 100x better stadium than the Wombles had in 2003.” is clearly bollocks. If by Wombles, you mean Wimbledon FC, then that would only be true, because the fans voted with their feet and their wallets leaving Wimbledon FC playing in front of a handful of idiots at the National Hockey Stadium (another entity that’s found itself killed off by the Franchise project). If by Wombles, you mean AFC Wimbledon, then it’s simply not true. Once you knock off the free tickets Pete Wankerman has to give away – around 3000 if the difference between league (where the home team keeps the gate receipts) and cup games (where the gate receipts are shared and therefore much harder to give 000s of tickets away) are anything to go by, then AFC Wimbledon outsell the Franchise now, as they did in 2003. Not to mention that Kinsgmeadow is better than the Adsa Planning Permission Requirement Stadium on the simple fact that Kingsmeadow is a completed stadium, instead having rows of concrete waiting for seats that will never be used.

    “I note my contributions are “awaiting moderation”. Ah yes the great crime of not seeing AFC as all sweetness and light!! God knows what would happen if I postulated my FCUM views…..”

    If they are as clueless and as ill-informed as your views on the Franchise, then you may be best wise to think of the phrase “Better to stay silent and be thought of as an idiot, than to open your mouth and confirm it”.

    Rob

    May 22, 2011

  12. Nice Rob, nice, always good that other conflicting views are “idiots”. FTR on league attendences, 2000-01 in Division 1 Wimbledon played at Selhurst Park in front of an avg of 7901 a -53% from 1999-00 with a low of 4489. In 2001-02 they played again at Selhurst Park with an average of 6,958, down 11.9% (despite a better season) with a low of 4249. 2002-03, still in London, 2786 with a low of…849! In 2003-04, they start with 1145 at home to Crewe, played Wigan a few weeks later in front of less and moved to Milton Keynes on 27 September 2003, the average for that season is 4751 up 41.4 percent! In 2004-05 as MK Dons at the hockey stadium it was 4896, 2005-06 5619, 2006-07, 6033 in League 2! Since the birth of staduim mk (or the botton half) it is 2007-08, 9456, 2008-09 10550, 2009-10, 10290 and the season just gone 8512. Those figures are facts that should not get in the way of you calling someone “clueness and ill-informed” (on a personal level love being talked to like a politican to the media..). They do not show as the original article states “as it is failing” and do not support your comments do they?

    I await one comment that justifies the anti MK sentiment stoked here related to this seasons L1 play-offs and the behaviour of MK Dons as a functioning league club and I await one reasonable opinion that shows (especially given what AFC have achieved) the childish garbage still postulated by some and designed to keep comtempt brewing carries substance 9 years on. I repeat, time to move on and that includes giving MK (with the Dons or not) the credit they deserve. If however you can’t be rational then at least state it as a discliamer every time you mention the MK club. Me I will continue to judge both club on how they have developed since.

    MG

    May 22, 2011

  13. Oh and FTR (quick version) my views on FCUM are very clear, you should never desert your club regardless of ownership. If I can tolerate 6 years of Bates and still believe one day he will be gone (and the club better off when he is) I’m sure the FCUM mob could have tolerated winning 4 league titles and going to 3 CL finals without the need to form a new club. Of course if they had formed a new club in Manchester for the whole of Manchester (which of course putting the name Umited in and waering red indicates they do not embrace that ideal) no-one could complain. However in their case they are clearly “United light” and no amount of ownership issues, at OT, Anfield or even Oakwell will justify that version of an AFC! Fight from within (which is what MUST have done well).

    MG

    May 22, 2011

  14. As a final commnet, this quote, taken from The Political Economy of Football sums up why in the greater football world some context is required on MK. The article which appeared today makes the case for Merton taking some responsability for how the move to MK came about: “The Kingsmeadow ground is good enough for League 2, but has its limitations if the club progresses. Moreover, as Lawrie Sanchez points out, Wimbledon WERE IN EFFECT A FRANCHISE CLUB FROM THE DAY THEY MOVED TO SELHURST PARK IN 1991″ (my empthasis), I couldn’t agree more. It goes on to say “apparently, a suitable site in Merton might be available”, well if it is good luck with that AFC but please don’r forget Kingstonian when you go home.

    MG

    May 22, 2011

  15. “2002-03, still in London, 2786 with a low of…849!”

    Not surpising considering the Wimbledon fans were boycotting the club in 2002-03. That’s why you’re clueless, ill informed and an idiot – you are comparing the attendances of seasons worth of campaigns and boycotts of the club against a club that gives 3000 tickets away per home game. It’s like you claiming that your house is nicer than mine, because your house is bigger than my shed.

    “I await one comment that justifies the anti MK sentiment stoked here related to this seasons L1 play-offs and the behaviour of MK Dons as a functioning league club and I await one reasonable opinion that shows (especially given what AFC have achieved) the childish garbage still postulated by some and designed to keep comtempt brewing carries substance 9 years on.”

    The Franchise could have done what Aldershot Town have done, what Cheltenham Town, Macclesfield Town, Stevenage and others have done but they did not. They stole another town’s football club (and for years tried to claim Wimbledon’s history as their own). Nine years on, it is still theft.

    “If I can tolerate 6 years of Bates and still believe one day he will be gone (and the club better off when he is)”

    In other words, you are subservient, so everyone else has to be. Baaaa.

    “Fight from within (which is what MUST have done well).”

    Yes, I’m like the Glazers are hurt by MUST and their green and gold campaign, and they money MUST’s members have spent in order to get into Old Trafford to protest against the Glazers.

    “well if it is good luck with that AFC but please don’r forget Kingstonian when you go home.”

    I doubt they’ll forget Kingstonianm, considering that Kingstonian are their tenants. And Kingstonian certainly won’t forget AFC Wimbledon, as without the Wimbledon fans digging deep, Kingsmeadow would be a housing estate today.

    Like I say, clueless and ill informed.

    Rob

    May 23, 2011

  16. MG says “fight from within”. Leeds supporters have done absolutely nothing to resist Ken Bates, preferring to see any negative reporting as a conspiracy against their great club.

    Calling your comments clueless and ill informed is doing you a favour.

    Steve

    May 23, 2011

  17. On Bates, as a founder of the now defunct Loveleedshatebates.com and ex editor of Clarkeonenil.co.uk, both established anti-Bates sites I think I can ignore both your comments.

    MG

    May 23, 2011

  18. You Mr RF are my missing twin brother (but minus the hinterland). Been a pleasure to bother you.

    MG

    May 23, 2011

  19. BTW, April 1st is my birthday…coat on, taxi ordered.

    MG

    May 23, 2011

  20. Douche.

    CTT

    June 7, 2011

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