It’s Saturday lunchtime and England are playing later on this afternoon, but you wouldn’t know it in Peterborough. The top two divisions don’t have matches scheduled so that England can parade around in their strange new shirts, so Peterborough United against Leicester City might just be the biggest club match being played in Europe today. It’s second against top in League One, a situation made possible by the late season collapse of the Milton Keynes franchise, who have slumped down the table in recent weeks. They have, in one of the few completely positive points of what has turned into a fairly dispiriting season, winning just one of their last eight matches, allowing Peterborough to catch them up and overhaul them.
The lunchtime kick-off is on police advice after trouble in the town centre for Peterborough’s home match against Leeds United, but there seems little enmity between the supporters of the two clubs, a situation perhaps enhanced by the widespread hostility towards their nearest rivals, Leeds United, Millwall and Milton Keynes. As time has worn on this season, they have looked more and more like the teams most deserving of promotion. Peterborough have won eight of their last nine matches, while Leicester have been less consistent recently but have been at or near the top of the table for the whole of the season. In the press, the comparisons between Peterborough manager Darren Ferguson and his father Alex have already started. Ferguson took his team up last season and, flush with the wealth of Irish chairman Darragh MacAnthony, he has been able to continue his team’s upward surge through a division shot through with mediocrity.
In driving rain and with winds touching 40 miles per hour, the weather causes havoc with the football on display. Peterborough adapt better that Leicester to the difficult conditions, pushing the visitors back into their own half and creating numerous half chances without ever seeming to seriously threaten the Leicester goal. George Boyd’s shot is comfortably saved by Leicester’s Tony Warner, and one starts to suspect that if Peterborough don’t score before half-time, they will have given the league leaders something of a psychological advantage going into the second half. Just before half-time, though, Peterborough break the deadlock. Defender Charlie Lee is one of the less likely players on the pitch to be able to provide such a breakthrough, but he curls in a shot just before the break which beats Warner to give the home side the lead.
The weather continues to deteriorate in the second half and, with the wind on Leicester’s back, the leaders start to assert their way back into the match, with Paul Dickov having a shot blocked. Peterborough, however, continue to have the better of the chances. Craig Mackail-Smith breaks through and shoots wide from an angle and, in the heat of the moment, Darren Ferguson is sent to the stands after an altercation with an official. With fourteen minutes to play Dean Keates hits the crossbar with a free kick. They don’t have to wait very long, though. Two minutes later, Chris Whelpdale fires the ball past Warner to make the score 2-0 and wrap the points up for Peterborough.
The result in the division’s other big match also goes Peterborough’s way. Later on in the afternoon, Leeds beat Franchise 2-0 at Elland Road. Although Franchise have a game in hand on Peterborough, they are now nine points adrift of the automatic promotion places with seven matches left to play, and third placed Millwall now seem to be the only team that will be able to catch them for the second automatic promotion place. Leicester, out of sorts this afternoon in difficult conditions, still seem likely to win the League One championship. They are still four points clear of Peterborough at the top of the table, and three wins from their remaining six matches should see them promoted. The shiny new Walkers Stadium and Peterborough’s London Road are light years apart in their development, but they could both be hosting Championship football as equals next season.