The last League One campaign of 2010-2011 saw the archetypal Peterborough United of the MacAnthony era: a team that scored goals for fun, slayed giants, but that also haemorrhaged defensively, on an almost weekly basis.
The tail end of 2012-2013 saw a tightening up of the ship at the back (just ignore Crystal Palace please). Partly it seems due to the introduction of ex-Posh and Republic of Ireland centre back Gary Breen as a first-team coach, partly down to the exceptional performance of midfield enforcer turned rock at the centre of defence Michael Bostwick and partly down to the form of the seemingly Birmingham-bound Jack Payne.
This campaign, if the team goes into the season with most of the same side that finished our ill-fated Championship campaign, it COULD be more of the same as the 2010-2011 venture.
DMAC seems to want to see us play the diamond formation which succeeded, after the return of Fergie Jnr. in the second half of the 2010-2011 season, with ‘Lee Tomlin playing behind two pacey 30-goal a season strikers.’
Whether that comes to fruition is partly down to whether we can keep our grubby League One mitts on the tremendous talents of Lee Tomlin and Dwight Gayle, and if we can find somebody to partner the pesky ex-Stansted man up top as he comes face to face with the brutish defences of League One for the first time.
I’m in the camp of thought that it would take utterly stupid money for any club to pry Gayle or Tomlin from our grasp. So I fully expect to see them in Posh shirts for the upcoming promotion push. But in football anything can happen.
Whether Ferguson follows his fearless leader’s calls for a 4-1-2-1-2, is something which I won’t be dabbling into.
What I will be dipping my toes in to though, is how the expected departure’s gaps will be filled. Gabriel Zakuani and Tommy Rowe are two players on the transfer list, and whether it’s a good idea for their careers or not is hardly my business. However, how they are replaced in the 2013-2014 season, is something I am curious about.
Defence – Rowe and Zakuani to go?
Tommy Rowe at times last year was inspirational. Whether he had been secretly training with Gareth Bale is up for debate. But what is certain is that no current Posh player will be able to replicate his lung-busting 60-70m runs from deep which carved defences open at the mid-point of the season and won matches solely due to his contributions.
What Posh do have, is a young left back, who in our most despairing part of last season, plugged on and proved to be a more than a sturdy stopgap at Championship level, in the shape of Kgosi Nlthe.
Already he’s been called up for a full South African international squad. Against Brazil no less.
The diminutive youth-team graduate showed enough in his first full season, even with an almost season-ending injury, to merit the chance to make the troublesome Posh left back slot his own. Defensively solid, he will be comfortable in a back-four behind a flat bank of four and with the attacking instinct to be able to contribute width to a diamond formation and as the left sided wing back of a 5-3-2.
The Zakuani situation is even less of an issue. Whilst Gabby may be a firm fans’ favourite, with his Terrier baiting, Twitter banter and his general no-nonsense style of defending – he’s not the ball-playing defender that a Ferguson team craves. Michael Bostwick was the stand-out centre back last season as he was comfortable on the deck and the ground. A skillset which sadly, the ex-Potter, Zakuani lacks.
Waiting in the wings are the more than capable Shaun Brisley, Nathaniel Knight-Percival, Craig Alcock and perhaps even James Sage – all players who could fill the gap left by big Gabz, in any formation that Fergsuon chooses to tackle League One.
The seemingly imminent loss of Mark Little is disappointing, due to the Wolves trainee’s fantastic levels of effort in a Posh shirt over the last three and a half years. But again, ready to step in Posh have the capable, steady eddyish replacement in the shape of Craig Alcock and a more wildcard option in highly rated, though injury-plagued, wing-back Michael Richens, who we poached from Luton a few years back.
The defence, it seems is as sorted as a Posh backline will ever be. Olejnik proved to be comfortable at Championship level, and at League One I fully expect him to be one of the division’s best #1’s, and if he could work on his kicking over summer though, well that would be just fantastic.
Midfield – Posh’s Payne, Birmingham’s gain?
It’s in midfield that the saddest story of Posh’s off-season is most likely to emerge from – this being the inability to sign young loan-star Jack Payne whose displays after we plucked him from Gillingham, showed a maturity and a level of ability that belayed his tender age.
A midfield two of Grant McCann (contract renewal permitting), and Payne in League One was a perfect board to build attacks on and while Kane Ferdinand is still somewhat an unknown entity, providing energy and graft, Payne’s composure on the ball and ability to break up play seemed a perfect fit for the Posh midfield in League One – whether we went for a diamond, 3 centre backs(3-5-1-1), or a flat 4-4-2.
If we do go hell or glory again in League One, with the diamond formation, then wingers like Nathaniel Mendez-Laing and Joe Newell may struggle for gametime in their preferred positions. As while they’re both capable of playing in multiple positions, somewhat awkwardly (Newell at LWB vs. Crystal Palace at home for example), their true callings lie out wide running at full-backs. However, if Posh go 4-4-2, then the Swanson’s, the Newell’s and the Mendez-Laing’s could find their level at League One, causing havoc to lumbering, ageing League One full-backs. A boy can dream surely?
Forwards – To trust in youth? How very Posh
Up front, as mentioned earlier, it is whether we can keep hold of Tomlin and Gayle which will be integral this summer. As receiving big fees for either would be fine for the club, but the search for a future 30-goal a season striker or creative force, willing to come to a recently relegated club, may in fact be difficult – no matter what our tremendous record of unearthing non-league gems is and our newfound financial clout.
Twitter tattle leads me to believe that many Posh fans see youth striking sensations Janaii Gordon-Hutton and Shaquille McDonald, as the future of Posh’s strike force. With their youth team record bordering on the ridiculous, it’s difficult to disagree.
However, the youth team, and first-team graft in League One week-in week-out are very different things. To pin a promotion push on the goals of these two starlets, could see fans disappointed and the careers of two young Posh products damaged in the process. Something which, with players of such promise I’m reluctant to vindicate.
As it is so early in the club’s transfer dealings, it is extremely difficult to judge who will still be at the club, who we will bring in, and how we will eventually start the inaugural game of our season.
However, I’m going to have two speculative bashes. The first assuming that we hold onto the stars, and that the listed players leave and the second with a worst case scenario of our attacking force leaving and the transfer listed players leaving also. Here goes:
Written by John Fernandez, We Are Going Up’s Peterborough United Blogger
On 21st February 2012, Tyrone Barnett was announced as Peterborough United’s first £1m man.
He then scored on his debut, from a beautifully weighted Ryan Bennett cross on his last game for the club, before scoring three in his next five matches to well and truly get Posh fans excited for the prospect of a new goalscoring sensation to revel in, after the departures of Craig Mackail-Smith and Aaron McLean.
Fast-forward eight months and the image of Barnett in most Posh fans mind isn’t of the versatile target man we were promised, but of a lazy and lethargic frontman, well in need of a spell out of the first team.
First Barnett was dropped, and then due to his own ridiculous actions on a night out with three other players, he found himself transfer listed and told by Fergie he ‘would never play for Posh again.’
The situation moved on and Barnett was shipped on loan to Ipswich, where he told the local press: “if I could get away [from Posh] I would be delighted.”
Not really a way to endear yourself to fans Tyrone. But I suppose, he was less fussed about what fans of a club that he had no future at would think.
Now with Posh sitting at the bottom of the Championship table, and with goals again becoming a problem, after Dwight Gayle’ s scoring streak seems to have ended, Barnett is back in the match day squad.
The burning issue then is whether Barnett’s value as a player for Peterborough United, in these tough times, outstrips fans loathing of a player who disrespected the club he was welcomed to with open arms just over a year ago.
Before Barnett’s loan move to Ipswich and indiscretions off the field, the ex-Macclesfield and Crawley striker looked like a £1m wasted. He contributed little to the offensive side of play, with his lack of pace and ability to get muscled out in the air much easier than a man of his size should only going to show why he has looked so out of his depth in the Championship. Whilst when the phase of play transferred to defending, Barnett would often be the last to track back and only really be effective defending a corner.
Dwight Gayle and even Saido Berahino’s arrival has given Posh fans a taste of what a striker who chases every second ball looks like. Maybe not in the way CMS did, but with a kind of endeavour that a team at bottom of the league needs to see from its frontmen.
So with all these negatives about Barnett, surely the answer to whether he can contribute to the Posh fight is a staunch NO.
With Barnett looking to find a new club it seems, perhaps the former West Brom trainee could pick up his performances in an attempt to allure a move to another Championship club. Maybe the enticement of a lucrative move elsewhere, sooner rather than later will force some of the goalscoring form seen in League 2 return to Barnett.
Will Posh fans welcome back Barnett with open arms. No, I have to say no.
But if he scores the goals that keep us in the Championship, then perhaps Posh fans may warm. It’s a longshot, but it’s one of those all hands to the mast situations which could require some fans (myself included) to reserve their bitterness.
Written by John Fernandez, We Are Going Up’s Peterborough United Blogger
Every football fan has that moment where you get a text, usually from your Dad, informing you of the extraordinary news unfolding at your club at that very moment. You can remember exactly where you were and what you were doing. Most of the time you’re at work or at school and it tends to be just before lunchtime. Lunch suddenly becomes a bit bland and tasteless as your mind is racing, questioning everything that’s just happened.
As a Posh fan, I have had two very distinct moments like that. The first was on Tuesday 18th September 2006. Posh were entertaining Everton in a Carling Cup first round clash that evening. I’d finished getting changed after a particularly rough Rugby lesson in P.E. and had just claimed my horrifically retro Siemens mobile phone from the ‘valuables box’. Looking back at said valuables box, I can’t imagine it was a particularly secure place to leave anything of any monetary value but that’s neither here nor there.
After the phone eventually switched back on I had a text and instantly went to read it, expecting it to be from the girl in my Science class that I evidently took a liking too. Unfortunately it wasn’t and instead it was my Dad with the words “Ring me”. My 12 year old self was more disappointed about the lack of text from aforementioned girl rather than the potential gravity of the situation my Dad wanted to inform me about.
Eventually I rang him, expecting him to tell me that I left the freezer door open again or something along those lines. Instead he told me that Posh had been taken over by a young Irish businessman called Darragh MacAnthony. I knew this was a watershed moment in Posh’s history, we were about to get an awful lot of money injected into our faltering club, the times were a-changing and I distinctly remember London Road bathed in the late evening sunshine before kick-off.
Everton beat us 2-1.
That’s beside the point though. The other moment occurred this week, yesterday to be precise – on the 21st February just after 5 in the evening. I was getting ready to meet my girlfriend for dinner (not the same girl who I used to sit next to in Year 8 Science for the record). Technology has come an awful long way since 2006. Siemens thankfully no longer make mobile phones and we can all now enjoy the immediateness of news thanks to Twitter and Facebook (in between the pictures of people you don’t particularly like doing things where you’d question the necessity of a camera.)
With my girlfriend being a Hull City fan, I recently discovered that I am a follower of Hull city’s official Twitter page. I can only imagine this was down to some playful flirting during the early days of our relationship or some really terrible hijack of my Twitter while I wasn’t looking. Either way, I am regularly updated of the dates and venues of Andy Dawson’s testimonial events that are being put on throughout the East Yorkshire and Humber area. A casual browse just before I set off meant I stumbled across a tweet announcing the unveiling of an “emergency loan signing” at Hull City with an image attached. I questioned whether sitting second in the table really constituted an emergency but none the less, I expanded the tweet to be greeted with a familiar face.
Sat staring at me from the computer screen was none other than George Boyd. My feelings can be best described in going back to how I felt after the girl in my Year 8 Science class ultimately rejected my advances to take things to the next level (start holding hands) – numb, sick and a little light headed. No longer would I see the fancy footwork and flowing locks at London Road. A model professional and a fantastic footballer, Posh have been well and truly blessed to employ him for the past six years.
The fantastic thing about George Boyd is that he is not the kind of player who will constantly take on one player too many. There is a sort of timing to his game, knowing exactly when to release the ball and equally knowing how long to keep hold of it for. It’s a pleasure to watch and it’s why he has had such loyal support from each and every Posh fan. All he wants is to play football and to play it bloody well at that.
His departure marks the end of an era at Peterborough United – an era that started all those years ago on Tuesday 18th September 2006 on a warm September evening. Three names have graced Posh history during that era and have helped develop the club and push it to new highs, Aaron McLean, Craig Mackail-Smith and George Boyd. What they have done for Peterborough United Football Club has been absolutely fantastic but now, as Posh find themselves sitting second from bottom, desperate for survival, the last of the old guard leaving could be a blessing in disguise.
Many Posh fans, including myself, have clung on to the days of the appropriately dubbed ‘Holy Trinity’ which saw two successive promotions and more goals than anyone can remember. Perhaps at Posh we are still under the impression that one of the holy trinity will ride in and save the day but it is never good to live in the past for too long. The club have laid some fantastically strong foundations, but it’s no good simply admiring the sturdy handiwork.
There is a real crop of young, potential talent at the club. Kgosi Ntlhe looked the part in the early half of this season and the young South African had earned himself a call up to the national side and looked set to play at least a small part in the African Cup of Nations until he succumbed to an ankle injury in early November against Sheffield Wednesday. And the man to step in Boyd’s boots? Tommy Rowe. Since promotion to the Championship second time around under Ferguson, Rowe has quietly been plugging away, contributing a lot to the build-up of a number of Posh goals this season, even netting one himself against Millwall this week.
George Boyd will always be remembered as a loyal servant to the Posh. Just as he was at Stevenage before and as I am sure he will be to Hull City. It has been an absolute honour and privilege to watch him over the years and I no doubt echo every Posh fan when I say all the best.
Note: some of you may be wondering what happened to the young lady in my Year 8 Science class after she rejected a long, happy life with me. I checked her Facebook page and it tells me she is an avid supporter of the legalisation of marijuana and is a fan of many marijuana related fanpages. I can’t help feeling she’s thinking what could have been?
Written by Liam Smith, We Are Going Up’s Peterborough United Blogger
As a Peterborough fan, a season in the Championship five years ago would have been beyond a dream. To have even uttered such a statement would have had you sneered and jeered at by your own brethren on the Glebe.
In 2013 though, it’s a reality. Posh, under the stewardship of Darren Ferguson, have not only reached England’s second tier, but stayed there for more than one season. That status though, is under threat, rumours that Fergie Jnr. has lost the dressing room have surfaced and signs are bleak.
A winless run of seven games at the start of the season coupled with incidents off the field which have seen players shipped out on loan to relegation rivals, means that Posh are by no means guaranteed Championship status for 2013-14.
Peterborough United currently sit rock bottom at the foot of the Championship table, and although they have a game in hand, positivity has evaporated at London Road. With managers in the division being hacked and changed more frequently than a new-borns nappy, many of the Posh faithful cry for blood. ‘Fergie out!’ is the taunt from the terraces.
What good will does that do though? What purpose would be served by getting rid of, arguably, the most successful manager to have graced London Road since the club was founded in 1934? Brought in at the inauguration of the MacAnthony era, Ferguson has overseen triple promotions, relegation and the sale of over seven millions pounds worth of non-league booty (players). The man embodies exactly what Darragh MacAnthony envisioned when he bought the club.
The MacAnthony/Ferguson axis has focussed on lower-league exuberance, hunger and the harnessing of raw potential, which Posh fans have seen through not just the Holy Trinity of Maclean, Mackail-Smith and Boyd but also in the acquisition of exciting young players like Shaun Brisley, Tommy Rowe and Dwight Gayle. This focus on unproven talent combined with free-flowing attacking football has left long-term Posh fans gasping for breath at weekly 5-4 thrill fests. It is now 150 matches since Posh fans have witnessed a goal-less encounter!
Sacking Ferguson can only upset the apple cart and see a team already struggling to cope at this level descend into free-fall. Sure, if Posh go down this season, it would be disappointing, particularly as only last season the club made a huge step in signing its first one million pound player, and whilst that hasn’t worked out as all had hoped it still marked a monumental point in the history of the club. Ask any Posh fan, whether they expected us to ever shell out that kind of cash and you’ll be met again with a booming chorus of no’s.
If any Peterborough fans are Fergie doubters, then ask yourself this. If Fergie Jnr. was to be sacked which manager could come in and spearhead a charge for survival better than the Scot? Anyone thinking London Road could attract a Curbishley, a Howe or even a Di Canio is sadly mistaken. Posh should stick to their guns. Posh fans should cast their minds back to 2010-11 where they went through four managers in one season. Disaster. Nothing more.
If anyone can grab survival from the jaws of defeat, it’ll be that man Ferguson, and with 17 games to go, one hopes that a little bit of that old Ferguson magic returns to the club.
Written by John Fernandez, We Are Going Up’s Peterborough United Blogger
I tried telling myself that this article wouldn’t simply be a collection of cheap, tasteless puns but unfortunately EYE couldn’t pass them up and SAW this as a fantastic opportunity to deliver a fantastic piece of journalism.
Unless you’re a Posh or a Crystal Palace fan those carefully crafted witticisms have probably gone straight over your heard. Perhaps you can quite fathom what you’re seeing before your eyes. Posh star George Boyd managed to find himself in the midst of a transfer fiasco with Nottingham Forest. He looked set on joining Forest, with Posh pocketing a tidy sum just before his contract runs out in the summer, but naturally when Posh are involved, things didn’t go exactly to plan. Boyd somehow managed to fail his medical at Forest. It’s not exactly a common mishap. In most peoples’ minds a medical is simply a formality to signing a contract. If Owen Hargreaves managed to pass a medical at Manchester United, arguably the most successful club in the world, surely anybody can?
Here’s the real eye-opener, Boyd didn’t fail because of a unreliable knee or a dodgy back – that wouldn’t be ridiculous enough. He managed to fail that all-important eye sight test. To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t even aware that an eye sight test was a requirement of being a professional footballer. If it is anything like the eye sight test you do for your driving license than it is safe to say that George Boyd is in fact blind. Looking back through the numerous Posh players I’ve seen over the years, I begin to question how on earth some of them managed to pass the eye sight test. As much as I’d love to continue the eye-wateringly funny gags, there are some serious questions that need to be asked, particularly in the light of Alex McLeish’s departure from Forest. George Boyd has played over 260 games for Posh in the league managing to find the back of the net 63 times. It’s certainly not a shabby record as a winger and you’d think that alone would probably satisfy the requirements that he does possess the sense of sight. You’d also think his uncanny knack from scoring from the halfway line would be conclusive in proving that he is perfectly aware of where that net is in between those bright white posts. The whole fiasco is probably the doing of the Al-Hasawi family rather than Alex McLeish who was keen on taking Boyd on. Before this becomes an article on Forest, it’s important to remember that, as much criticism as they can receive, professional footballers are still workers and it can’t be nice to come within inches of a promotion (because let’s be fair Forest are one of the bigger clubs with a fantastic amount of history) to have it snatched away simply because of bickering and in-fighting between manager and owner. It is another case of owners getting themselves bogged down (intentionally or unintentionally) amongst the grass roots of the club. An owner is an owner not through their extensive knowledge of football but rather because they (reportedly) know how to run a business. Clubs would probably find a bit more success if owners knew better than to mangle in football affairs. Equally though a good chairman does know when to get involved, for the greater good of the club, and in the end it all comes down to a very fine and delicate balancing act.
What now for Boyd? There have been talks with his boyhood club Crystal Palace but relations between Palace and Posh have been dwindling after Darren Ferguson claimed Ian Holloway, not one to shy away from the limelight, had been ringing Boyd constantly in a manner not to dissimilar to a stalker ex-girlfriend. Inevitably though Boyd won’t be a Peterborough player for much longer and his departure will mark the end of the eloquently dubbed ‘Holy Trinity’ that composed of himself, Craig Mackail-Smith and Aaron McLean who terrorised defences in League 1 and catapulted Posh into the Championship. It is hard to deny that Posh won’t miss George Boyd, he’s been ever present for Posh, but there is hope in the form of Dwight Gayle who is fast becoming a fan favourite amongst the London Road faithful.
Moral of this story: Never put off an eye test, they’re just as important as your dental check up.
Written by Liam Smith, We Are Going Up’s Peterborough United Blogger
It’s been a while hasn’t it? So much so, little old Posh find themselves in the Championship for a second successive season. Perhaps the reason for the lack of Posh updates from me is because it was such a ruddy exciting time last season that it was all just too much to adequately put into words. But to be fair, it was mainly for the fact these days I find myself living in Yorkshire, far from the safety of my beloved London Road.
Being a Posh fan is hard at the best of times, particularly after the start we had to this season. Try, however, being a lone Posh fan in the heart of Sheffield. It’s a very lonely existence let me tell you. It’s not like being a Manchester United fan for example where you can watch the likes of Wayne Rooney and Ashley Young on a (somewhat illegal) Iranian website streaming all their games. At least those fans have some form of connection with their team.
Posh rarely find themselves in front of the Sky cameras. Even when we are, do you genuinely think anyone else is willing to trudge down to the pub on an early Saturday evening in the middle of November to see Posh take on the mighty Blackburn Rovers? The answer is no. So much of my time watching Posh is done on my own, in a pub, while drinking vast quantities of alcohol. In later life, a doctor will probably tell me this is where the drink problem began.
But enough about football fuelled alcoholism, what about the season Posh have had so far. To be truthful, it’s nothing surprising. We’re the smallest club in the league and we’ve struggled for the vast majority of the season so far. But then something happened, Lee Tomlin started playing well. Some of you probably know young Tomlin as ‘the fat one’ or ‘the one that told a police officer to get a proper job and offered to buy him a BMW’ or perhaps more simply a rather rude word beginning with ‘C’ and, to be honest, that’s how he’s known universally amongst Posh fans.
I really am not sure what clicked inside Lee Tomlin’s head but, after so many seasons of distinct averageness and scrapes with the law, he realised he had a bit of talent. He could not have picked a better time to decide all this either. Posh are lumbering at the foot of the table in the fine company of Barnsley, Bristol City and Sheffield Wednesday. Ahead of the infamous festive period, a decent run was exactly what was needed and to bolster a lacklustre team, Ferguson brought in 22 year old Dwight Gayle from Dagenham & Redbridge.
Gayle had previously been on loan at Conference North side Bishops Stortford and managed to score 42 goals in a single season. Ferguson has always been about plucking youngsters from the lower divisions and if it worked with Aaron McLean and Craig Mackail-Smith surely it could work again? Gayle was partnered up front with the newly reformed Lee Tomlin and the two clicked exactly when Posh needed them most – during that dreaded festive period.
12 points out of 15 meant Posh suddenly found themselves outside the relegation zone. What’s more, Posh weren’t simply grinding out wins in an ugly fashion; they were beating teams in a classy manner. On the 1st December, Posh lost 4-1 to a rather bland Blackpool side but just two short weeks later, Posh rather convincingly had beaten Cardiff City at home. Let’s not forget that at the time Cardiff City had the best home record in Europe. Wins against Bolton, Wolves and Barnsley wrapped up a rather jolly festive period (the only loss being against Bristol City) and gives a rejuvenated Posh side a fighting chance to beat the drop.
What should be expected in 2013? Survival now seems like a reachable target but it relies on Dwight Gayle and Lee Tomlin staying fit. They have been the difference in recent weeks and their absence in today’s FA Cup game against Norwich really showed. Nobody else stepped up to the mark and finishing in the final third was non-existent. It’s worrying to think that if both these players are out for a considerable period, then Posh’s survival hopes could be flushed away just like that.
Written by Liam Smith, We Are Going Up’s Peterborough United Blogger
As we are a few days into 2012, there’s no better time to reflect on the previous year in the Football League. 2011 served up some memorable moments, with unexpected promotions, great relegation escapes, controversies and goals aplenty.
A resurgent East Anglian outfit upset the odds to claim their second promotion in two seasons and top flight football returned to South Wales for the first time in nearly 30 years. A Premier League legend turned up in Wiltshire to begin his managerial career while two former England managers were hired and fired in the East Midlands.
Plenty more took place in 2011 and this week Toppo’s Top Ten takes a look back at some of the most memorable events of the past twelve months in the Football League.
10: Stevenage are promoted again
Stevenage were promoted to the Football League for the first time in their history in 2010 and made a decent start to life in League Two, hovering around mid-table for the first six months of the campaign. In January the club were sat in 18th place but went on a remarkable run of form in February and March, winning nine out of eleven games to propel themselves into the play-off spots. They may have come to the attention of many for their ‘timewasting’ tactics and the hard work put in by the team on the training field, but Graham Westley’s side were on the up.
They finished sixth and defeated Accrington Stanley 3-0 in the play-off semi-finals, to set up a meeting with Torquay United at Old Trafford in the final. Stevenage had the better of the first-half and made their dominance count four minutes from the break as John Mousinho rifled in a shot from the edge of the area after a fine run from midfield. The goal would prove to be the decider and Stevenage saw out the match to secure a famous double promotion into League One, emulating Exeter’s back-to-back promotions from the Conference into the third tier in 2008 and 2009.
9: Crystal Palace shock Manchester United
Having struggled at the wrong end of the Championship table early in 2011, Crystal Palace made a much better start to the 2011-12 season under manager Dougie Freedman, challenging for the play-offs and having a good run in the Carling Cup.
In the quarter-finals on November 30 they travelled to Old Trafford to face Manchester United, with the home side considered big favourites, despite Sir Alex Ferguson fielding some fringe players. After a dull first half, the game sparked into life when Palace midfielder Darren Ambrose thumped a brilliant 35-yard strike into the top corner at the Stretford End. United equalised thanks to Federico Macheda’s penalty but they could not find another goal, so the match went into extra-time.
Eight minutes into extra-time Palace won a free-kick which Ambrose swung into the penalty area, Glenn Murray escaped the attentions of his marker and nodded the ball into the back of Ben Amos’ net to restore Palace’s lead. The Londoners came under pressure in the closing stages of the game but defended resolutely to seal a last-four spot for the first time in ten years.
8: That Clarke-Di Canio bust-up
Former Sheffield Wednesday and West Ham United striker Paolo Di Canio was appointed manager of Swindon Town in May, not long after the club’s relegation into League Two had been confirmed. The Robins got off to an inconsistent start under the Italian, who was known for his short temper and hot-headed moments as a player. At the end of August we saw this side of Di Canio return as he had a furious bust-up with striker Leon Clarke on the touchline at the County Ground after losing to Southampton in the Carling Cup.
Clarke had an argument with one of the club’s fitness coaches before manager Di Canio stepped in. He asked the striker to leave the field but Clarke refused, Di Canio tugged at his shirt which seemed to wind the striker up more. Eventually the pair headed down the tunnel where the confrontation continued and became more heated with the two having to be pulled apart. Clarke had only joined Swindon from QPR 11 days later, and he was soon heading for the exit – farmed out to Chesterfield on loan.
7: Darren Ferguson returns to Peterborough
In January 2011, fourteen months after leaving the club by mutual consent, Darren Ferguson strolled back into London Road to become Peterborough United boss for a second time. He had just been sacked by Preston North End, who were bottom of the Championship – which was where Ferguson took Peterborough from League Two thanks to successive promotions in 2008 and 2009 during his first stint as manager.
Posh were in the play-off mix when he arrived and he eventually guided them into the end-of-season shootout for a place in the Championship. After overcoming MK Dons in the semi-finals they would face Huddersfield Town at Old Trafford on May 29, where Ferguson began his playing career and where his father Sir Alex, is a club legend. Huddersfield were considered favourites having just been pipped to automatic promotion by Southampton but the game was a tight affair until the late stages.
In the 78th minute Peterborough broke the deadlock when Tommy Rowe headed Grant McCann’s free-kick into the back of the net, before striker Craig Mackail-Smith’s 35th goal of a memorable season made it 2-0. Posh sealed the victory five minutes from the end thanks to a great free-kick from McCann to seal promotion back to the Championship and a remarkable comeback for manager Ferguson.
6: Huddersfield’s unbeaten run
In 2011 Huddersfield Town came close to securing a place in the Championship, being beaten to an automatic promotion spot in League One to Southampton, before losing the play-off final to Peterborough United. Lee Clark’s side were tipped to go one better in the 2011-12 season and pushed for the play-offs again from the start as they carried on a long unbeaten run from the previous season.
After losing in the league to Southampton on December 28th 2010, Huddersfield picked up 24 wins and 18 draws from their next 42 league games to equal Nottingham Forest’s Football League unbeaten streak of 42 matches. In their next game at home to Notts County on the 19th of November, Town would make history as they ran out 2-1 winners thanks to a brace from Jordan Rhodes and make it 43 unbeaten.
In this time they had lost matches in the FA Cup, Carling Cup and most notably, in the League One play-offs, so some felt the record should have been ended much sooner, however it was an impressive feat from the Terriers which came to an end with a 2-0 loss away to leaders Charlton Athletic in their next game.
5: Brighton move to their new home
Fourteen long years after leaving the Goldstone Ground and playing at the Withdean Stadium since 1999, Brighton and Hove Albion finally moved to a new stadium of their own, the impressive Falmer Stadium (named the AMEX Stadium due to sponsorship) which was in construction since 2008.
The move coincided with Gus Poyet’s side winning the League One title last season to be promoted to the Championship and the feel good factor was back amongst the Seagulls and their supporters. Their first competitive match at their new ground was a home league fixture against Doncaster Rovers and it would be a memorable afternoon for the home side. The teams took to the field amid a great atmosphere and the sell-out 20.219 crowd waving flags, but it was Doncaster who threatened to spoil Brighton’s afternoon as they took the lead through Billy Sharp.
Brighton tried to find a goal and finally equalised on 83 minutes as Will Buckley, a summer signing from Watford, hit a shot from the egde of the penalty area after Doncaster had failed to clear a free-kick. Injuries meant there were eight minutes of injury time and in the final minute, Buckley converted an excellent pass from Craig Noone to complete a brilliant turnaround and send the home fans into wild celebration.
4: Fans Reunited
Plymouth Argyle began the season in financial turmoil and had just suffered back-to-back relegations from the Championship into League Two. The club were £13 million in debt and placed in Administration. On the pitch the club’s fortunes continued to slide as the Pilgrims sat bottom of the whole Football League after nine games and manager Peter Reid was sacked.
A ‘fans reunited’ day was organised for Plymouth’s home match against Macclesfield Town on September 24th, led by Brighton and Hove Albion fans, hundreds of well-wishers pledged to descend on Home Park in their own teams’ shirts to support Plymouth’s plight. Albion themselves went through a similar situation in 1997 when they were evicted from the Goldstone Ground, docked points and nearly dropped out of the Football League.
Over 6,000 people attended Plymouth’s match with Macclesfield, with fans from clubs all over the country making the long trip South to be at the game. Argyle’s players responded and ran out 2-0 winners to pick up their first win of a difficult season. Two weeks later a second ‘fans reunited’ day was staged on an International weekend to encourage even more fans to support Plymouth, and the Home Park attendance swelled to over 8,000 as the Pilgrims drew 2-2 with Accrington Stanley.
3: Norwich City reach the Premier League
Norwich City’s rise into the Premier League is remarkable. Defeated 7-1 at Carrow Road by Paul Lambert’s Colchester United on the first day of the League One season in 2009, the club dismissed manager Bryan Gunn and appointed Lambert as the new boss. The Scot galvanised the team as they regained their form and went on to win the League One title later that season, immediately bouncing back into the Championship.
Norwich carried on their winning momentum into the second tier and the club were in and around the play-off spots for most of the season. Thanks to the goals of striker Grant Holt the Canaries were very much in the promotion shake-up and moved into the top two, maintaining consistent form in the process – not losing back-to-back matches all season.
On May 2nd the club went into their penultimate match of the campaign away at Portsmouth needing a win to guarantee promotion. The game was a scrappy affair with neither side fashioning many chances, however in the 50th minute they did find the net. David Fox curled a free-kick into the penalty area and Simeon Jackson met it with a close-range header to give the Canaries a priceless lead.
Norwich held on to secure the win and with it a second consecutive promotion into the Premier League as the players ran towards the travelling supporters to celebrate a remarkable triumph. The club became the first since Manchester City in 2000 to win back-to-back promotions into the top flight.
2: Brendan Rodgers takes Swansea City up
Having narrowly missed out on a Championship play-off place the season before, Swansea City appointed former Watford and Reading boss Brendan Rodgers as manager in the wake of Paolo Sousa’s departure for Leicester City. The Swans developed a reputation for playing attractive, attacking football and this would continue under Rodgers. He moved to bring Scott Sinclair to South Wales for £500,000 from former club Chelsea before the season began and he would be one of the club’s key players throughout the campaign.
After a slow start, Swansea picked up form and were soon in the play-off places, moving into the top two on occasion before falling away to allow Norwich to finish second. They eventually finished third to secure a play-off spot and face Nottingham Forest in the semi-finals. After a goalless first leg at the City Ground, Swansea won the return at the Liberty Stadium 3-1 to reach the Wembley final, where they would face Reading for a place in the Premier League.
On May 30 the two sets of fans descended on Wembley to witness what would be a pulsating encounter. Swansea took control of the first half as two goals from Scott Sinclair and a strike from Stephen Dobbie saw the Swans go into the half-time break 3-0 ahead. Reading looked out of it but they pulled a goal back when Joe Allen deflected a header into his own net four minutes after the restart, and eight minutes later the Royals got another when Matt Mills headed home from a corner to put Brian McDermott’s side right back in the contest.
Swansea had to see out Reading pressure as they pressed for an equaliser, being denied by the post and some last-ditch defending from Garry Monk, before they were awarded a penalty with ten minutes to go when Fabio Borini was brought down in the Reading penalty area. Sinclair stepped up and converted the spot-kick to complete his hat-trick and send Swansea on their way to promotion. At the final whistle they returned to the top flight after a 28 year absence and became the first Welsh team to reach the Premier League – quite a feat considering the club won promotion from League Two six years before.
1: Barnet’s great escape
On the final day of the 2010-11 League Two season Barnet and Lincoln City were locked in a battle to remain in the Football League. Lincoln were two points ahead of the Londoners with a home game against Aldershot, while Barnet faced Port Vale at Underhill. Barnet began the season with Mark Stimson as manager but he left with the club bottom at New Year and they turned to former boss Paul Fairclough as caretaker manager.
However after 15 points from a possible 48 the club were staring the Conference in the face and Fairclough left, with another former manager, Martin Allen returning as Bees’ manager on an eight game deal. He gave the side the lift they needed as they won two and drew one of his first three matches in charge, before he shocked everyone by agreeing to join managerless Notts County, just 19 days after his return to Underhill.
Giuliano Grazioli, a Barnet legend and assistant manager to Allen was placed in charge until the end of the season. After a win, a draw and two defeats from his first four games as boss, Barnet went into the final day of the season needing a victory whilst hoping Lincoln lost. Three minutes into the second half, Izale McLeod scored from the penalty spot to give Barnet the lead, but it would be meaningless unless Lincoln conceded against Aldershot.
Midway through the second-half at Sincil Bank Aldershot themselves won and converted a penalty to take the lead, with the news gradually filtering through at Underhill amid chants of “We are staying up!” from the Bees’ supporters. Fifteen minutes later Aldershot doubled their lead and the Barnet fans began cheering once more. Aldershot made it 3-0 with five minutes left, while at Underhill there were six minutes of injury time which only added to the tension, but Barnet held on to survive in the Football League, climb up to 22nd place in the table and condemn Lincoln to non-league football.
At the final whistle the Bees fans poured onto the pitch to celebrate with the players and coaching staff. Barnet had saved themselves by the skin of their teeth.
Written by Steven Toplis, We Are Going Up podcast member and blogger
Tweet Steven at @steven_toplis with your suggestions for Toppo’s Top Tens
The vast majority of football matches see a couple of goals scored per game at most. However on occasion, there can be matches where both sides go goal crazy, scoring at will. These make great spectacles for the neutral but can often leave the fans of the teams involved embarking on an emotional rollercoaster during 90 minutes of action-packed football.
Cardiff City and Barnsley scored eight goals between them on Saturday, as the home side ran out 5-3 winners at the Cardiff City stadium in one of the most entertaining matches of the Championship season so far. There have been many similar matches in Football League history, where the attacking teams have field days and the defences are pretty much non-existent. Here are ten games with big scorelines which gave those paying fans in attendance more than their money’s worth.
10: Cardiff City 5 Barnsley 3 2011
It is South Wales where this weekend’s top ten begins with Cardiff’s victory over Barnsley. As the visiting side, Keith Hill’s Barnsley scored three times but still went back home to Yorkshire with nothing to show for their efforts, instead rueing the five goals they had to pick out of the back of their net.
Kenny Miller got things going ten minutes in as he slotted a low finish into the bottom corner of the goal and it was soon two, Joe Mason tucking home the rebound after Peter Whittingham’s powerful free-kick was parried by Luke Steele. Former Cardiff loanee Danny Drinkwater pulled a goal back for Barnsley with a deflected free-kick but two minutes later the Bluebird’s Icelandic midfielder Aron Gunnarsson volley his side 3-1 into the lead.
Drinkwater hit the bar early in the second period but Cardiff extended their lead when Don Cowie rounded Steele before stroking the ball into the net cooly. Gunnarsson then grabbed his second as he finished off a good team move from eight yards out to make the score a seemingly comfortable 5-1 to the hosts. However Jim McNulty headed home Danny Butterfield’s corner on 82 minutes to give the visitors a glimmer of hope and then four minutes later, Ricardo Vaz Te rifled a low shot past David Marshall to make it a nervous last few minutes for Cardiff, but they secured an entertaining victory.
9: Peterborough United 5 Bristol Rovers 4 2008
Under the management of Darren Ferguson, Peterborough United have served up their fair share of entertaining matches, scoring goals for fun whilst sometimes allowing their opponents the chance to stick a few in their net too. One such occasion came in League Two three years ago as they and Bristol Rovers scored nine goals in a game.
Craig Mackail-Smith gave Posh the lead after sixteen minutes, linking up well with strike partner Aaron McLean before shooting home and returning the favour seven minutes later, setting up McLean who made it 2-0. Rovers’ Steve Elliott then reduced arrears with a back-post header to make the score 2-1 going into the break.
In the second half Mackail-Smith scored his second from the penalty spot before Shane Blackett put through his own net to hand Rovers a lifeline at 3-2. Mackail-Smith then grabbed his hat-trick with a left-foot finish to cap off a fine solo run but Rovers pegged back their hosts once again, Jeff Hughes tapping in from close range. With seven minutes to go Scott Rendell looked to have wrapped things up for Peterborough, heading in to make it 5-3 but Rickie Lambert curled home a superb free-kick two minutes later to set up a grandstand finish – Posh holding on to claim a memorable victory.
8: Grimsby Town 6 Burnley 5 2002
Prior to this game, Grimsby had found goals hard to come by in Division One but they ended up sharing eleven with Lancashire outfit Burnley on an amazing night at Blundell Park. On-loan Crystal Palace striker Steve Kabba opened the scoring for Town before Burnley frontman Gareth Taylor equalised.
Steve Livingstone rose highest to nod a left-wing cross into the bottom corner of the net for 2-1 to the hosts but Ian Moore levelled again as he controlled a ball into the box and lashed home a left-footed effort beyond Danny Coyne. Steve Kabba scored his second to make it 3-2 and Stuart Campbell made it four, tapping in Terry Cooke’s cross. However before the break Burnley were back in it as Robbie Blake’s acrobatic volley saw the scores at 4-3 going into the break.
In the second period Burnley equalised, Gareth Taylor’s finish the eighth goal scored in what was already an outstanding match. It got better as Alan Pouton scored a penalty for 5-4 to Grimsby then defender Simon Ford made it 6-4 with half an hour to go, heading past Clarets goalkeeper Marlon Beresford from a corner. However Robbie Blake’s penalty ensured a nervy final seven minutes for the Mariners but they held out for a remarkable 6-5 victory.
Later in that same season Burnley were involved in another thriller, this time shipping seven goals at home to Ray Lewington’s Watford. Wayne Brown gave Watford the lead at Turf Moor, heading home Neal Eardley’s corner thirteen minutes in but Gareth Taylor equalised for Burnley two minutes later.
Watford went back ahead not long after when Micah Hyde converted Gavin Mahon’s centre for 2-1 and another Eardley corner asked questions of the Clarets’ defence, Neil Cox this time nodding into the back of the net to give the visitors a two goal cushion. On 29 minutes Watford had a fourth, a young Michael Chopra, on loan from Newcastle United beating the offside trap to score. Steve Davis made it 4-2 on 35 minutes then Taylor scored his second four minutes later to make it 4-3. Watford restored their two goal leads seconds after the restart, Paulo Vernazza’s through ball finished off by Chopra despite the attentions of the on-rushing Marlon Beresford. Howver Taylor had one final say in the first half, netting his hat-trick with an unstoppable shot which flew past Hornets’ goalkeeper Alec Chamberlain. The score was an incredible 5-4 at half-time.
The goalscoring continued in the second half as Chopra completed his hat-trick, tapping into an empty net after good work down the right by Eardley and the 19-year-old netted his fourth in injury time, rifling in a Jason Norville cross to round off an emphatic away win for the Hornets.
6: Chesterfield 5 Crewe Alexandra 5 2010
One of the best matches in the Football League last season without question, as League Two sides Chesterfield and Crewe shared ten goals at the B2Net stadium. Crewe went in front after just four minutes as Luke Murphy headed home at the back post and they doubled their lead two minutes later as Lee Bell flighted a free-kick over the Spireites’ wall and into the net beyond ‘keeper Tommy Lee. Alex were crusing seven minutes afterwards as Byron Moore raced through the home side’s absent defence to slot home for 3-0. The ever-prolific Jack Lester gave Chesterfield some hope with a 23rd minute header but Shaun Miller rounded Lee and made the score 4-1 at the break.
With sixteen minutes to go that’s how the scores remained but Chesterfield were defending an unbeaten home run which they clearly did not want to let slip, Lester grabbing his second of the match to peg Crewe back. Danny Whittaker then scored from the penalty spot to make it 4-3 and the comeback was well and truly on, however Clayton Donaldson swept home a fifth for Crewe to re-establish their two goal lead.
Chesterfield were not done though and won another penalty when Craig Clay was felled in the box, Whittaker rifling it in to make it 5-4 with a minute of normal time remaining. Incredibly the hosts found their equaliser two minutes into stoppage time when Clay powered home a low drive into the bottom corner to send the home fans wild and rescue an unlikely point for his side.
5: Accrington Stanley 7 Gillingham 4 2010
On the same day, at the same time as Chesterfield and Crewe were playing out their thriller, Accrington Stanley and Gillingham served up a match equally as epic with eleven goals scored at the Crown Ground.
Sean McConville opened the scoring for Stanley on thirteen minutes but Gillingham hit back through two neat finishes from Mark Bentley. Andy Parkinson equalised for the hosts as he slammed home his first Football League goal for three years, latching onto Terry Gornell’s through ball. Charlie Barnett then gave them the lead, his cross-shot finding the top corner of the net before half-time.
Ten minutes after the break Gillingham levelled, Cody McDonald embarking on a long run before clipping the ball over the onrushing Stanley ‘keeper Iain Dunbavin for 3-3, however it soon started going wrong for the Kent outfit. They had not won away from home for 17 months prior to this match and that run would continue. The hosts were awarded a penalty which Phil Edwards dispatched and on 62 minutes he scored his second, again from the penalty spot after Terry Gornell was brought down in the box.
Gornell beat the offside trap to score his side’s sixth nine minutes later and despite Adebayo Akinfenwa’s 79th minute penalty, Jimmy Ryan scored a minute into added time to make the final score 7-4 to Accrington in what was a pulsating match.
4: Ipswich Town 6 Crewe Alexandra 4 2004
Portman Road has played host to some of the most memorable matches in Ipswich Town history and this one is right up there with the best of them, the Tractor Boys prevailing in a ten goal thriller against Crewe Alexandra in Division One.
A mistake by Crewe defender presented Tommy Miller with the chance to give Ipswich the lead early on and he fired beyond Clayton Ince for 1-0 before making it two after nine minutes with a cracking left-foot drive. Dean Ashton volleyed home to keep Crewe in the game and played a part as Alex equalised after the break, the striker’s cross turned into his own net by Ipswich centre-back John McGreal.
On 55 minutes Shefki Kuqi nodded Matt Richards’ cross past Ince to put Ipswich back in front but the Suffolk club scored another own goal, this time Richards undoing his good work earlier as a parried shot richocheted off him into the net. Dutch winger Martin Reuser curled a fine effort past Ince as Ipswich went back in front, then the Crewe stopper could not do enough to keep Pablo Counago’s effort out and the score stood at 5-3 to the hosts with sixteen minutes left on the clock. James Robinson made it 5-4 on 82 minutes with a shot from twelve yards but Kuqi settled Town nerves two minutes from time, his cool finish completing a 6-4 success for Joe Royle’s side.
3: Leeds United 4 Preston North End 6 2010
An extraordinary match from last season’s Championship. Newly-promoted Leeds United, on the fringe of the play-off spots hosted Preston North End at Elland Road, the visitors suffering an inconsistent start under manager Darren Ferguson.
It was North End who drew first blood through Jon Parkin, tapping in after Leeds’ Shane Higgs parried a cross. Luciano Becchio’s header levelled the game and it was another header which put Leeds in front, Alex Bruce beating North End goalkeeper Andy Lonergan. Lloyd Sam set up Davide Somma to make the score 3-1 to Leeds on 27 minutes before Somma scored again to make it four. Parkin almost immediately pulled a goal back for Preston before the break, but few inside the ground would’ve predicted the events of the second half.
Keith Treacy made it 4-3 nine minutes after the restart from a corner as the home defence began to look rattled. United defender George McCartney hauled down Paul Coutts in the box to give Preston a penalty, which captain Callum Davidson dispatched with ease high into the net for the equaliser. Preston completed the comeback incredibly with 25 minutes remaining as Parkin scored his third of the night, blasting home a low left-foot shot and with eleven to go Iain Hume made it 6-4 to the away side, heading in Billy Jones’ diagonal cross from the right, what a game.
2: Peterborough United 4 Cardiff City 4 2009
An amazing comeback at London Road. Peterborough United, the Championship’s bottom side, faced fourth-placed Cardiff City in December 2009 and the two shared eight goals in what was ‘a game of two halves.’
Cardiff had the better of the first and took the lead through Wales international Joe Ledley after being set up by Peter Whittingham, he then grabbed his second with a header from a corner. Jay Bothroyd made it three, the striker cut in from the right before firing an unstoppable left-footed strike into Joe Lewis’ bottom corner and on 38 minutes it was 4-0, Whittingham curling a free-kick into the back of the net. Cardiff looked to be crusing and ready to cement their spot in the play-offs.
Peterborough manager Mark Cooper must have given the mother of all half-time team talks as his side roused themselves for the second 45. Substitute Josh Simpson began the comeback six minutes after the break following good work down the left from Craig Mackail-Smith then Charlie Lee scored a second for Posh, nodding home George Boyd’s cross. Cardiff’s resolve was tested to the limit in the final 22 minutes as the hosts dominated and with a minute of normal time remaining, Boyd’s dipping volley set up a tense finale. Incredibly Peterborough pulled off the comeback two minutes into injury time as Simpson levelled, rifling in from close-range after the Cardiff defence failed to clear a long throw-in. Posh were still bottom but had played their part in a fantastic match.
1: Burton Albion 5 Cheltenham Town 6 2010
League Two strugglers Burton Albion and Cheltenham Town met at the Pirelli Stadium in March 2010, where they played out one of the most incredible matches in Football League history with goals aplenty and a stirring comeback from the away side.
Burton went in front just two minutes in as Shaun Harrad volleyed home after evading his marker, before the Brewers’ forward doubled the lead from the penalty spot and the score remained 2-0 going into the break. Justin Richards scored a tap-in for Cheltenham to make 2-1 early in the second half and the Robins equalised three minutes later, Medy Elito smashing a shot low into the net after Michael Pook’s cross.
On 56 minutes Burton went back ahead after Cleveland Taylor’s cross was deflected into his own net by Michael Townsend and 16 minutes later striker Steve Kabba looked to have made things comfortable for the home side again, making it 4-2 from close range after some poor Robins defending. With six minutes to go however the visitors were back in it, Pook crashing a free-kick low into the net from the edge of the area to set up a nervous finale. Kabba scored again just a minute later, sliding in at the back post to meet Harrad’s low cross and it seemed as if Burton had sealed it.
Two minutes after that Pook scored his second as his 20-yard shot deflected off a Burton defender and beat goalkeeper Artur Krysiak for 5-4. Mark Yeates’ side then equalised again in the 90th minute, Justin Richards slotting past Krysiak after a long-free kick was flicked into his path by Julian Alsop. Amazingly Cheltenham were not done and managed to find a winning goal, Pook completing his hat-trick in the fourth minute of injury time with a rising drive from 25-yards to snatch a 6-5 win for the away side as the Pirelli Stadium scoreboard went into meltdown. It was a vital three points for Cheltenham as they moved six points clear of the drop zone while Burton were left wondering just how they’d lost the game – unbelievable.
Written by Steven Toplis, We Are Going Up podcast member and blogger
Tweet Steven at @steven_toplis with your suggestions for Toppo’s Top Tens
After Peterborough United’s 7-1 demolition job over Ipswich Town on Saturday, it is only fitting that this week’s top ten takes a look at some other big victories in Football League history.
Football is all about putting the ball into the opposition’s net and the vast majority of league fixtures will be settled by a couple of goals at the most. Sometimes there are dull, drab affairs with little goalmouth action, however occasionally there are matches which go against the norm.
Defences go walkabout while attacking sides run riot, having the sort of goal-gluttinous day they can only dream about. One goal quickly turns to two, two to three, three to four…..you get the picture. As one team bangs them in, the other looks on in bemusement and suffers complete embarassment. Such games go down in folklore – for the winning team anyway. Here’s ten memorable games from the Football League where one of the sides involved went goal-crazy:
10: Portsmouth 6 Leicester City 1 2010
Seven games into last season, both Portsmouth and Leicester found themselves nestled at the wrong end of the Championship table. Pompey, under new boss Steve Cotterill, were attempting to rebuild after Premier League relegation months before, amid financial woes which saw Cotterill working with a small, depleted squad. Leicester, having finished in the play-off spots the season before also had a new man in charge, Paolo Sousa, but the Portugese only picked up five points from his first seven matches and it was about to get worse for The Foxes.
Having beaten Pompey in the Carling Cup a few days previously, Leicester stayed on the South Coast ahead of this Friday night fixture, which got off to a bad start as centre-back Michael Morrison handled the ball in the box ten minutes in, Liam Lawrence converting the resulting penalty. Lawrence added a second twelve minutes before the break and as the teams headed off at half-time with the score 2-0, few could have predicted what would happen during the next 45 minutes.
Thirteen minutes into the second half David Nugent’s finish from a tight angle made it 3-0 then the striker turned provider for Dave Kitson, as he set up the former Reading man who netted with a chipped effort. Down to ten men after Migel Vitor rugby-tackled Nugent during the first period, Leicester’s defending went array follwoing Steve Howard’s consolation goal for 4-1. Kitson grabbed his second after the Foxes failed to clear a corner and then Michael Brown went on a sauntering run from midfield before slotting home from an acute angle to make the score 6-1. Leicester were humbled and Sousa was axed not long after with former England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson arriving to steer the East Midlanders to mid-table safety come the end of the season.
9: Burnley 2 Sheffield Wednesday 7 2003
This game involved a side already relegated from Division One. Neutrals looking at the scoreline would’ve thought that team were Burnley, instead it was Sheffield Wednesday, doomed to the drop, who would sign off their campaign in the second tier with a thumping victory at Turf Moor.
Paul McLaren opened the scoring for the visitors with a long-range effort which Burnley goalkeeper Nic Michopoulous failed to save. Two minutes later Ashley Westwood added a second with a close-range tap-in from the brilliantly named Brian Barry-Murphy’s left-wing cross. It got worse for the hosts as Ian Moore was sent off on 21 minutes for a cynical challenge on Barry-Murphy.
Defender Richard Wood made it 3-0 to Wednesday, his first senior goal coming as he volleyed home Grant Holt’s header. Burnley manager Stan Ternent hauled off Michopoulous, replacing him with sub-goalie Marlon Beresford. The Clarets pulled one back through a Robbie Blake penalty but the substitution failed to stem the flow of goals. A minute after the break, Richard Evans beat Beresford with a cross-cum-shot from 35 yards before Blake pegged The Owls back again with a left-footed drive.
Chris Turner’s side quickly restored their three goal advantage as Steven Haslam scored from Alan Quinn’s free-kick and within seven minutes they had another. Burnley’s French defender Artur Gnohere put Grant Holt’s cross past his own goalkeeper before Wednesday set the seal on their performance as Quinn hit an excellent 30-yard drive past Beresford for an unexpected 7-2 away win.
8: Oldham Athletic 1 Cardiff City 7 2002
In the 2001/02 season both Oldham Athletic and Cardiff City were gunning for promotion from Division Two and the sides met at Boundary Park in March 2002, where Cardiff sent out a real statement of intent, leaving their hosts stunned.
It was a nightmare return to the Latics for veteran Scottish goalkeeper Andy Goram. He played for the club between 1981 and 1987 and was brought in by boss Mick Wadsworth to resolve a goalkeeping crisis, which he could not solve as he shipped seven goals. Scott Young put the Bluebirds ahead early on before Leo Fortune-West and Peter Thorne gave them a 3-0 lead after just 23 minutes.
Andy Campbell made it four half an hour in before Oldham’s Matty Appleby was sent off making his side’s day even worse. Fortune-West hit the fifth and his second of the afternoon just before half-time and after the break striker Campbell completed his hat-trick, netting in the 64th and 73rd minutes. Stuart Balmer pulled a goal back for Oldham, a mere consolation sixteen minutes from the end which did little to hide the total embarassment his side suffered.
7: Nottingham Forest 7 Swindon Town 1 2006
After Nottingham Forest suffered relegation into League One in 2005 they struggled to adapt to life in the third tier under manager Gary Megson. A series of humbling defeats at the likes of Yeovil and Oldham saw Megson leave by mutual consent in February with the team 13th in the table, four points off relegation. Assistant manager Frank Barlow and coach Ian McParland jointly took charge until the end of the season and resided over an fantastic run which nearly saw the Reds reach the playoffs as they won 8, drew 4 and lost 1 of the pair’s 13 games in charge. The highlight came during their second match in the dugout as the Reds ran riot against Swindon Town.
Nicky Southall bagged a hat-trick as the Reds stuck seven past their visitors at the City Ground, Southall opening the scoring just three minutes in with a half-volley which flew into the top corner. Wes Morgan and Ian Breckin nodded home corners to make the score 3-0 before the half-hour mark. After the break Swindon continued to ship goals as Forest’s passing football and the pace of Nathan Tyson down the left stretched them, Southall heading home his second goal before rifling home from close-range to complete his hat-trick. Morgan scored his second from another corner before Jerel Ifil received his marching orders for Swindon.
Football League journeyman Trevor Benjamin netted a consolation for The Robins, but Forest finished off the rout as Jack Lester’s deflected effort looped into the net to complete a memorable afternoon’s football for the Reds.
6: Preston North End 6 Cardiff City 0 2009
Two teams hoping to secure Championship play-off spots met at Deepdale in April 2009 and while the result may not have instantly affected Cardiff’s chances of a top-six finish, come the end of the season they would go on to rue their heavy defeat.
Neil Mellor opened the scoring on 17 minutes as his strike deflected into the net off Cardiff defender Roger Johnson then made it two on 41 as he got the final touch to another deflected effort, this time from captain Paul McKenna. Billy Jones then conceded a penalty, offering the Bluebirds a chance to get back into the game, but Ross McCormack saw his spot-kick superbly saved by Andy Lonergan.
In the second half Jon Parkin made it 3-0 as he raced onto Mellor’s pass and slotted a composed finish beyond the on-rushing Stuart Taylor and Mellor contributed to Preston’s fourth as his cross was headed into his own net by Mark Kennedy. Mellor was soon replaced but the goals kept coming as sub Chris Brown headed a fifth with fifteen minutes to go and Lee Williamson completed the scoring, making it a 6-0 thrashing four minutes from the end.
On the final day of the season Preston beat QPR 2-1 while Cardiff lost 1-0 against Sheffield Wednesday leaving the two sides level on points and a goal difference each of +12. By virtue of goals scored it was Preston who occupied the final play-off place having scored 66 goals to Cardiff’s 65 – an agonising near miss from Dave Jones’ men courtesy of that 6-0 defeat.
5: Millwall 1 Watford 6 2010
Newly-promoted Millwall went into this Championship encounter against Watford proudly defending a ten month unbeaten record at home. Ironic then that their defenders went missing as the Hornets racked up an unexpected five-goal win at the New Den in September last year.
John Eustace bundled home Don Cowie’s corner after seven minutes to give Watford the lead, which Jordon Mutch extended six minutes later, lashing the ball into the back of David Forde’s net after seeing his first effort blocked. Marvin Sordell’s left-footed effort rolled over the line two minutes into first-half stoppage time leaving Millwall 3-0 down at the break.
Nine minutes after the restart another Cowie corner was not dealt with by the Lions and Adrian Mariappa took advantage, heading Watford into a four goal lead. Liam Trotter reduced it to three two minutes later but that was as good as it got for the hosts, Danny Graham rifling a powerful finish into the top corner to restore the four goal cushion for Malky Mackay’s side. They got a sixth in added time as Martin Taylor directed a header low into the bottom corner to compound Millwall’s misery.
4: Peterborough United 7 Ipswich Town 1 2011
Darren Ferguson returned to London Road midway through last season and steered them to promotion via the League One play-offs. He’s done it before in 2009 but as was well-publicised, he left the club a few games into the Championship season which saw Posh relegated amid a host of managerial changes. You sense the club has learned from that experience, Ferguson too from his unsuccessful time as Preston boss and all parties are better for it now. At the weekend they hosted Paul Jewell’s Ipswich Town and blew them away with a performance which has made the rest of the league sit up and take notice. The loss of 35-goal man Craig Mackail-Smith to Brighton left some fearing whether Posh would have the firepower to compete in the second tier but with Paul Taylor, Lee Tomlin, and Grant McCann finding the net they have goals in the team. It was the visitors who went in front though as midfielder Keith Andrews slammed a 25-yard effort in off the post. Paul Taylor levelled with a fine volley from the edge of the area and Tomlin made it 2-1, chesting down a lofted ball forward, skillfully turning away from his marker and hitting an excellent shot into the far top corner. Taylor then pounced on a loose ball and sprinted away from the Ipswich defenders before slotting a composed finish past goalkeeper David Stockdale. Soon it was 4-1 as Tomlin grabbed his second, running onto McCann’s superb through ball and cooly rolling the ball through the ‘keeper’s legs.
Ipswich winger Lee Martin then saw red for a rash challenge on Mark Little and the controversial decisions continued as, 71 seconds after the break, Town subsitute Tommy Smith was sent off for bringing down Tomlin in the D, outside the penalty area. Despite that, the referee gave a penalty which McCann stepped up and scored with applom. Ten minutes after the break it was six as Lee Frecklington’s low cross was converted, via a deflection, by McCann for his second. In injury time the impressive Tomlin completed his hat-trick, following up on his cleared effort to make it 7-1, leaving Ipswich boss Paul Jewell reflecting on what he called an ‘embarassing’ defeat.
3: Hartlepool United 1 Plymouth Argyle 8 1994
This Third Division clash in May 1994 saw a relegated side host a promoted one and the gulf in class was easy to see, Plymouth Argyle thrashing United as they looked forward to a place in the third tier. Dwight Marshall set the visitors on their way with a 29th minute strike and Steve McCall added a second ten minutes later. Richard Landon and Paul Dalton made it 4-0 at half-time and there was no let-up after the break as Landon hit number 5. Steve Castle added yet another goal before Hartlepool midfielder Nicky Peverell grabbed a consolation effort with 20 minutes remaining. Landon completed his hat-trick on 77 minutes to restore Argyle’s six goal advantage and midfielder Paul Dalton completed the scoring with a minute to go, as the Devon side racked up a remarkable 8-1 away win.
2: Crewe Alexandra 8 Cheltenham Town 1 2010
One of the stand-out performances in the Football League last year came at the Alexandra Stadium as Crewe Alexandra decimated visitors Cheltenham, hitting eight goals as they chased a play-off place.
Clayton Donaldson opened the scoring for the hosts four minutes in, slotting home from Shaun Miller’s pass. The latter then added the second as he tapped in from Danny Shelley’s pass before Shelley laid on the third for Donaldson. Joel Grant made it four just before half-time and Cheltenham pulled one back after the break, Wesley Thomas with a close-range finish. Alexandra midfielder Ashley Westwood scored his side’s fifth as he converted Matt Tootle’s cross and Donaldson completed his hat-trick from the penalty spot after Steve Elliott handled in the area. Grant scored his second with a tap in and got his own treble with two minutes remaining as he netted Crewe’s second penalty of the match, awarded following a trip on Donaldson in the area. It would be a long trip home south for the travelling Cheltenham fans.
1: Norwich City 1 Colchester United 7 2009
As Norwich City began life in the third tier for the first time in half a century, no one could have predicted their opening day result at home to Colchester United as the visitors secured a memorable 7-1 victory in front of a stunned Carrow Road.
Kevin Lisbie gave the U’s the lead after ten minutes, Clive Platt netted twice, David Fox netted from a free-kick and Lisbie found the net again as Norwich were 5-0 down within 38 minutes. Cody McDonald netted for the Canaries after the break but David Perkins’ volley and Scott Vernon’s close-range finish made it 7-1 to the visitors – a fantastic performance from Paul Lambert’s side inflicting Norwich’s heaviest home defeat in their 109 year history.
Norwich sacked manager Bryan Gunn within a week of the thrashing and turned to the man who masterminded it, Lambert being appointed the new boss at Carrow Road. He galvanised the team and led them to promotion as Champions, before embarking on a memorable season the following campaign as the Canaries finished 2nd in the Championship to secure Premier League football for the first time since 2005.
Written by Steven Toplis, We Are Going Up blogger
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Not even the dreary sounds of Chris Martin going through his perpetual midlife crisis resonating from the PA system could put a downer on today. It was the first day of the new season and even the grey clouds which covered the sky that morning soon dispersed and London Road was bathed in the afternoon sunshine just as kick off approached.
Dougie Freedman’s Crystal Palace were the opening day visitors and bookmakers up and down the land were confident that Palace would beat the favourites to go straight back down. But being the underdog isn’t all bad, you’ve got no pressure to deal with and players feel more relaxed. And things were looking bright. As we kicked off we looked comfortable on the ball and were hardly giving Palace a sniff. Grant McCann underlined our domination in the early stages of that first half by striking a powerful ball causing Julian Speroni in the Palace goal to really stretch to keep it out. As strange as it was, Posh weren’t simply keeping Palace at bay but they were doing it with ease and with attacking flair (almost).
Unfortunately, relaxed at Peterborough United can take a very literal meaning at times. With a little over half an hour gone a long ball from Palace’s goalkeeper beat Ryan Bennett in the Posh defence and allowed Irishman Sean Scannell to slip past and lob the hapless Paul Jones. It had begun to turn bleak, especially since Nicky Ajose had to depart the field when he picked up a hamstring injury. He was replaced with the man with the rather aptly named David Ball. But to the London Road faithful, it was a dream start.
I know what you’re thinking; a goal down due to the defence daydreaming and our striker limping off doesn’t seem like the recipe for success but Posh relish in the unconventional. Perhaps the moment the ball hits the back of the net and they find themselves behind they realise they’re going to get the hairdryer treatment from Fergie. He learnt from the best after all. Posh quickly re-found their momentum, discipline and vigour, most likely with this in mind, and ended the first half brightly. Apart from the goal, Palace hadn’t really had any other chances while we had quite a few attacks on goal. Yet we didn’t have that crucial equaliser. I tried to put it out of my mind but I couldn’t help thinking at half time were we missing a certain Craig Mackail-Smith’s goal scoring ability?
I didn’t have to wait too long for an answer in the second half. A George Boyd free-kick was played across where it was struck firm and low first time by Grant McCann just outside the penalty box. This time Speroni couldn’t prevent it from going in and Posh found themselves with their deserved equaliser. All the tension that had built up amongst the Posh fans was emphatically released. If we kept playing how we were, could we do the impossible and take three points? No one dared say it aloud considering the last time we were in the Championship it took ten games to get that precious win. But you can hope right?
As we were reaching the final quarter we were increasingly bearing down on goal but, rather frustratingly, trying to walk the ball into the net with some rather slick passing for a newly promoted Championship club. Ultimately Palace buckled under our relentless pressure when David Ball connected with a low cross at the far post to grab what would be the winner.
With a well earned win under our belts we now have the bragging rights of being above all the teams relegated from the Premiership, at least until next Saturday. More importantly thought, we can’t get ahead of ourselves. It is after all only one game and as good as it feels to prove a few (alright many, many) people wrong about us we are still the favourites to end up at the foot of the table. We’ve got two extremely difficult games coming up next in the league as we take on Blackpool and Ipswich. Games like that certainly won’t be as smooth as perhaps it was against Palace and even getting a point against the likes of Ipswich will be a massive achievement. But for now, we can celebrate with smiles on our faces and maybe, just maybe, hold off the inevitable Great Escape theme at least until February or March.
Life without Mackail-Smith doesn’t seem too bad after all; I can’t even remember what all the fuss was about anyway.
Written by Liam Smith, We Are Going Up’s Peterborough United Blogger