I’ll admit it – I never wanted Graham Westley back at Stevenage because I didn’t think he was up to it. Shows what I know!
In fairness to me, however, his first stint at Broadhall Way was, by and large, a pretty awful affair. Dreadful football, dreadful press relations and a dreadful relationship with the fans. I remember a good friend of mine having a cut out of a local newspaper article where Westley had slated the fans pinned to his wall “just so we didn’t forget” he’d done it. I guess it worked.
However, in among the gloom of Westley’s first tenure was a glimmer of light in the shape of the 2005 Conference play-off final, which was lost 1-0 to Carlisle United. But I’d imagine that even Graham himself would admit that the club finished there more by luck than judgement.
On his much maligned return, Westley pledged that he was a changed man and he’s spent the last three years proving that to be the case. Now, two FA Trophy Finals – OK, one was lost – a Conference title, a 3-1 FA Cup battering of Newcastle, a League Two play-off victory and, for now, League One comfort later, I’m genuinely gutted to see him leave.
Could Stevenage have achieved everything they have in the last three years under anybody else? Quite simply, absolutely not.
Westley’s knowledge of non-league football meant that, on his arrival, he could bring in some unearthed gems and assemble them into a well-drilled machine. The likes of Michael Bostwick surely could not have imagined that he’d be nominated as a League One Player of the Month, just three years after being in a relegation fight while at Ebbsfleet. Could Mark Roberts, arguably Westley’s greatest signing, have imagined he’d have had such success in the short time after he was marshalling the back line at Northwich Victoria? I seriously doubt it. But that, in my opinion, is Westley’s greatest talent.
Dragging more out of a player than anyone else thought was there is something which he has done time and again, and it meant that he could find players who would go along with his regime. As a rule, footballers don’t like training from 9-5 and most refuse to do it. Westley, though, has put together a squad at Broadhall Way that, while they might not like it (but how would I know?) know that it’s best for them and know that it works. The players who don’t like it? They don’t play for Westley – it’s as simple and as ruthless as that. His methods may be unorthodox, but they get results and that is why he’s now moving on.
This does pose a worry though. When he returned to Stevenage again, he arrived at a club that allowed him to set up his own regime and he was working for a chairman who knew him well enough to back his every decision. Whether Peter Ridsdale is the type to allow that remains to be seen, but Westley is not stupid and he won’t have taken the job without assurances.
While I’m sad to him go, I don’t blame him for taking his chance. His stock is as high now as it’s probably ever going to be and I think he is totally justified in moving on to Preston North End who are, lets face it, a much bigger club than Stevenage. He’s worked wonders here and a man with his ambition is always going to push for more. If Preston can give him the freedom to run things his way, then our loss will most certainly be their gain.
The success that Graham Westley brought to this club has been a long time coming and it’s been a joy and an honour to be a part of it. All the best Graham, and thanks for the memories.
Written by Mark Hollis, We Are Going Up’s Stevenage blogger
Everyone loves a good comeback – except the team on the receiving end of one! They tend to be few and far between in football and that’s why they’re so special. When the chips are well and truly down and all seems lost, sometimes being several goals down can galvanise teams to achieve the impossible. Comebacks are a joy for the neutral and the team doing them, whilst they leave their opponents in a state of disbelief.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find something more enthralling and dramatic than a great turnaround on the football field and this week Toppo’s Top Ten looks at some of the most memorable from the Football League.
10: Watford 4 Bolton Wanderers 3 1993
Vicarage Road played host to one of the most unforgettable games in its history in October 1993, as Watford staged a remarkable comeback against Bolton in the old Endsleigh Division One.
The Hornets were lanugishing in the bottom half of the table while Bolton, under the management of Bruce Rioch and Colin Todd, were a side looking to secure promotion into the Premier League. For the first 71 minutes of the game the Trotters looked every inch promotion contenders, as they opened up a 3-0 lead with Watford not offering much and home fans beginning to stream out of the stadium.
However Glenn Roeder’s side got themselves a goal when striker Gary Porter netted with their first shot on target in the game – some pride salvaged at least. However two minutes later they were back in it, Porter scoring his second after bursting into the box, chesting down the ball and smashing it into the net. With around eight minutes to go, a flick-on saw Ken Charlerey pick up the ball and the midfielder let fly from 25 yards, his shot finding the bottom corner of the net and the turnaround was complete – or so Watford fans thought.
With a minute to go, Watford had a corner which was swung in towards the back post. With Bolton defenders attempting to head it clear it struck an arm and the referee awarded the hosts a penalty. Gary Porter stepped up, sent the goalkeeper the wrong way and thus sealed an amazing comeback for the Hornets as their fans went mad in celebration.
9: Sheffield United 4 Nottingham Forest 3 2003
The game which started Nottingham Forest’s love-affair with the play-offs. Having finished 6th in Division One during the 2002/03 season, Forest hosted 3rd placed Sheffield United in the semi-finals, the first leg at The City Ground ending 1-1. The Blades were favourites going into the Bramall Lane return a few days later and it would prove to be an incredible match.
The hosts fell behind when David Johnson gave Forest the lead on the night midway through the first half and on 58 minutes, the Reds doubled their lead when Andy Reid struck Mathieu Louis-Jean’s deep cross into the net at the back post – Forest, it seemed, were on their way to the Cardiff play-off final.
However United stirred themselves and got a goal back two minutes later when Michael Brown’s deflected free-kick crept over the line and Steve Kabba equalised not long after, volleying the ball high into the net after a flick-on fell to him. With the scores level at 2-2 the match entered extra-time where United went in front through Paul Peschisolido, before a Des Walker own-goal extended their lead further. Jon Olav-Hjelde pulled a last-minute consolation back for Forest but it was Neil Warnock’s side who would go on to face Wolves in the final, after a rollercoaster 120 minutes of football.
8: Southampton 3 Leeds United 4 2005
Four goals in a frantic final 20 minutes saw Leeds United complete an amazing comeback against Southampton in the Championship six years ago. Saints were in control on home turf as Marian Pahars and a double from midfielder Nigel Quashie put them 3-0 ahead at the break – and the score was still the same with 70 minutes on the clock.
Leeds manager Kevin Blackwell threw on striker David Healy and his introduction sparked a remarkable turnaround. Paul Butler’s looping header gave the Whites hope then six minutes later Robbie Blake tapped in to make the score 3-2 with thirteen minutes of normal time remaining.
On 84 minutes Healy’s attempted chip was handled by a Southampton defender in the box and a penalty awarded. Healy stepped up to rifle his spot-kick into the top corner and it seemed Leeds had salvaged a point. However Liam Miller converted a low cross from the right on the half-volley with four minutes left to set the seal on an incredible afternoon’s football. He and his teammates ran to celebrate in front of the travelling Leeds support behind the goal, who would struggle to forget what they’d just seen.
6: Oxford United 5 Portsmouth 5 1992
In a match against Portsmouth they looked well and truly out of, Oxford United pulled off an amazing recovery in the final five minutes to salvage a point. This Division One encounter got off to the best start possible for Pompey as Alan McLoughlin rose highest to power a header into the roof of the net and striker Guy Whittingham doubled the lead with a first-time volley not long after.
The visitors made it three from a corner as Kerry Evans diverted the ball into his own net, David Penney did pull a goal back for Oxford shortly afterwards, but Portsmouth restored their three goal advantage as Whittingham scored his second. Jim Magilton volleyed Oxford back into it before the break after what had been a shocking first 45 minutes from his side.
In the second half it was Portsmouth who extended their lead again as winger Mark Chamberlain rifled a shot into the roof of the net and at 5-2, the match looked over. With five minutes left on the clock, John Durnin ran onto a flick-on to score, but with home fans leaving the Manor Ground Chris Allen was brought down in the box and Oxford had a penalty. Magilton slotted his spot-kick into the bottom corner to make the score 5-4 but they were not finished and after another ball was hit into the Portsmouth area, a shot was parried where it fell to Allen, who headed home to make it 5-5.
5: Peterborough United 4 Cardiff City 4 2009
During the 2009/10 Championship campaign, Peterborough United and Cardiff played out arguably the league’s game of the season as eight goals were shared at London Road in an entertaining 4-4 draw.
Cardiff, gunning for Premier League promotion, displayed their credentials, going into a 4-0 lead with 36 minutes gone. Joe Ledley scored twice, Jay Bothroyd added a third and Peter Whittingham’s 25-yard free-kick made it four. For bottom-of-the-table Peterborough, a heavy defeat was on the cards as the Cambridgeshire side were battling to avoid relegation.
However in the second half they turned the game on its head. Boss Mark Cooper introduced two substitutes to bolster his midfield and one of them, Josh Simpson pulled a goal back for Posh on 51 minutes. Charlie Lee’s header made the game interesting before George Boyd’s 89th minute top corner effort meant Peterborough needed one goal to equalise with just minutes to go. Incredibly they did it, Simpson’s close range effort making it 4-4. An unlikely, but brilliant comeback.
4: Birmingham City 4 Swindon Town 6 1993
On their way to securing promotion to the Premier League in the 1992/93 season, Swindon Town pulled off an outstanding comeback at St. Andrews against Birmingham City. In the first 45 minutes the hosts established a 2-0 lead through Dean Peer and John Frain, before Shaun Taylor’s towering header halved the defecit going into the break.
Two minutes into the second half Paul Moulden rounded Swindon goalkeeper Fraser Digby and finished to make it 3-1 to Birmingham before Andy Saville struck a ferocious left-footed volley which flew into the top corner of the net to extend the Blues’ lead further.
On 60 minutes Craig Maskell fired a low finish beyond Blues ‘keeper Andy Gosney to give Swindon a glimmer of hope and five minutes later David Mitchell’s diving header made it 4-3. Mitchell then silenced the 18,000 crowd as the ball fell to him eight yards from goal and he made no mistake, equalising for the Robins with 14 minutes left. Maskell gave Swindon the lead for the first time in the game as he headed home a corner and on the stroke of injury time Mitchell completed his hat-trick, beating the last defender and goalkeeper to slot home an easy finish. What a turnaround from Glenn Hoddle’s side, who were 4-1 down with half an hour to go.
3: Port Vale 4 Queens Park Rangers 4 1997
In 1997 Queens Park Rangers pulled off an astonishing comeback to snatch a draw at Vale Park in Division One, leaving hosts Port Vale wondering how they’d managed to throw away a four goal lead.
In the first half Vale opened the scoring when Dean Glover steered Jan Jansson’s 24th minute corner into the net and they made it two eleven minutes later, the impressive Steve Guppy crossing to the far post where Lee Mills nodded home. Guppy set up Vale’s third when he laid off Tony Naylor’s pass into the path of Jansson, who smashed the ball under the stunned Tony Roberts in Rangers’ goal. Vale’s fourth came before half-time as Matthew Brazier headed Jansson’s corner into his own net.
After a nightmare first 45 minutes, QPR’s travelling support were probably wondering why they’d bothered to make the 200 mile trip north to Stoke-on-Trent, but they had something to cheer on the 66th minute, as Vale debutant Jermaine Holwyn comically nodded the ball into his own net trying to intercept a lofted pass from the right of the area. On 85 minutes, Andy Impey reduced Vale’s lead to two with an outstanding volley which flew in off the bar – then Port Vale went to pieces. Paul Murray chipped Rangers’ third following some great build-up play, then in injury time striker John Spencer rifled in the equaliser after Paul Musselwhite could only parry away Daniele Dichio’s effort. Unbelievable!
2: Leeds United 4 Preston North End 6 2010
When Leeds United hosted Preston North End at Elland Road in the Championship last season, few could’ve predicted the 90 minutes which lay ahead.
It was North End – struggling near the foot of the table under manager Darren Ferguson – who took the lead through Jon Parkin’s tap-in. Luciano Becchio’s header equalised for Leeds and it was another header which put the home side in front, Alex Bruce beating North End goalkeeper Andy Lonergan. Lloyd Sam set up Davide Somma to make the score 3-1 to the Whites on 27 minutes before Somma added a fourth. Parkin almost immediately pulled a goal back for Preston before the break, but Preston looked all over the place as the sides headed into the dressing rooms for half-time.
Keith Treacy made it 4-3 nine minutes after the break from a corner as the home defence began to come under pressure. United defender George McCartney brought down Paul Coutts in the box to give Preston a penalty, which captain Callum Davidson dispatched high into the net for the equaliser. Preston completed a great comeback with 25 minutes remaining as Parkin scored his third of the night, a low left-foot shot beating Shane Higgs in the Leeds goal, and with eleven to go Iain Hume made it 6-4 to the away side, heading in Billy Jones’ diagonal cross from the right to cap off an incredible victory for North End.
1: Cheltenham Town 5 Burton Albion 6 2010
A goal-fest from League Two when Burton Albion met Cheltenham Town at the Pirelli Stadium during the 2009/10 season. The game saw eleven goals, ended up 6-5 and included a stunning fightback from a Cheltenham side who didn’t know when they were beaten.
Burton were 2-0 ahead at half-time thanks to a brace from Shaun Harrad but Justin Richards and Medy Elito restored parity early on in the second period. Burton were soon 4-2 ahead after an own goal from Cheltenham’s Michael Townsend, who deflected Cleveland Taylor’s cross into his own net, before a close-range strike from Brewers’ marksman Steve Kabba. With six minutes remaining Cheltenham were back in the game, Michael Pook making it 4-3 from a free kick in the 84th minute, but a minute later Kabba netted his second to put Burton 5-3 ahead and seemingly on course for victory.
Pook got his second of the match in the 87th minute as his strike hit a Burton defender before going in, then Richards grabbed his second goal to make it 5-5. Mark Yates’ side had pulled off an incredible turnaround but they were not done yet, as with virtually the last kick of the game, Pook completed his hat-trick and the most unlikely of victories, his rising drive beating Brewers’ goalkeeper Artur Krysiak from 25 yards out deep into stoppage time.
Within the space of ten minutes Cheltenham had somehow turned a 5-3 defecit into a 6-5 win, leaving the Burton players, staff and supporters shell shocked.
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
Preston North End have well and truly put their disastrous opening game of the season behind them after moving to 3rd in the League One table.
Preston played host to John Ward’s Colchester United on 6th August. Fans warmly welcomed veteran Graham Alexander as he came back to the club where he spent eight years. For a short spell, he lost his marbles and ended up at Burnley but alas has learnt the error of his ways. How fitting that his last game for Preston in his first spell was against Colchester. It wasn’t to be the dream re-start for Phil Brown’s men though as his side became the first in the Football League to concede – Anthony Wordsworth coolly slotted the ball into the bottom right corner past Andy Lonergan’s replacement Iain Turner in the 12th minute. That shabby performance resulted in a 4-2 loss.
Charlton currently lead the way at the top of the table with 27 points from 11 games. However, if Preston win their game in hand the Lilywhites will be breathing down Chris Powell’s neck. The Sheffield United game on Saturday has been postponed due to international duties, so our leapfrogging will have to wait. In case you were wondering, Iain Turner and Keammar Daley have been summoned to the Canadian and Jamaican squads respectively. Colin McLaughlin will be on Northern Ireland duty.
Last Tuesday night’s 4-3 thriller at Wycombe increased North End’s run up to seven straight league wins, eight games unbeaten. This game epitomised their strength and self-belief as they clawed back from 3-2 down. It’s our best start in the league in 52 years – quite a feat. Phil Brown hailed the players whilst simultaneously blasting the defence.
Unfortunately that fantastic run was brought to a halt on Saturday. Surprisingly it was bottom-of-the-league Leyton Orient who spoiled the fun. Graham Alexander missed his second penalty of the season, after the prolific spot kicker placed a spot-kick straight at the keeper in the 1-0 home win over Exeter in August. So far this season when Preston score first they have been able to salvage some points, seven out of eight times PNE have taken all three points. Therefore when Jamie Proctor gifted Paul Coutts with an easy tap-in from close range inside two minutes, I was confident we would see the game through. The O’s scored two before half time and even then I wasn’t concerned. The comeback never came and the problem that we have been masking all season was exposed – terrible defending.
It was about time PNE were punished for making very basic errors at the back. The whites have seemingly breezed to third place because our attacking style of play that has earned us 21 goals. Neil Mellor has netted seven and Iain Hume five, including some stunning strikes. Whilst the attackers have been scoring for fun, at the other end the defence have conceded fifteen. Admittedly Sean St Ledger flitted off to join Leicester in the transfer window and at 39 years-old, one could argue that Graham Alexander is past his sell by date. However Paul Parry and the experienced Clarke Carlisle have made some terrible defensive blunders that belong in the playground. Seven goals were conceded in the last three games where the youthful Andreas Arestidou has worn the gloves whilst Iain Turner has been recovering from a damaged big toe. There are some tough fixtures ahead and Preston simply cannot rely on scoring four goals to make amends for lacklustre defending.
I cannot summarise our positive start to the campaign without saluting Iain Turner. Our goalkeeper delighted Deepdale with a cracking goal from his box! It was the result of a huge kick that bounced inbetween Neil Mellor and the County keeper, Stuart Nelson, to secure a 2-0 victory. Intentional or not, it’s a goal I’ll always remember.
A recent survey showed that Preston and Rochdale are the cheapest clubs to watch in League One. The 2-1 win over Tranmere was the highest attended match with 17,261 in Deepdale. There should be crowds like that at every home game because overall there’s an awful lot to cheer about.
Written by Hannah Lupton, We Are Going Up’s Preston North End Blogger
At the weekend, courtesy of Preston North End’s Iain Turner, we witnessed one of the rarest of occurances on a football pitch – a goalkeeper getting on the scoresheet. A time when the man charged with stopping goals at one end of the pitch nets himself at the other to the unbridled joy of teammates, fans and coaching staff. There are some ‘keepers who find the net as often as many strikers with free-kicks and penalties, but those guys are usually found in South America or Europe. However on occasion it does happen closer to home, with a few Football League stoppers having Chilavert moments of their own. Here’s ten of the best:
10: Gavin Ward
In a league match between Tranmere Rovers and Leyton Orient in September 2006, it was the Rovers goalkeeper who opened the scoring at Prenton Park. Rovers had a free kick some 80 yards from their opponents’ goal and in customary fashion, Ward launched it upfield. His left-footed clearance was aimed at the forwards but bounced twelve yards from goal, bounced up over the diving Orient ‘keeper and into the net. The goal set the hosts on their way to a 3-0 victory. See the goal from 1:48 in this clip.
9: Peter Keen
If you think of goalscoring Carlisle goalkeepers only one name springs to mind. However another Carlisle stopper has found the net, albeit in less dramatic circumstances as United faced Blackpool in Division Three in the 2000/01 season. On a rain-sodden night at Bloomfield Road Blackpool ran out 3-2 winners but conceded a goal to the opposition goalie. Keen kicked the ball out of his hands, sending a long clearance upfield which bounced on the edge of the penalty area and caught the Tangerines’ goalkeeper unawares as it flew over him and into the net.
8: Andy Lonergan
In October 2004 Leicester City and Preston North End played out a 1-1 draw at the Walkers Stadium with the visitors taking home a point thanks to a goal from their goalkeeper. Andy Lonergan sent forward a goal-kick from the left hand side of his penalty area and Leicester City centre-back Matt Heath allowed the ball to bounce twenty yards from goal. Veteran Foxes goalkeeper Kevin Pressman should have collected it but instead was caught off his line and fell on his arse as the ball went into the net.
7: Adam Federici
Reading goalkeeper Adam Federici had scored in a friendly against non-league Bromley in 2006 and two years did it again, this time with more at stake in a league game against Cardiff City. The Bluebirds took the lead at the Madejski Stadium through Michael Chopra with 89 minutes on the clock. Looking doomed to defeat, Reading forced a corner in injury-time and ‘keeper Federici went up into the opposition’s penalty area.
Stephen Hunt swung the ball in from the right, Michael Duberry connected with a powerful header that was cleared off the line but the rebound fell to Federici who hammered the ball into the roof of the net beyond opposite number 1 Peter Enckleman. Cue great scenes of celebration from Reading players and fans.
6: Iain Turner
Time for another goalscoring Preston goalkeeper and the man who inspired this week’s top ten. In the last five minutes of North End’s home match against Notts County at the weekend, Turner booted a long half-volley goal kick upfield from the edge of his penalty area. It bounced on the edge of County’s penalty box with their goalkeeper Stuart Nelson rushing out of his net to collect, however the ball flew over his head and trickled into the net to seal a 2-0 win for the Lillywhites.
5: Scott Flinders
When a side is chasing a last-minute equaliser sometimes the goalkeeper will go up for free-kicks and corners, hoping an extra presence in the box will cause problems for the defence. In May this year Hartlepool United goalkeeper Scott Flinders became a last-minute hero for his side as he headed home a 94th minute equaliser against Bournemouth.
Flinders, who was earlier at fault for one of the Bournemouth goals, produced a late double save, before heading up field for the final corner of the match. With 30 seconds of the match remaining and the home side 2-1 down in their final home match of the season, the corner was swung in from the left where Flinders met it with a stooping header that found its way into the bottom corner of the net, before being mobbed by joyous teammates.
4: Chris Weale
Chris Weale is a player fondly remembered by fans of Yeovil Town. He was the goalkeeper during their promotion years from the Conference through to League One before leaving for Bristol City. Finding appearances limited at Ashton Gate, Weale returned to the Glovers on loan in 2009 and ended up scoring a dramatic late goal in a 2-2 draw against Hereford United.
The match was a relegation six-pointer with both sides attempting to stave off the drop into League One and it was the away side who would seemingly get the vital 3 points as the clock ticked down. Yeovil were 2-0 down until Luke Rodgers scored with 12 minutes remaining and seeking an equaliser, goalkeeper Weale went forward as his side had a corner.
The corner was swung in high towards the back post where Weale lept up and headed the ball across the line, salvaging a point for the hosts. The Huish Park fans went mad and the goalkeeper chased by team-mates before falling subject to an old-fashioned playground ‘pile-on.’
3: Mark Crossley
Former Nottingham Forest and Middlesbrough goalkeeper Mark Crossley makes it to number three thanks to a dramatic late leveller he netted whilst playing for Sheffield Wednesday in December 2006. Hosting Southampton at Hillsborough, Wednesday were 3-1 down in the second half but pulled it back to 3-2 and had a corner in the last minute of the game. 37-year-old Crossley went up for the kick and as it swung into the six yard box, the Welsh goalkeeper was on hand to head home and make it 3-3. A brilliant moment as he, his team-mates and Wednesday fans went bonkers.
2: Mart Poom
The big Estonian was more accustomed to stopping goals rather than scoring them, so to see him net this header at Pride Park was really something. Poom was returning to the club whom he served for five years and his Sunderland team were 1-0 down with the match in injury time.
Sunderland had a corner and Poom ran up the other end of the pitch to support the attack. As Sean Thornton’s ball swung into the box Poom ran in and thumped it home with the sort of header any outfield player would have loved to score. It salvaged a point for the Wearsiders and Poom became an instant fans favourite.
1: Jimmy Glass
Could there really be any other number one? Jimmy Glass was on short-term loan at struggling Carlisle from Swindon Town but wrote his name into the club’s folklore on the final day of the 1998-99 season. Carlisle would be relegated to the Conference if they failed to better Scarborough’s result – that ended 1-1 as Carlisle’s match with Plymouth (also 1-1) entered it’s final moments. Desperate for a goal to save their league status everyone piled forward as Carlisle had a last-minute corner, including ‘keeper Glass. Unbelievably, the ball fell to him and he smashed it into the net with his right boot to keep Carlisle in the Football League as delirious fans invaded the pitch. Amazing.
Written by Steven Toplis, We Are Going Up 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
Tweet Steven at @steven_toplis with your suggestions for Toppo’s Top Tens.
After ten successive seasons, a feat that makes them the Championship’s longest serving club, Preston North End have been relegated to the Npower League One.
Since the heart-breaking 1-0 home defeat against promotion chasing Cardiff that relegated the Lilywhites on 25th April, Preston haven’t lost a game. In terms of pre-season matches, North End have convincingly beat Fleetwood Town, Kendal Town and Morecambe, 4-0, 7-1 and 3-0 respectively. This form seems somewhat foreign to North Enders after last season. Three consecutive victories was our longest winning run all season (Scunthorpe 3-0, Coventry 2-1 and Swansea 2-1) and by then our fate was pretty much sealed. Hopefully this winning mentality can continue when the 2011/2012 season commences against Colchester at Deepdale on Saturday 6th August.
Manager Phil Brown has successfully persuaded midfielder Barry Nicholson to renew his contract for another two years. Positive news as the 32-year-old Scot, who has been blighted by two breaks to the same leg, should provide some more goals after teasing fans with three goals in as many games in the second half of last season. Nicholson had already sworn his allegiance back in May about staying at Deepdale because he “owes it to the club”.
The Whites will welcome the loan signing of Clarke Carlisle from the Dingles, after losing proficient centre-back Sean St Ledger to Championship Leicester under the guidance of Sven Goran Eriksson. Carlisle is no spring chicken at 31 but being five years St Ledger’s senior he will bring a stability and experience to the back four that was evidently missing during last season. Carlisle was born in Leyland and has always wanted to play for PNE. I suppose it’s better late than never.
‘Andy Andy Andy Andy Lonergan’. That’s the chant the Leeds supporters will sing now that our no.1 has transferred to Elland Road. Simon Grayson was keen to sign our former keeper earlier in the season, if he had left then North End would have profited. However with rumours of fees worth £200,000 on a three year deal, it seems like Leeds have grabbed themselves a bargain to replace Kasper Schmeichel. A keeper of Lonergan’s quality deserves Championship football, that much cannot be denied. A Preston born lad who played 231 times for his club, and memorably netted a goal kick against Leicester – good luck to him.
Following Lonergan’s departure, Phil Brown has refuelled his desire to sign Iain Turner, former Everton goalkeeper. It looks very likely that Turner will don the jersey after impressing during his three month loan spell at the end of the season. If, or when, the free transfer is completed Turner should be set for Sunday’s friendly against Lancashire rivals Wigan. Lovely stuff!
On Monday 25th July thousands of North Enders marched through Bamber Bridge to commemorate Preston North End’s relegation to League One. It’s a tradition stretching back to 1948; if PNE are promoted or relegated fans will walk behind a coffin full of vegetables and bury it, as you do… No you didn’t misread that – a coffin full of vegetables! The funeral procession was well attended by people of all ages who will surely be hoping that this time next year the walk will be one to celebrate.
Written by Hannah Lupton, We Are Going Up’s Preston North End Blogger
So after what feels like the most tortuous summer in years, a brand new football league season is nearly upon us. As some of you who have downloaded the first episode of the We Are Going Up Podcast may know, I will be blogging on where I think there are some money making opportunities during the season. First up, and to accompany our first preview show, we will have a look at the runners and riders from Leagues One and Two with a variety of bets to whet your appetite for a flutter before the big kick off.
First up, let’s have a look at some odds from League Two
Northampton Town to be promoted: 11/2 with Victor Chandler.
It would be fair to say that The Cobblers didn’t have the best of times in League Two last time out. Aside from a magnificent string of cup performances which saw them dispose of Liverpool on their own turf, the league was a much more sober affair. A season like that can have a lasting effect but Gary Johnson has made some shrewd acquisitions in the transfer window so far; Arron Davies has joined the squad from local rivals Peterborough United and could prove pivotal if the season is to end in a push for promotion. He joins the likes of Chelsea loanee goalkeeper Sam Walker and ex Stockport midfielder Paul Turnbull to give the squad a great injection of youth for the 9 months ahead. In the final third, new signing Jake Robinson will look to make an impact alongside the returning Adebayo Akinfenwa, who spent most of last year at Gillingham scoring 11 goals.
With other options such as Paul Harrad and Tadgh Purcell to lead the line I think there are goals in this Northampton squad and I have no doubt Johnson will have his side well drilled at the back and ready to cope with the challenges of League Two. To complement the strike-force, the creativity of midfielders like Davies and new signing Lewis Young can’t be overlooked, while the class of Michael Jacobs will continue to shine through. Chances will be created regularly and if they can put the disappointment of last season’s relegation battle behind them they could easily be in the mix for promotion come May 2012. At 11/2 they look a tasty price to claim one of the four available spots up for grabs.
Plymouth Argyle to be relegated: 10/1 with William Hill, Sky Bet and Sportingbet.
As much as I hate to see a club slip down the divisions I can forsee some problems in the year ahead for The Pilgrims. After a disappointing season which saw them relegated from League One amid a wave of uncertainty surrounding their perilous financial situation things don’t appear to have improved. Peter Ridsdale’s attempted takeover bid has met with a mixed reaction amongst fans of the club who have taken their concerns to both the Football League and the Clubs Administrators. On the field, the playing squad is looking somewhat depleted and while there are still question marks over the financial stability of the club there are unlikely to be that many additions. Former Rochdale striker Anthony Elding, who has since signed for Grimsby Town originally agreed a deal with Argyle in early July before changing his mind and making a dramatic U-turn. It may not have been as a result of the finances of the club but while the clouds still hang over Home Park it’s difficult to see it not having an impact on such decisions.
Current manager Peter Reid is a firm favourite with the bookies to be the first casualty of the sack race (3/1) and there appears to be a general downbeat feeling around the club. There are clearly still elements of quality in the squad but players like Carl Fletcher and club captain Romain Larrieu can’t support a small squad for a full campaign. The situation at the club may be resolved in the near future if the bid from Ridsdale or another offer is accepted and some funds are made available, but while the club remains in financial limbo, the 10/1 on offer with several firms appeals for a small stakes bet on a second relegation on the trot for the south coast club.
Notts County for Relegation: 5/1 with Bet365
I really feel for Notts County fans and those around the club, they had their hopes and expectations heightened by a middle eastern takeover that never really materialised and despite their promotion to League One two years ago, last year was far from a walk in the park. Under the stewardship of one Martin “Mad Dog” Allen, The Magpies were the able to turn around their fortunes at the tail end of the season and survived the drop, which, considering the upheaval and managerial changes they had to deal with is a fantastic achievement in itself. This season though, I fear for their status as a League One outfit. Allen has publicly stated that he wants more signings to sure up the playing squad stating that there needed to be “major surgery” before the season kicks off but his attempts to lure striker Paul Benson to Meadow Lane from Charlton fell at the final hurdle.
While this in itself may not be a huge blow (Allen is bound to have other targets) it does indicate to me that the man in charge knows he has to add more quality in order to sure up the foundations he is trying to build. Couple this with the arrival of some tough new opposition, both in terms of the promoted clubs from League Two and the relegated clubs from The Championship, I think this league is going to be a very tough one to stay in if County can’t bring in some key players into the fold and they could well be playing catch up if they decide to buy in January. Sam Sodje and ‘keeper Rob Burch have both been placed on the transfer list in recent weeks and it seems as if this could be a transitional season for Allen’s side, he clearly has an idea of what he wants from his players but whether or not he can turn that into results on the pitch is a different story. For me the 5/1 available on them to drop back into League Two is worth a look.
Top Goalscorer: Neil Mellor at 25/1 with Sky Bet, Victor Chandler and William Hill (e/w pays ¼ odds on places 2,3,4)
I was impressed with Mellor last season while he was on loan at Sheffield Wednesday from Preston who have since joined the Owls in League one and a very short 2/1 with most bookmakers to get promotion straight back under the stewardship of Phil Brown. A product of the Liverpool academy, Mellor has showed glimpses of quality over his career but hasn’t ever really settled at one particular club. Loan spells at West Ham and Wigan saw him used as a fringe player before his move to Preston. His spell last season at Wednesday was very impressive indeed, he weighed in with a tally of 20 goals in all competitions, 13 in the league which were invaluable in ensuring they did not slip further down the league ladder.
There are still big question marks over whether he will return to Sheffield on a more permanent basis but the latest reports suggest that any potential deal has stalled over personal terms. Either way, I think he will command a starting place wherever he ends up on the first day of the season and will certainly get the opportunities to rack up another impressive tally if he can stay fit. Others in contention for the accolade of top league one scorer include Bradley Wright-Phillips (9/1), Clinton Morrison (20/1) and highly rated Clayton Donaldson (20/1) For me, 25/1 for Mellor to be top scorer is a very tempting price considering last season’s tally and is a good each way shot especially as he may well resume penalty taking duties at Sheffield Wednesday if a deal can be reached. Even if he finishes 4th top scorer then you have a winner at over 6/1.
So that concludes our ante-post bets for League One and Two, next week there will be a similar post previewing the Championship odds in time for you to put your money on before the big kick off if you so desire. There will also be regular betting columns going up throughout the season so keep your eyes peeled. As always, have fun, gamble responsibly and happy punting.
Written by Jim Knight, a We Are Going Up! Podcast member and our resident betting expert