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Darren salvages the Fergusons' weekend

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Paul Fletcher | 20:56 UK time, Sunday, 29 May 2011

Old Trafford

Perhaps the weekend wasn't a complete disaster for the Ferguson family after all, as Darren's Peterborough team won the League One play-off final at Old Trafford to bounce straight back into the Championship.

Sir Alex's Manchester United might have been given a hiding by Barcelona at Wembley on Saturday night, but Posh left Huddersfield Town stunned and shell-shocked with a burst of three goals in seven minutes late in their contest to settle what had been a feisty and fairly even match.

The Posh squad had spent the evening before their outing at Old Trafford watching the Champions League final at their hotel. Full-back Mark Little is one of several United fans in the Posh ranks and he wore the Manchester club's shirt, while Darren apparently returned to his room when his dad's team conceded their second goal.

But for Posh's United supporters at least, Saturday's disappointment was forgotten as they clinched victory at Old Trafford.

"It was a really important game, especially after watching dad lose on Saturday night," said Ferguson. "I have just spoken to him and he is delighted for me. It has put a smile back on his face. At least one of us has got a result this weekend."

The 3-0 scoreline slightly flattered the Cambridgeshire side but they retained possession better than their opponents and arguably showed more ambition, although Huddersfield did improve after the break.

The final minutes were almost cruel for the Town supporters watching from the Streford End as Posh carved open their beaten and deflated opponents at will and the Peterborough fans taunted their Huddersfield fans with chants of 'you're not singing anymore'.

Even the heavy cloud cover that had hung over Manchester all weekend gave way to glorious sunshine that bathed a large section of the Peterborough fans for the final few minutes of the contest.

As the Town players sunk to their knees at the final whistle, Ferguson was embraced by his backroom staff before making his way towards his club's fans, fists pumping in jubilation as he celebrated his third promotion in four years at Posh.

Sunday's victory ends a remarkable season for Ferguson, who started it at Preston but was sacked before the turn of the year. Despite opting for a change of manager, North End could not avoid relegation and will play in League One next season. Ferguson is moving in a different direction after taking Posh into the Championship for a second time.

"I take no pleasure at all in Preston being relegated," added Ferguson. "That does not come into it at all. I am not a bitter man.

"If you want to be a manager you will have ups and down and you have got to deal with them. I could have gone into my shell but I am determined to succeed."

Darren Ferguson

A Ferguson winning at Old Trafford - nothing new there

Ferguson was in charge of Posh from 2007-09 as they won back-to-back promotions and his decision to return to the club in January is starting to look very shrewd.

He quickly made some slight tactical changes, including the introduction of a diamond formation in midfield that was designed to bring the best out of attacking midfielder George Boyd and skipper Grant McCann. Both players were excellent on Sunday, with each claiming an assist while McCann completed the scoring with an excellent free-kick.

McCann has now won three play-off finals with three different clubs at three different venues, after success with Cheltenham at the Millennium Stadium and Scunthorpe at Wembley before his victory at Old Trafford.

Boyd, a dangerous presence who seems to thrive in the free role behind the front two that Ferguson has given him, is now looking forward to returning to the Championship, after starting last season in the second tier with Posh before a largely disappointing loan spell at Nottingham Forest.

"We are a lot more experienced at Peterborough and I know we have learnt a lot of lessons from what happened last season," said Boyd. "To go to grounds like West Ham will be unbelievable."

Peterborough had four managers during their 2009-10 Championship campaign and finished bottom, but there is much to be applauded about them this season. They have been an extremely entertaining team, who pour forward with what at times appears to verge on reckless abandon. They scored 106 goals in the regular season and conceded 75, meaning that each fixture had an average of 3.93 goals per game.

Craig Mackail-Smith, who seems certain to leave the club in the summer, scored 27 goals during the regular season and found the net in all three play-off games. He buzzed around the Town backline with his customary energy and determination in the final and struck the killer second goal with a deflected strike.

But Posh should also be applauded for keeping clean sheets when it mattered most.

They were woeful in the first leg of their play-off semi-final at MK Dons and could have
easily sustained a decisive reverse. They were fortunate to only lose 3-2. However, they did not concede in the second leg at London Road and kept out Town in the final.

"What won us the final was not conceding when Town had a real go at us," concluded Ferguson.

Prior to Sunday Huddersfield had not lost a league or play-off fixture since they were defeated 4-1 at Southampton on 28 December - a sequence of 27 games.

In a way Sunday offered a glimpse of what the Yorkshire club can become. The Terriers sold in the region of 32,000 tickets and their end at Old Trafford was resplendent in striped blue and white. Chairman and owner Dean Hoyle paid for a T-shirt with the club's crest and the word 'believe' to be placed on every seat.

But one man who is struggling to pick out the positives at the moment is manager Lee Clark. He looked like a broken man as he discussed the game afterwards. His voice was little more than a mumble, and many of his answers were punctuated by long, deep sighs.

"We have had an unbelievable season but we have not achieved our goal," said Clark." What is eating away at me is the 3-0 scoreline. It makes it look as though the game was so much against our team."

Over the closing months of the season Clark selected a 4-4-2 system for home games, with loan striker Benik Afobe partnered up front by Jordan Rhodes. Away from the Galpharm Stadium he has opted for a more defensive 4-5-1, with Rhodes dropping to the bench. Town had won the last six away games of the regular season and drew at Bournemouth in their play-off match, so it is perhaps understandable that he chose the more defensive option.

However, it did not really work all that well against Posh. In the first half Town seemed more intent on shutting down their opponents than creating opportunities of their own.

The Terriers were much improved after the break but the tone for the contest had arguably been set by then.

"Our game is about possession, you watch Barcelona and you know you will not reach that level but that is what we want to do," added Boyd. "Huddersfield tried to pack the midfield but we found the space to get on the ball."

Clark had been under huge pressure to deliver promotion and admitted that he was physically and mentally drained.

"I need to get away and spend some quality time with my wife and children," added the Town boss.

Counterpart Ferguson leaves for his holidays on Tuesday. Before that he has a meeting with Posh chairman Darragh McAnthony as they plot their forthcoming Championship campaign.

One game of football has determined that two different men and everyone associated with the clubs they manage will have vastly different summers.

You can follow me throughout the season at



  • Comment number 1.

    Good blog, nice to see Darren Ferguson get some success. Any chance we could be seeing him leading a team out at Old Trafford more regularly in the future you reckon?

  • Comment number 2.

    I just feel sorry for Huddersfield. Congrats to the Posh and all but Huddersfield have pushed the automatic promotion chad=se right to the wire by not losing for 27 games, and to me its seems an injustice that the team who were better overt the season lost out.

    The Posh have played well to their strengths - eg. score more than the other team and don't worry about conceding - whereas Huddersfield have had a good package this season. It just seems a bit rubbish for them after they gave us Saints such a close run for the playoffs and Peterborough were nowhere to be seen.

  • Comment number 3.

    # 2

    "Peterborough were nowhere to be seen"

    Think if you check you'll find Posh were in the race for automatic promotion till quite late in the season. Anyway, all the clubs know before the start of the season how the play-offs work, so too bad for those that miss out. Well done to Posh and all the other play-off winners.

  • Comment number 4.

    Mr Fletcher, I think if you look back over Huddersfield's results, Southampton beat them 4-1 on 28th December, not 2-1.

  • Comment number 5.

    SaintWhatUMnext 2 - duly noted and (hopefully) corrected.

    A great day out for Posh fans on Sunday, a few of whom were in very banterish mood on the train home that I caught. It would be fair to say that the British Transport Police had chosen to adopt a forgiving attitude to some rather rather robust language.

    As for Town, I think they face a tricky summer. Lee Clark really did look gutted on Sunday. If ever I have seen a man who needs to get away from it all then Clark is the one.

    Town have ambition, a cracking owner and a good squad. They need to deliver next season, no doubt.

  • Comment number 6.

    Some people are giving the impression Posh barely scraped into the play-offs at the last minute. In fact, we were right up there for the majority of the season, banging the goals in left right and centre, and until a few games left we were in with a genuine shout of second spot until we hit a sticky patch. Yes, Huddersfield got more points than us, but were were only 8 points behind them, we scored more goals, we had a better goal-difference, and remained undefeated against them in three league games. This is how it works sometimes. I feel sorry for Huddersfield but if you don't want to go through this again then try finishing 2nd in the table like Posh did in 2009.

  • Comment number 7.

    Not the best blog about a stupid family. I hate the furguson's because they are always wanting to get their own way. They are stuck up and annoying

  • Comment number 8.

    * No 7 - ""Not the best blog about a stupid family. I hate the furguson's because they are always wanting to get their own way. They are stuck up and annoying""

    And you're just juvenile and stupid.

  • Comment number 9.

    I still can't understand why Clark was more interested in stopping posh playthan trying to win the game themselves. Even after posh beat Mk, Clark was in the commentary box saying I know what tactics I will use to stop posh, weird thing to say if you ask me. At that point I knew posh would win yesterday and I certainly had pleasure goading the mouthy Huddersfield fans yesterday.

  • Comment number 10.

    In this age of where almost anyone can post their opinion of events for everyone to see, I thought I would dip my toe in the water. Overall I think the comments are a bit too critical of Lee Clark and Huddersfield Town. I thought after the match, he was clearly devastated but he behaved with wonderful dignity and was a total credit to the club. In addition the Cairman has also supported not only the club but the community and supporters as well. He has also involved the club supporters in charity bike rides to away games.
    The play offs are a lottery and some years, one club's name "is on the trophy". This year it was Peterborough, they were 3-1 down to MK Dons who then inexplicably started passing the ball around in midfield, Peterborough were then awarded a very dubious penalty and suddenly they were back in the game. The final was very even and although Peterborough definitely had the clearer chances, the killer goals had the benfit of the bounce of the ball going their way. Overall, Huddersfield are desparately unlucky not to be promoted and I hope that both Lee Clark and the Chairman, Dean Hoyle and all the players and staff recover from this and perhaps one day they will get the reward their efforts deserve.

  • Comment number 11.

    As a Preston North End supporter the irony of yesterdays events was difficult to avoid. For us it reopens the question of whether it was the right thing to sack the manager mid season. Don't get me wrong I think we have a manager now who seems more "in tune" with the supporters however the number of games it took him to get a win while he settled in ultimately cost us. For me Darren seems a decent manager who for PNE was the wrong man at the wrong time and I think it is more a geographical thing than ability - it is noticeable that he has put some distance between him and his father by going back to Peterbrorough. At PNE his dad was a frequent visitor, offered lots of loan players ( and then took them back ), we used the Man U training facilities and his dad was a mate of the owners - not ideal for being your own man. I think the supporters felt he was a "puppet" rather than the man for the job - I think that is a harsh view but representative. I am pleased he has got success and I am sure, after two really disappointing years in the Championship, he will be determined to stay up and have a good season. I would also put good money on not many Man U players appearing on loan !!

  • Comment number 12.

    come on boro back in the championship bring on west ham. Fantastic game 3 goal in 7 minutes describes our whole season we can score lots of goal in a short period of time and Huddersfield believe in playing Stevenage next year. Up the POSH.

  • Comment number 13.

    Its funny how people still go on about the 'dubious' penalty at MK, yet forget the disallowed goal that Posh scored, which should have stood, the wrongful sending off of Charlie Lee, and the complete thumping we gave MK in the 2nd leg. Posh were deserved finalist, and winners. No arguments.
    Lets give the Posh and Darren the credit they so deserve. Barcelona of the Fens. 126 goals scored.

  • Comment number 14.

    PoshFella (post 13) - Barcelona of the Fens. I like that. Everybody wants to be a bit like Barca these days.

  • Comment number 15.

    Sorry Paul I don't agree with you there - Huddersfield struggling in the summer? I think not.

    Lee Clark is clearly progressing as a manager and his team are a pleasure to behold and with players coming back from injury as well as potential signings he could make as well as holding onto loan players or signing them permanently, the future could be and hopefully will be bright for Huddersfield.

    Yes, Huddersfield will be desperately unlucky to play League 1 football but the cocky comments about playing Stevenage just sum up that the Posh fans are being so incredibly harsh.

    No sympathy from them for Huddersfield. I had a feeling Huddersfield wouldn't do it, in all honesty, but I've faith that they can BELIEVE they can do it next season, playing perfectly respectable teams, such as STEVENAGE.

    No team in any league is disrespectful, regardless of their position or where they are.

  • Comment number 16.

    Hi Robin (post 15) - I said a tricky summer. And I think it will be. I agree with most of what you say about the quality of the squad, the manager etc. I'm talking more about getting over the disappointments of yesterday.

    Everyone concerned with the club needs to go away, recharge and dust themselves down so that they are ready to go again.

  • Comment number 17.

    Disappointment will be the incentive for success - Lee Clark suffered it at Charlton all those years ago and he got promotion the following season.

    Will it be third time lucky? Hope so.

  • Comment number 18.

    Thanks for your articles, Phil, very fair. As a Posh fan who lives in West Yorkshire I also feel very sorry for the Huddersfield fans. So many of them and so near! I was at the Leeds Road Stadium when we beat them in the playoffs in 1992. I was sitting amongst them and daren't say a muff when Posh scored and won 2-1. I heard their sorrows then. It must happen for them soon.

    Actually, I think Lee Clark made a tactical mistake picking the young lad up front on his own. You need experience and grit in games like this and he looked lost. Posh centre backs had him their pockets most of the afternoon. Huddersfield created only two worthwhile chances all game. They are capable of more than that. They made the Posh defence look quite accomplished!

    The thing about Posh is that they can play awfully badly at times but are always dangerous. When Huddersfield were pressing them in the second half they looked as if they were going to lose. I thought so. But then they popped one in from nowhere, Huddersfield legs went from under them and it was all over.

    Posh rely on sparkle, inspiration, surprise. When CMS goes we will still have it but will we have enough for the Championship? I hope so. We need some big signings.

  • Comment number 19.

    Add your comment

  • Comment number 20.

    I think the fergie winners mentality was the key in this game, fergie jnr put out a team to win, Clark set out a team to stop and contain. Apart from hitting the crossbar Huddersfield never looked like scoring.

  • Comment number 21.

    Thought Posh were a bit lucky as Huddersfield were the better team for most of the game, but Posh took their chances when they came.

    A lot of work will needed to be done on and off the pitch for the Posh in the summer. They need someone to replace CMS, and also Boyd who looks like he wants to play for a bigger club too. The last time Posh were in the Championship they thought they would adapt easily. They were wrong. The Championship is a very physical side, and that is something Posh are lacking, physicality. Even the centre backs are not 'big' blokes. Investment is needed in most areas, especially the defence which unless strengthened and improved will see them getting hammered week in and out let alone losing a lot of games.

    The work on the away stand is also soon to take place. This will cause problems as Posh will only be able to give a allocation of about a thousand to away fans, which when they are in a league with some big clubs and a lot of midlands teams, might cause a problem. Not only will they lose money on lack of ticket sales to away fans, lots will end up being in the home end which will ultimately lead to trouble. Hope the club work something out, as Posh would expect big away followings from hlaf a dozen clubs at least, like West Ham, Birmingham, Leicester, Forest, Derby.

    Interesting to see what the summer brings for the Posh and if they learnt the mistakes from their last campaign in the second tier.

  • Comment number 22.

    BobbyPosh (post 18) - Paul or Fletch, but rarely Phil.

  • Comment number 23.

    Huddersfield had a spell of 20 minutes in the second half where they were on top but by and large it was us creating chances and dominating play. We should have been atleast 2-0 up by half time! Infact i was surprised at how easy that victory was.

    Clark set his team up defensively.4-5-1,overloaded the midfield and asked his centre halves to sit deep. They were just asking for trouble really.

    Football won in the end.All Huddersfield were interested in doing was hoofing the ball all the time.

  • Comment number 24.

    Great blog Fletch. I've enjoyed you're posts throughout the season and its great to be reading one about the nearly mighty Posh!

    First up, I wish people would actually read what other people have written, rather than 'interpret' what was said. It would save us all some time.

    As a Posh season ticket holder I've ridden the highs and lows of recent seasons. I didn't want to get promoted to the Championship last time - I knew it was too soon and that we would not strengthen enough to give us a chance of staying up. I (and other like-minded Posh fans) were proved right. I also didnt want to get promoted this time. I think Darragh and Darren have learnt from their mistakes, but I just don't see that we have the resources to stay up. On the way home on Sunday my lot sobered up over an evening pub meal when we looked own the list of opponents for next season and to where we would get our points. Ouch - that brought us down to earth with a bump!

    As to the play-offs - I went to all three games. We were lousy at Stadium MK and we were lucky to come away only one down. But then we hammered MKDs at London Road. Over the two legs the best team went through to the final.

    As someone as already stated we hadn't lost to the Terriers in our last three meetings. It was always going to be a close match. We had the better of the first half and up until we scored, they had the better of the second. I wonder however just what would have happened if Lee Clark had put out a team playing to their strengths rather than one that was designed to contain ours. Still, three goals in seven minutes then flattered us and knocked the stuffing out of Town and killed the game completely.

    Lee Clark is a cracking manager. He's proved that at Town. He just needs a break and then come back refreshed and ready for another good season leading Town. I hope they are able to keep their best players to help them make it automatically next season. It wasn't lost on me that the four play-off managers were all young. they are all good managers and illustrates how strong the future management of clubs like ours will be in coming years. Gary Johnson is a decent manager, but from a fans point of view, totally uninspiring. Now the likes of Clark, Ferguson, Robinson and Bradbury all come across as driven, passionate, hungry - its not always about what they do with the team, but what they can do for the club as a whole. Get the fans to believe and it drives the whole club forward. Ferguson does that at Posh like no other manager I've ever seen there.

    Posh however will be losing our best player. CMS has been brilliant since he joined us in 2007. He didnt enjoy his time in the Championship last season, but this season he's improved considerably and his attempts:scoring ratio is much better than it was during our last promotion season in 2009. We're really going to miss him though. As long as we get a decent sum for him and we can bring in a couple of players with the dosh, and we use the promotion money to strengthen (did someone say £4 million?) we might, I say might, just scrape it next season - but I really doubt it - its just so difficult for small clubs, with small funds to survive up there. And lastly, please, please someone come in for Joe Lewis and we can keep Paul Jones in goal who's been excellent in our last two games.

  • Comment number 25.

    Couldn't agree more with BobbyPosh. We lost the game before the kickoff; picking 4-5-1 says a lot about the desire to win & Posh probably couldn't believe their luck. Rhodes' body language in the warm-up said it all. Comments on Afobe are spot on -he's got a lot of strength & holds the ball up, but has not proven a natural goal scorer so far, as you saw from the chance he fluffed on Saturday. He was isolated for most of the match.

    We had 4 strikers on the bench & our top scorer did not feature for 80 mins which is pretty hard to take. I would have started (& I said this before the game) 4-4-2 with Rhodes & Cadamarteri (our only striker with real pace & movement) up front & gone at you; our best chance was to get 1 or 2 early goals & then weather the storm.

    Even with 5 in midfield we could not cope with Boyd & McCann - a real class act. Unfortunately Kilbane had an off day & I would have probably started with Gudjonssen as well for the experience. It's still hard to take but ultimately the teams scoring the 3 highest number of goals in League 1 went up & we simply did not score enough goals over the season; too many draws against lowly opposition.

    Lee Clark has done a fantastic job for us but maybe he needs to learn from this & pick more attacking sides. We got too fixated on the undefeated tag but a win & a loss is better than 2 draws

  • Comment number 26.

    Great blog. Nice to read a balanced set of opinions.
    I have seen Posh win their other Play-Off Finals (at the Old Wembley in 1992 and 2000) and personally I believe this was the best of the three. The quality of the opposition has been better, and in the other 2 finals, it was the Posh support which outnumbered that from Stockport and Darlington by more than 2 to 1. Fantastic atmosphere at Old Trafford, but disappointed with the seats - great view, but at £60, could not believe how cramped we were - worse than at London Road.
    As for next season, heard Darragh on BBC Radio Cambs tonight - ready to "easily" smash our transfer record for a new striker. Jus hope he has the physical presence for the Championship. As mentioned above, we were outmuscled too often and too easily last time in that league.

  • Comment number 27.

    bid for cms accepted, posh have bid for a striker seemingly 700 k plus as we could "smash" our transfer record.

    teams have also bid for boyd and wesolowski. can't see why we'd sell unless it was for ridiculous money.both boyd and wes will be extremely importnat next season!

  • Comment number 28.

    @27 Crow4England - Wes made what was one of the most superb tackles I have seen at London Road but he has not always been a no 1 choice to play and was effectively transfer listed on Tuesday night. I am surprised that bids may be in for him and Boyd so quickly but then we need to offload to build.

    As for the game I was in the North stand for the game and honestly apart from the chance that Afobe missed in the first half and the chance that hit the bar I didn't really feel that Huddersfield offered that much. I'd watched their games in the play off semi finals and was expecting lots of balls in the box which would give us lots of problems. And to be honest the problems didn't really come as our defence dealt with almost everything that came in. As for POSH well if anything stood out it in the semi final it was McCanns free kick against MK Dons that got POSH back into the tie yet Huddersfield conceded 3 free kicks during the second half from the same place. Grant McCann has been excellent from free kicks from that part of the pitch all season and it wasn't really a surprise we converted 2 of them.

    The result at the end also wasn't really a surprise to the POSH fans seeming as we had got 4 pts from Huddersfield this season and the form was confirmed on the day.

    I thought Lee Clarke handled himself well after the game although he probably said all credit to Peterborough too many times for me to believe he meant it - nevertheless he is a great young manager and this setback will help him to ensure that he has success in the future.

  • Comment number 29.

    wes has always done well for posh whenever he has played but we have to back the manager ,afterall we wouldn't be in the championship if it wasn't for him.

  • Comment number 30.

    Will be great to see them win again this season.It would silence all their critics.
    I have no doubt they will....

  • Comment number 31.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.


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