By Keith Brookman
London Road, home of Peterborough United hasn’t been a particularly happy hunting ground for Rovers, as it’s a venue where we’ve only ever won two league games!
Darren Ferguson was in his first spell in charge of Peterborough when the sides met at London Road on 6th September 2008 and he’s now in his third spell as their manager. Back in 2008 his side were beginning life at a higher level, having been promoted from Division Two the previous season.
Rovers’ management team of Paul Trollope and Lennie Lawrence were guiding their club in their second season in League One, and neither the Gas nor the Posh had made a memorable start to their respective campaigns.
Peterborough had lost three of their opening four league games and recorded a solitary win, 3-0 against Leyton Orient. Rovers had fared little better, having won one (6-1 against Hereford United), drawn one and lost two of their four games.
In addition, both sides had been knocked out of the Carling Cup, Peterborough losing 2-1 against Bristol City at Ashton Gate, Rovers going down 1-0 against Watford at Vicarage Road.
This was Rovers’ third consecutive match on the road and Trollope named recent signing Jo Kuffour on the bench for the 12.15pm kick off. The game was live on SKY TV because of the England/Andorra game and viewers who weren’t Rovers fans, were in for a London Road treat!
The home side edged in front on 16 minutes when Aaron McLean found his strike partner Craig Mackail-Smith in space and he beat goalkeeper Steve Phillips with a low shot from just inside the area.
The same combination served up a second goal seven minutes later, with Mackail-Smith the provider on this occasion. He found McLean in the area and the striker shrugged off two challenges before slotting the ball home from close range.
Rovers pulled a goal back on the half hour mark thanks to Steve Elliott, whose powerful header from Rickie Lambert’s cross beat goalkeeper Joe Lewis.
Six minutes into the second half Peterborough were awarded a penalty when Aaron Lescott was adjudged to have impeded Mackail-Smith in the area and the striker took the spot kick himself, rifling his effort past Phillips.
Shane Blackman gave Rovers a lifeline three minutes later when, with no one near him, he somehow managed to turn Lescott’s cross past his own keeper.
Mackail-Smith then completed his hat trick when he cut in from the left and beat Phillips with a low shot from just inside the area. Jeff Hughes, who had appeared in seven games for the Posh when on loan at London Road the previous season, scored Rovers’ third goal with 74 minutes on the clock.
Future Rovers loanee Scott Rendell added goal number five for Peterborough before Lambert, making his 99th competitive appearance for the club, scored a fourth for Rovers with five minutes remaining, with a blockbuster of a free kick.
Whilst the game might have been great for the neutral TV audience, neither manager was entirely happy with the performance of their side.
‘It was great for the people watching,’ said Posh boss Ferguson, ‘but not for us managers. To think we scored five goals and were hanging on at the end is absurd.’
Trollope made it clear that his players faced a tough week on the training ground; ‘It was a big effort from us, but the outcome is a huge disappointment. We had high hopes of an away win, but it’s clear today that there are some areas of our team that need serious working on.’
The Peterborough media team must have had a premonition of what might happen, as hat trick hero Mackail-Smith was featured on the cover of the matchday programme and was the subject of a five page interview inside in which he revealed that his passion outside of football was gardening. Pity he wasn’t working on his allotment that afternoon…
The striker would end the season with 26 goals, so it wasn’t just Rovers’ defence he tormented during that campaign.
Hughes was also the subject of a double page programme spread and of his time with the Posh he said he didn’t know why his loan deal hadn’t been made permanent; ‘I still don’t really know what happened. I wanted to sign as I really enjoyed my time. I got on well with the rest of the squad and the management.’
That game was the first in a 16 game unbeaten run for Peterborough, who would end the season gaining a second successive promotion as they finished runners up to champions Leicester City who were seven points better off.
They did the double over Rovers, winning the return game at the Memorial Stadium the following March, though Mackail-Smith didn’t score that day.
Had they not taken six points from Rovers they would have had to have settled for a play off spot rather than an automatic move up to the next level, so you could argue that we played a crucial role in their promotion that season!
Peterborough United: Lewis, Martin, Blackett, Westwood, Lee (Coutts, 51), McLean (Rendell, 40), Boyd, Keates, Mackail-Smith, Day, Torres (Whelpdale, 54). Unused Substitutes: Williams, Tyler.
Rovers: Phillips, Pipe, Anthony, Elliott, Lescott, Lines (Hunt, 81), Campbell, Disley, Hughes, Lambert, Duffy (Kuffour, 66). Unused Substitutes: Green (M), Green (R), Hinton