Sheffield Wednesday finished on a remarkable 96 points. 19 points ahead of Peterborough. But the play-offs don’t care about that. In an astonishing first leg at London Road, Darren Ferguson’s side smashed the play-off favourites 4-0 to surely book their place at Wembley.
This has been an unforgettable season for Wednesday. Under Darren Moore they’ve won 28 league games, and led the division for the majority as they went on a 23 game unbeaten run between October and March. Yet it is going to count for nothing, and could even cost the manager his job.
Wednesday were poor, out of shape, out of ideas. By contrast, Peterborough looked like a side destined for Wembley. They were sharp and incisive while Wednesday were blunt, as the two keepers made a big impression on the opening stages of the tie.
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Posh keeper Will Norris came up with a giant save that could have swung the whole tie. Michael Smith raced through one on one after Ollie Norburn was caught in possession but the big striker couldn’t place his finish past Norris, who guessed where he wanted to go and stopped it with his feet.
Then for the opening goal, Cameron Dawson had a nightmare. A slight piece of Peterborough pressure paid off after 20 minutes as Jack Taylor took the strike on and although it was low and hard into the corner, Dawson got two hands to it - only for the ball to slip through his grasp and into the empty net.
Those two moments set the tone for the game, and yet it was another slice of luck that gave the home side a two goal lead. After a quiet period, a number of Posh players had the chance to shoot but eventually Joe Ward took a potshot from range and it cannoned in off the bar, via a deflection off Marvin Johnson’s back.
There was no way it was going in without a deflection, but the feeling of misfortune surrounding Sheffield Wednesday over the past few months played out on the pitch. Everything that could go wrong on the pitch, did go wrong. Josh Windass missed a decent chance as Norris’ left hand denied him and that was as good as things got for the beleaguered Wednesday fans.
Peterborough came out in the second half on the front foot and before long, they had their third. It was the best of the lot. Wednesday were pressing on in search of a goal of their own, yet the ball was turned over and all of a sudden Ephron Mason-Clark was in space on the left wing. He picked out a perfect cross to the back post where the unmarked Kwame Poku headed home.
Kwame Poku heads home an exquisite cross to add a third!
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Both Wednesday centre-halves were booked in a matter of seconds as Wednesday threatened to implode and then late on, Jonson Clarke-Harris added the fourth. Dawson made a spectacular save from Taylor to tip his effort onto the post but the midfielder managed to get up and cross for their talisman to head home a surely decisive goal.
“We’re f*cking shit” was chanted by the away end as boos rang down every time there was a misplaced pass. The play-offs are meant to be a tense yet joyous occasion but for Wednesday and Darren Moore, this was the culmination of a spectacular season that has given them no reward. They shouldn’t be in the play-offs with 96 points. But they are. That’s a fact they don’t seem to have been able to handle.
And missing out on automatic promotion by two points has cost them dear. They aren’t completely out of it, and you never know what is going to happen in the play-offs, but the fact of the matter is they face a huge uphill battle to qualify for the final. Posh have torn them apart and reminded everybody once again, there are no guarantees when you finish third.
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