Peterborough United 3, Burton Albion 1: Posh win well, but miss out on the play-offs
Never before can a comfortable Peterborough United win have been greeted with so much disappointment.
Posh finished their League One season with a 3-1 success over Burton Albion at the ABAX Stadium (May 4), but Doncaster’s 2-0 success over Coventry means they win the race for the final play-off place by a single point.
Joe Ward, Burton defender John Brayford and Ivan Toney claimed the Posh goals.
The mission at kick off was simple. Win and pray for help from elsewhere. At half-time Posh were doing their bit thanks to Ward and Brayford, but Doncaster were also winning, a fact that silenced what had been a boisterous home crowd.
Posh boss Darren Ferguson kept faith with the team that performed a minor miracle at Portsmouth to keep the season alive five days earlier. This game started like that one with Burton looking likely to score every time they went forward in the opening 10 minutes.
Posh centre-back Ben White rescued his own error in the third minute by getting back to block a shot from Marcus Harness and goalkeeper Aaron Chapman made a fine save to deny the same player from a corner with Liam Boyce making a right hash of the rebound.
Scott Fraser then took aim from an unmarked position at the edge of the area, but fired wide.
But, just like at Fratton Park, Posh broke out and scored. Toney had already clipped the top of the crossbar from the edge of the area when the big striker accepted Lee Tomlin’s cute pass in the 19th minute, shrugged off the attentions of a defender before delivering a perfect cross for Ward to tap in at the far post.
The goal settled Posh down. Ward struck the crossbar with a cross and Marcus Maddison used Jason Naismith’s run as a decoy before shooting wide.
But 10 minutes before the break Woodyard did feed right-back Naismith and his fierce cross was turned into his own net by Brayford.
The Posh fans celebrated wildly, but the cheering stopped suddenly as news of Doncaster taking the lead against Coventry filtered through.
Posh levels dropped as a result and their former full-back Colin Daniel missed a decent far post chance to pull a goal back.
But Posh finished the half on top as Tomlin’s low shot was well saved by visiting ‘keeper Bradley Collins after a fine pass by Ward.
Maddison, who took the lap of honour in a proctective boot, was replaced by Siriki Dembele at the break.
Dembele looked sharp in a second half that meandered along as attention drifted elsewhere.
He twice danced past defenders to work shooting chances from the edge of the area. He shoot straight at Collins and then wide.
Dembele also set up substitute George Cooper, a replacement for Tomlin, but he skied over the bar 15 minutes from time.
And then, briefly, there was excitement as Posh fans roared as though Coventry had equalised. They did have the ball in the net, but it was disallowed.
Burton promptly scored five minutes from time through substitute Alex Bradley, but Posh had the last word through Toney’s lovely finish in the 88th minute.
It was a terrific ride and the first time since relegation from the Championship in 2013 that Posh had been involved in last-day drama.
This was disappointing, but nothing like the agony suffered on thet fateful afternoon at Crystal Palace.
Posh: Aaron Chapman, Jason Naismith. Ben White, Ryan Tafazolli, Daniel Lafferty, Alex Woodyard, Josh Knight, Siriki Dembele, Lee Tomlin (sub George Cooper, 66 mins), Marcus Maddison (sub Siriki Dembele, 46 mins), Ivan Toney
Unused substitutes: Matt Godden, Louis Reed, Matty Stevens, Rhys Bennett, Conor O’Malley.
Burton Albion: Brad Collins, John Brayford, Colin Daniel, Kieran Wallace, Jamie Allen, Scott Fraser (sub Reece Hutchinson, 78 mins), Lucas Akins, Marcus Harness, Ben Fox, Stephen Quinn (sub Jake Buxton, 46 mins), Liam Boyce (sub Alex Bradley, 46 mins).
Unused substitutes: Stephen Bywater, Damien McCrory, Will Miller, Reece Hutchinson, Josh Clarke.
Goals: Posh - Ward (19 mins), Brayford (og, 36th minute), Toney (88 mins).
Burton - Bradley (85 mins).
Cautions: Posh - Knight (foul).
Burton - Harness (foul).
Referee: Scott Oldham 8