May 2000, Wembley: Posh 1, Darlington 0 - The moment Clarke became a Posh legend

Andy Clarke fres Posh to victory over Darlington. Picture: Peterborough ET
Andy Clarke fres Posh to victory over Darlington. Picture: Peterborough ET
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Peterborough United have only great memories of play-off football. Two sorties into the play-offs have yielded fve wins, a draw and two promotions. Evening Telegraph Posh writer Alan SwAnn starts a daily look back at the club’s play-off memories with Andy Clarke’s winner at a soggy Wembley 11 years ago:

Third Division play-off final at Wembley, 26 May 2000: Andy Clarke’s right foot was used less than Simon Rea’s diet sheet, but it did deliver one precious priceless moment.

One swing was enough 15 minutes from the end of a Wembley play-off final to propel Posh to promotion from Division Three.

Clarke was already a fans’ favourite for his non-stop, never-say-die efforts, but now he was a club superhero, a legend even, as he joined Ken Charlery in an exclusive club of two players who have scored winning goals for Posh at the home of football.

Clarke had played and scored at Old Trafford and Anfield in his Wimbledon days. He’d even confounded a popular Nottingham Forest chant by beating Des Walker and scoring against Nottingham Forest.

But nothing compared to this moment in the frontman’s career. This went straight to the top of the list of his proudest career moments and 11 years later his memory of a momentous night has not deserted him.

“I can remember everything from the start to the finish of that day,” Clarke enthused. “From waking up in our hotel in bright sunshine, to seeing so much rain fall during the day we all feared the match would be called off all the way to walking up those famous steps to get the trophy, it’s all still clear in my mind.

“We jogged to Wembley that night and when we reached that big, old tunnel the butterflies arrived. We walked on the pitch and it was absolutely soaked, but we didn’t care as this was Wembley, we were here and we just wanted to play,

“We were up against Darlington who were a good side. They had lots of dough which got them people like Marco Gabbiadini and to be fair they beat us up in the first half.

“We could have been 3-0 down at half-time, but we dug in, defended well, Mark Tyler made a couple of good saves and after the break we played much better.

“David Oldfield was up front and did well and I missed a couple of chances, but when the ball fell to me later in the box I managed to smack it in, with my right foot as well which made it even more special.

“I went off with cramp soon after that and it was worse watching than playing, but we kept the clean sheet and won the match.

“All my life I’d seen players walking up those steps to get trophies and medals and now it was my turn. I couldn’t believe it and it was the proudest moment of my career.

“I went straight home and watched the DVD of the match and the next day we had a parade round the city which was special.

“I always got on great with the Posh fans so it was nice to do something good for them.”

AS usual Posh boss Barry Fry had a soundbite for the occasion,

“I’ve always been a crap manager,” he admitted. “But sometimes I get lucky and that’s what happened tonight as we were outclassed in the first half.”

It had been a turbulent year for Fry who just five months earlier had sacked his first-team coach Paul Ashworth following a club record 5-0 defeat at home to Rotherham.

Posh also cashed in on teenage stars Matthew Etherington and Simon Davies by selling them to Spurs in the middle of the season.

And yet Fry and new coach Wayne Turner oversaw a dramatic turnaround in fortunes.

BURLY central defender Simon Rea was made man-of-the-match in the Evening Telegraph as he was ‘an absolute colussus, throwing himself into every challenge.’

Not far behind were goalkeeper Mark Tyler, captain Andy Edwards, 19 year-old Gareth Jelleyman and David Oldfield, who was asked to cover for injury-victim Jason Lee up front.

But one memorable image was 70 year-old chairman Peter Boizot cavorting with the play-off trophy on the Wembley pitch after the game.

Teams:

Posh: Mark Tyler, Richard Scott, Adam Drury, Simon Rea, Andy Edwards, Jon Cullen, Steve Castle, David Farrell, Gareth Jelleyman, David Oldfield, Andy Clarke.

Subs: Ritchie Hanlon, Francis Green, Bart Griemink, Matthew Gill, Matthew Wicks,

Darlington: Andy Collett, Paul Heckingbottom, Steve Tutill, Michael Oliver, Neil Aspin, Craig Liddle, Martin Gray, Brian Atkinson, Marco Gabbiadini, Peter Duffield, Neil Heaney.

Subs: Glen Naylor, Lee Nogan, Paul Holsgrove.

Referee: Mike Dean.