Peterborough United's manager, Darren Ferguson, said his team were lucky to still be in their play-off semi-final tie against Milton Keynes after being outplayed in the first leg last Sunday.
But there was nothing remotely fortunate about the manner in which they turned the tables on their opponents on Thursday night, with a 2-0 home win that delivered a 4-3 victory on aggregate. Craig Mackail-Smith's 34th goal of the season capped a performance worthy of seeing the Posh through to the final against Huddersfield at Old Trafford.
"Tactically we got it spot on, and the team to a man were magnificent," said Ferguson. "We will go to Old Trafford and enjoy it." Mackail-Smith described it as the best performance of his time at the club.
The one thing few doubted was that the tie had more goals in it. Peterborough supporters have seen an average of almost five goals in every game at London Road this season, and the Dons' defensive uncertainty under pressure in the opening minutes meant it was not long before Peterborough brought the aggregate scores level. Mackail-Smith had already tested David Martin when Peterborough won a free-kick around 22 yards from goal. Seeing Martin waiting at his far post for the ball to be crossed, Grant McCann curled a shot just over the wall and inside the near post before the surprised goalkeeper could get across to save.
Peterborough were dominating possession, but shortly before half-time Dons showed a glimpse of the threat they carried on their own ground.
Latching on to a loose ball in the Peterborough penalty area, Daniel Powell crashed a shot against the underside of the bar before seeing the ball bounce clear.
Eight minutes into the second half, however, Mackail-Smith's remarkable industry gained its deserved reward. George Boyd's shot was saved by Martin, and although Mackail-Smith's first attempt to turn the ball home was blocked by Luke Chadwick, the prolific forward made no mistake with his second.
Lee Tomlin thought he had won the tie when he fired home just after the hour, but to Peterborough's disgust the referee, Colin Webster, claimed to have already blown his whistle to award a free-kick for a foul on Boyd.
Still Peterborough kept coming, but Tommy Rowe saw his shot kicked off the line by Gary MacKenzie, and incredibly, Mackail-Smith hit a post to ensure the Dons retained their interest, and the Peterborough supporters their nerves, to the last.
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