The long journey begins

David Ball

Not even the dreary sounds of Chris Martin going through his perpetual midlife crisis resonating from the PA system could put a downer on today. It was the first day of the new season and even the grey clouds which covered the sky that morning soon dispersed and London Road was bathed in the afternoon sunshine just as kick off approached.

Dougie Freedman’s Crystal Palace were the opening day visitors and bookmakers up and down the land were confident that Palace would beat the favourites to go straight back down. But being the underdog isn’t all bad, you’ve got no pressure to deal with and players feel more relaxed. And things were looking bright. As we kicked off we looked comfortable on the ball and were hardly giving Palace a sniff. Grant McCann underlined our domination in the early stages of that first half by striking a powerful ball causing Julian Speroni in the Palace goal to really stretch to keep it out. As strange as it was, Posh weren’t simply keeping Palace at bay but they were doing it with ease and with attacking flair (almost).

Unfortunately, relaxed at Peterborough United can take a very literal meaning at times. With a little over half an hour gone a long ball from Palace’s goalkeeper beat Ryan Bennett in the Posh defence and allowed Irishman Sean Scannell to slip past and lob the hapless Paul Jones. It had begun to turn bleak, especially since Nicky Ajose had to depart the field when he picked up a hamstring injury. He was replaced with the man with the rather aptly named David Ball. But to the London Road faithful, it was a dream start.

I know what you’re thinking; a goal down due to the defence daydreaming and our striker limping off doesn’t seem like the recipe for success but Posh relish in the unconventional. Perhaps the moment the ball hits the back of the net and they find themselves behind they realise they’re going to get the hairdryer treatment from Fergie. He learnt from the best after all. Posh quickly re-found their momentum, discipline and vigour, most likely with this in mind, and ended the first half brightly. Apart from the goal, Palace hadn’t really had any other chances while we had quite a few attacks on goal. Yet we didn’t have that crucial equaliser. I tried to put it out of my mind but I couldn’t help thinking at half time were we missing a certain Craig Mackail-Smith’s goal scoring ability?

I didn’t have to wait too long for an answer in the second half. A George Boyd free-kick was played across where it was struck firm and low first time by Grant McCann just outside the penalty box. This time Speroni couldn’t prevent it from going in and Posh found themselves with their deserved equaliser. All the tension that had built up amongst the Posh fans was emphatically released. If we kept playing how we were, could we do the impossible and take three points? No one dared say it aloud considering the last time we were in the Championship it took ten games to get that precious win. But you can hope right?

As we were reaching the final quarter we were increasingly bearing down on goal but, rather frustratingly, trying to walk the ball into the net with some rather slick passing for a newly promoted Championship club. Ultimately Palace buckled under our relentless pressure when David Ball connected with a low cross at the far post to grab what would be the winner.

With a well earned win under our belts we now have the bragging rights of being above all the teams relegated from the Premiership, at least until next Saturday. More importantly thought, we can’t get ahead of ourselves. It is after all only one game and as good as it feels to prove a few (alright many, many) people wrong about us we are still the favourites to end up at the foot of the table. We’ve got two extremely difficult games coming up next in the league as we take on Blackpool and Ipswich. Games like that certainly won’t be as smooth as perhaps it was against Palace and even getting a point against the likes of Ipswich will be a massive achievement. But for now, we can celebrate with smiles on our faces and maybe, just maybe, hold off the inevitable Great Escape theme at least until February or March.

Life without Mackail-Smith doesn’t seem too bad after all; I can’t even remember what all the fuss was about anyway.

Written by Liam Smith, We Are Going Up’s Peterborough United Blogger

Liam tweets @law_liam

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