Peterborough United boss makes his point over added time that capped Sheffield Wednesday comeback
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Having been 4-0 down from the first leg at London Road, the Owls fought back to take a 3-0 lead on the night after goals from Michael Smith, Lee Gregory and Reece James. Time looked to be running out though and the clock had already ticked past the six minutes initially announced to be added.
However, with the last kick of the game and in the 98th minute, Liam Palmer bundled home from close range to lift the roof off Hillsborough and take the tie into extra time for yet more drama.
Gregory scored an own goal but Callum Paterson’s poked in another equaliser before Wednesday took the historic victory on spot-kicks, wth Jack Hunt scoring the decisive penalty.
Ferguson was largely magnanimous with his post-match view, but he was far from happy with the timekeeping.
Thirty years ago, the phrase ‘Fergie time’ was entering football psyche due to Manchester United – under the stewardship of Darren’s dad Sir Alex Ferguson – scoring late in the game, the most famous perhaps being Steve Bruce’s two late goals to beat Sheffield Wednesday at Old Trafford. There’s a little irony in Liam Palmer’s last gasp equaliser coming in front of Ferguson Jr.
“This place is a rare place in League One and that’s why I knew the tie wasn’t over at 4-0,” he said. “Our aim was to get the first goal. I knew if they got the momentum, their fans could drag them across the line. The way the game has ended is so raw. We’ve got a chance to clear it out of the box and they score with the last kick of the game.
“The referee was desperate to give them another opportunity. He plays 90 seconds more, there may be another 30, but not 90 seconds. I don’t want to sound bitter as it’s not the ref’s fault we’ve lost, but he’s got to do his job.
"And on top of that Ephron Mason-Clark is clean through in extra time and Flint brought him down. The decision is disgraceful. It’s a red card, but all that aside, I have to congratulate Sheffield Wednesday as they’ve done enough over two legs to beat us.
“When you make the decisions we did, it can be hard to get momentum back. I’ve seen far better teams than us lose it psychologically.”
Ferguson pointed to Wednesday’s physicality when attempting to find a reason why his side turned in a display so different to that which saw them stun the Owls a few days ago.
"In the first half we weren't ruthless enough,” he added.”We have four good opportunities and didn;t take one of them, we knew that. As a team they are just massive, they just keep bringing bigger players on and they just launch it into the box, just through pure size, I said that after the first game. We didn't have any complacency, we prepared, we took penalties but unfortunately football is a cruel game and this is a cruel night.”
He added: “Even in extra time, after we went ahead, I still felt we needed another goal and unfortunately we didn’t get one. We had to keep the ball and make them run and when we did that, we had more legs than them but, in the end, we couldn’t cope with their physicality.
“We had prepared for penalties because I had to be as thorough as possible. Unfortunately, one player had to make a mistake that would cost his team and unfortunately, it was one of ours.
“Unfortunately, there’s not a team in this league like with this sort of atmosphere and we just couldn’t control it tonight.
"It’s a cruel game. For these young players, they need to remember this.”