Peterborough United play the Sky Blues this afternoon in their first league visit to the city for 46 years. The two clubs have not been in the same division since Coventry City won the Third Division championship in 1964 and ‘Posh’ almost stymied the Sky Blues celebrations by beating them at London Road in the penultimate game.
Back in the days when there was no automatic promotion into the Football League, Peterborough were one of the premier non-league clubs for several years – winning the Midland League in five successive seasons and losing only one home game during that time. In 1960 they were finally elected into the league at the fourteenth attempt, replacing Gateshead and they took the Fourth Division by storm, scoring 134 goals (with Terry Bly netting 52 of them) on their way to the championship.
In 1961-62 they looked set to go straight through to Division Two, especially after they thumped City 3-1 at Highfield Road in September in the first ever meeting of the clubs. The following February City, now under the management of Jimmy Hill, got revenge by winning 3-2 at London Road thanks to goals by Ken Satchwell (2) and Albert McCann. Posh generally had a big away following and the game at Coventry attracted the biggest crowd of the season, almost 20,000. Posh eventually finished fifth, comfortably ahead of City in 14th.
In 1962-63 the fixture planners gave the two clubs a Christmas double-header. City travelled to London Road on Boxing Day in ninth position to face the league’s pace setters, six points better off in top place. The Sky Blues, who had only won once on their travels, outclassed Posh on a frozen surface to win 3-0 with ex-Posh star Bly netting two. Three days later in the return game on a snowbound pitch City came from 3-1 down to draw 3-3 in front of over 25,000. At one stage it looked like Posh, managed by former City boss Jack Fairbrother, and the Sky Blues would be promoted but both teams ran out of steam and Northampton and Swindon went up.
In 1963-64 City were irrepressible but in November Posh came to Highfield Road and went two up in twenty minutes, only for Hill’s men to bounce back and win 3-2. A 29,663 crowd paid record receipts of almost £5,000. The Peterborough bubble seemed to have burst but when 12,000 City fans trekked across to London Road for that vital penultimate game Posh put City on the rack and won 2-0 in front of over 26,000. Fortunately City were able to clinch promotion (and the championship) on the final day by virtue of victory over Colchester and results going their way elsewhere.
Posh’s best days were over and it took almost 30 years before they reached level two of the league. Now they are back again but who knows for how long.
Wednesday night’s defeat to Newcastle means that City are without a win in ten league games going into today’s game. That is the club’s second worst run since they dropped out of the Premier League in 2001, bettered (if that is the right word!) only by the disastrous run under Gary McAllister in 2003. Gary’s team failed to win any of their last 12 games in the 2002-03 season and the first four games of the 2003-04 season, making a total of 16 league games without a win. The club’ worst ever run was back in 1919 when, after joining the Football League they failed to win any of their first 19 games.