Some 16-and-a-half years since the last Clough-Ferguson rivalry ended, a few months before Brian's career closed and just as Sir Alex was about to begin his domination of the English game, the new one has begun. There had been comparisons made, parallels drawn, memories evoked. But none of it meant more to Nigel and Darren than this result.
Ferguson Jnr, after winning two straight promotions with the club backing his genetic inheritance to carry them forward, insists that his ambitions will not be revised, even after their leap from League One to the Championship. This is not a season for consolidation, for simply avoiding the drop; it is one for more progress. When his chairman said he wanted to see Peterborough in the Premier League, he had not merely been fantasising with Barry Fry.
But, in time, he may reflect that going to Derby and losing to a goal scored three minutes from the end might not have been too bad a result. Clough Jnr, after using the second half of last season to assess what he had taken on, has trimmed his squad during the summer, made one or two careful additions, and is confident, whatever he might say in public about taking small steps, that his team will not be worrying about the bottom of the table when the business end of the season arrives. The season may be 46 games long but the opening day often sets the tone. Derby, through their troubled recent times, had not won on the opening day since 2003, so this result will be seen as significant and will reinforce their new manager's belief.
Derby were a goal up after four minutes yesterday, Miles Addison, the central defender, bravely diving into a crowded penalty area to head the ball home after new signing Lewis Buxton had nodded a Paul Green cross back across goal from beyond the far post.
It gave them the impetus to control the first 20 minutes as Peterborough struggled to adjust to the higher tempo of the Championship and for a while it seemed they would win comfortably.
But Peterborough's confidence began to grow after George Boyd, given an attacking midfield role, saw a goal disallowed for a marginal offside after 23 minutes. After Ferguson had adjusted his formation to counter Derby's numbers in midfield, their performance in the second half was much more threatening and, though it took a penalty to get them back on level terms, it was well deserved.
Boyd converted after Derby goalkeeper Stephen Bywater had clumsily brought down substitute Lee Frecklington. Peterborough could not, unfortunately, hold on to their point, Gary Teale stabbing home the winner after a Kris Commons corner, but Ferguson was encouraged enough by his side's showing, regardless of the result.
"It is clear we need to do better with set-pieces but for an hour of the match we gave a good account of ourselves," he said. "The lads will have learned a lot from today's game and once they start to believe in themselves they will be all right. A lot is made about us taking big steps and keeping faith with the same players and there is no doubt it is a more physical league. But this is a good squad with a lot of ability."
Clough discounted the significance of his side ending their opening-day hoodoo. "It is just one game in 46 and there is still a lot to be done," he said. "I'd settle for a few more results like that, although maybe not so close, but I was pleased with the honesty and endeavour, and the crowd appreciated it."
His father would have approved too, although both managers said their parental heritage would not be a subject for discussion when they shared a drink afterwards. "There is a mutual respect but I don't think it will dominate our conversation," Ferguson said.Reuse content