Forty-eight teams from the Football League’s bottom-two tiers started their Johnstone’s Paint Trophy campaigns back in September, with the promise of a Wembley date for the finalists driving them through the competition.
Darren Ferguson’s Peterborough will be red-hot favourites heading into Sunday’s match, being a division above the Spireites in League One, but they won’t need reminding that anything can happen in a cup final.
Date: Sunday, March 30, 2014
Kick-off: 10 a.m. ET/3 p.m. BST
Where: Wembley Stadium, London
TV: SkySports 3
Paul Cook has seen his Chesterfield side march to Wembley in confident fashion, conceding just four goals en route to the final, including three in their area final, per SoccerWay.
The Derbyshire side are challenging for automatic promotion from League Two in what’s been a fruitful campaign for the Spireites, but their form going into the JPT final has been somewhat troubling.
In their last seven matches, Chesterfield have managed just two league victories, one of which came on Tuesday evening at home to mid-table Morecambe.
It was a win that manager Paul Cook hailed as “huge” during a recent interview with BBC Radio Sheffield, as reported by BBC Sport:
"I feel great. Sunday is going to be a special day for everyone and my job is to make sure that our players turn up. The league has overtaken everything that we do and Tuesday's win over Morecambe was huge for us after a couple of indifferent results. It will be a very proud moment for me to walk out with the team at Wembley.”
The 47-year-old isn’t the only one looking forward to Chesterfield's appearance at the famous stadium, with winger Gary Roberts’ excitement apparent via his Twitter feed:
Quick peep at the gaff pic.twitter.com/4r4DryTZ4j— Gary Roberts (@Robinho2288) March 28, 2014
Roberts scooped the League Two Player of the Year award for his services to the Spireites’ cause over the season, and he’ll be a key player if Chesterfield are to produce a scalp on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Posh are enduring a similar dip in form since securing their place at Wembley through a penalty shoot-out victory over Swindon Town in the Southern Area Final.
Who will lift the Johnstone's Paint Trophy?
Ferguson’s men have recorded just three wins in their last eight matches and come into Sunday’s final off the back of two successive defeats.
In footballing terms, the name Ferguson and silverware go hand in hand, and the Peterborough boss will be looking to emulate the success of his father, Sir Alex.
Ferguson, who returned to the Posh hot seat in 2011 after an initial spell from 2007-2009, has won plaudits for the way in which he’s led his side into League One play-off contention this season.
One of the Scotsman’s masterstrokes during his tenure has been the signing of Britt Assombalonga from Watford for a club-record fee during the summer.
The 21-year-old has scored 27 goals in all competitions this season for the London Road club, and after enduring the disappointment of being on the losing side with Southend United last year he’s determined to set the record straight—as he told the official JPT website:
“It was great to play at Wembley last season but the result was a setback. It’s all about trying to put that right this season and get the victory which would mean a lot for the club and the fans. It’s a great feeling going back to Wembley. It’s every boy’s dream to play there and for me to do it twice at a young age is brilliant.”
With such glorious settings for a final, you can’t blame the Peterborough stars for soaking up everything the 90,000-capacity Wembley Stadium has to offer before the big day—which JPT showed us via Twitter:
Team news and prediction
Chesterfield have no fresh injury concerns ahead of Sunday’s final, however, they will be without midfielder Danny Kearns.
The 22-year-old is on loan from Peterborough and is therefore ineligible. Otherwise, Cook has a full-strength squad at his disposal.
Meanwhile, Ferguson named a heavily changed side during Peterborough’s midweek defeat to Preston North End and is set to recall several players, including captain Tommy Rowe.
According to the Football League’s official website, Posh will be without loanees Nicky Ajose, Conor Washington, Jack Baldwin and Ben Nugent, who are all cup-tied following their appearances for their parent clubs earlier in the competition.
While Chesterfield are pushing toward promotion to League One, the quality that Peterborough have at their disposal could prove too much for them on the day.
Posh have been a figure of inconsistency this season, but have ground out results in scrappy affairs, which Sunday’s final is likely to be.
In Assombalonga, the League One side have a lethal striker who knows his way to goal, and he could prove the difference at Wembley.
Prediction: Chesterfield 1-2 Peterborough United