Few tears are shed when an exit from the Football League Cup is confirmed.
Not even when your team is beaten at home comprehensively by a club from a lower division containing a couple of ex-players whose departure was mourned by no-one apart from family and close riends.
Indeed this Carabao Cup tie served some purpose for Posh manager Grant McCann. Far better to find out that full debutant Alex Penny is not yet ready for first-team action, that Chris Forrester is still some way short of his best form, that another first-time starter Danny Lloyd is probably best employed in a familar position than an unfamiliar one and that Gwion Edwards, a wing-back now remember, remains the most reliable finisher in the squad, in a cup few care about than in a Football League match when jobs and reputations are really at stake.
It’s a competition for back-up players. Posh have lost the right to lose to a reserve Premier Division side - one still shudders at the rings Swansea’s fringe players ran round McCann’s men 12 months ago - but must hope they haven’t lost the faith of fans encouraged rather than convinced by victory in the League One opener against Plymouth last weekend. Plymouth incidentally made nine changes to their starting line-up last night and 1,800 travelling fans promptly watched them fall 4-0 down by half-time at Bristol City - at least most Posh fans had a short walk to the riverside before they could drown their sorrows.
Barnet were worthy winners at the ABAX Stadium last night (August 8). They were quicker in thought and deed. They passed the ball better. They won the 50/50s and picked up all the loose balls. They had defenders who threw themselves into blocks and tackles rather than defenders who think they really are Alan Hansen and continually give the ball away while trying to prove it.
McCann made three changes for this match. Resting a not yet completely match-fit Steven Taylor and a slightly injured Anthony Grant was understandable, fielding Lloyd as a right wing-back less so, but the determination to make this 3-4-1-2 system work even without natural wing-backs is clearly deep-rooted.
Posh played better after replacing the unfortunate Lloyd and switching to a 4-4-2 formation after the break. Marcus Maddison, a far more threatening player from the wings, delivered numerous crosses and set-pieces that begged, unsuccessfully, for a finish.
Posh turned around 2-1 down - it could have been 5-1 admitted McCann afterwards - and bossed the first 10 minutes of the second-half when Jack Marriott and Edwards went close to equalising, but a penalty decision for handball in the wall that looked harsh on first viewing effectively killed the game off.
Shaquile Coulthirst, one of the two unlamented ex-Posh players, scored rather luckily from the spot-kick, and Barnet’s willingness to throw bodies into the way of shots and the reflexes of ‘keeper Jamie Stephens ensured they preserved their two-goal advantage until the final whistle. Stephens’ best moment was a terrific tip onto the crossbar after Ryan Tafazolli had met a Maddison corner with a firm header.
That final whistle prompted predictable silliness from former Posh player Ricardo Santos and the more immature members of the home crowd. Santos would do well to remember which club rescued him from Thurrock and fans would do well to realise goading opponents is more likely to inspire rather than worry them.
Santos performed well here save from the odd rash challenge and even claimed an assist on the opening goal when heading a corner into the path of Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro who finished well, but the failure of Marriott, Junior Morias or Maddison to run at such an accident-prone figure was disappointing.
Most of the attacking dash came from Edwards who equalised on the half hour with a 20-yard drive. If Forrester had defeated Stephens in a one-on-one situation 60 seconds later maybe the result would have been different, but once Barnet weathered a mini-storm of pressure they broke away to score a quite brilliant second goal full of precise passing and a lovely finish from the impressive Mauro Vilhete.
Posh never looked likely to string so many successful passes together. They deserved their exit and they must improve ahead of a far more important game at Bristol Rovers when another old boy in Tom Nichols will be keen to cause harm to his former club.
Posh: Jonathan Bond, Alex Penny (sub Leo Da Silva Lopes, 67 mins), Jack Baldwin, Ryan Tafazolli, Chris Forrester, Michael Doughty (sub Idris Kanu, 73 mins), Danny Lloyd (sub Andrew Hughes, 46 mins), Gwion Edwards, Marcus Maddison, Jack Marriott, Junior Morias. Unused substitutes: Conor O’Malley, Anthony Grant, Callum Chettle, Liam Shephard.
Barnet: Jamie Stephens, Ricardo Santos, Michael Nelson, David Tutonda, Harry Taylor, Mauro Vilhete, Wesley Fonguck, Elliott Johnson, Jamal Campbell-Ryce (sub Ruben Bover, 55 mins), Shaquile Coulthirst (sub Justin Amaluzor, 67 mins), John-Louis Akpa Akpro. Unused substitutes: Craig Ross, Charlie Clough, Simeon Akinola, Fumnaya Shomotun, Ephron Mason-Clark.
Goals: Posh - Edwards (31 mins).
Barnet - Akpa Akpro (23 mins), Valhete (39 mins), Coulthirst (pen, 59 mins).
Referee: Tony Harrington 7
Attendance: 2,725 (155 Barnet).