The FA Youth Cup has been most unkind to Peterborough United in recent seasons.
Posh have lost rather embarrassingly to lowly-ranked non-league clubs Dereham and Oxford City in the last two seasons, and now, perhaps even more agonisingly, they have lost at home in extra time to local rivals Cambridge United.
The visitors always appeared to be the stronger, quicker team, most obviously in the gruelling final 30 minutes when Posh players suffered several bouts of cramp. The final 2-1 scoreline didn’t flatter Cambridge at all.
Posh sprang a selection surprise by sneaking first-team squad regular Idris Kanu into their starting line-up. His presence and that of Lewis Freestone and Andrea Borg, others with first-team experience, suggested it was a strong Posh team hoping to avenge two defeats at the hands of this opposition already this season.
But in a patchy first-half, all three performed only in short bursts, and clearcut chances were at a premium until the final minute when Borg’s cross was met by Kanu whose header was saved by Finley Iron in the Cambridge goal. The rebound fell kindly for Kanu, but he headed over the bar,
Cambridge had started brightly with quick passing football which would presumably be drummed out of them when they reach the first-team squad, but Posh finished the stronger as Borg and Kanu became more influential.
Midfielder Luke Strachan, who will hopefully inherit as much of his grandfather’s ability as his father’s, hurled some long throws into the penalty area, but all were scrambled clear.
Cambridge found joy early on running behind Posh right-back Aaron Hart, but central defenders Sam Cartwright and Frazer Gurney stood firm.
The visitors made a change at the break and substitute Sam Bennett almost shot them in front within five minutes after a quickly-taken free kick, but Posh ‘keeper Lewis Elsom made a smart save.
But Bennett was not to be denied for long. He was first to react when Elsom made a decent stop from Inglian Hasani’s 20 yard strike in the 55th minute and finished easily.
But Posh manager David Farrell promptly showed his masterful grasp of the tactical substitution - he did after all play many seasons for Barry Fry - by sending Jack Gurney on as a substitute for Harrison Burrows. With his first touch Gurney whipped in a wicked left-footed free kick which sailed into the net off the head of a visiting defender.
Kanu became a huge threat as the game became very stretched in the final quarter. He set up a shooting chance for Freestone which was spurned and then a fine run into the area was ended by a terrific defensive block.
But play became very scrappy in the final stages. Posh substitute Oliver Shackelton wasting the best opportunity to spare a 612 crowd 30 extra minutes, but he dragged his 18 yard shot wide of the target in the 90th minute.
And to the immense frustration of those who wanted to get back in time for the Great British Bake Off Final it took Cambridge just 60 seconds to of extra time to take the lead.
The Posh defence was breached alarmingly easily and although Elsom produced a superb block to keep out the first shot, Bennett was on hand to fire home his second goal of the game.
And it was pretty comfortable for the visitors after that. Posh plugged away until the end - defensive midfielder Kyle Barker delivered a strong, hard-tackling shift - but an equaliser never looked likely as the rare promisining attacking positions were wasted by poor final balls.
Elsom at least kept out a third Cambridge goal with an excellent late save to thwart Ben Worman.
Posh: Lewis Elsom, Aaron Hart, Lewis Freestone, Kyle Barker, Frazer Garner, Sam Cartwright, Harrison Burrows (sub Jack Gurney, 60 mins), Luke Strachan (sub Harry Brookes, 91 mins), Josh Davison (sub Oliver Shackelton, 82 mins), Andrea Borg, Idris Kanu. Unused substitutes: Mo Hamza, Mikkel Fosu.
Cambridge: Finley Iron, Leon Davies, Jordan Norville-Williams, Sam Squire, Steven Shaw, Sam Goode, Inglian Hasani, Lee Watkins, Joe Neal (sub Kaidyn Michael, 84 mins), Ben Worman, Jake Battersby (sub Sam Bennett, 46 mins, sub Charlie Johnson, 116 mins). Unused substitutes: Joshua Jeche, Craig Foxall.
Goals: Posh - Gurney (62 mins).
Cambridge - Bennett (55 mins & 92 mins).
Cautions: Posh - Garner (foul), Freestone (foul), Shackleton (foul).
Cambridge - Hansani (delaying the re-start).
Referee: Chris Horsman