Peterborough United staged a brilliant second-half fightback before losing a penalty shootout in their opening Checkatrade Trophy tie at MK Dons tonight (September 4).
A much-changed Posh side trailed 3-0 at the break, but fought back to level courtesy of a terrific free kick strike from George Cooper and goals in the final stages from substitutes Jamie Walker and Matt Godden.
That guaranteed a point apiece with penalties to determine the destination of a second point. MK Dons won that shootout 6-5 after Alex Woodyard had seen his spot-kick superbly saved by Stuart Moore.
The lack of importance attached to this competition was proven by 19 changes between two teams who have started their seasons in different divisions in fine fashion.
But for those selected it was a golden opportunity to send a message to managers.
Unfortunately, while MK’s men hammered out strong selection hints, the Posh back up boys didn’t even manage a light tap, not in the first-half anyway when they played collectively poorly to concede three goals while contriving to miss four golden scoring opportunties themselves.
The home players looked more committed and bigger and stronger as a result. They retained possession easily, threatened down both flanks and enjoyed the sight of big Chuks Aneke running amok in the middle.
Aneke, who scored the only goal in an embarrassing effort at this venue last season, scored twice at either end of the first-half. He overpowered Tyler Denton at the far post to nod home Ryan Watson’s deep left-wing cross in the seventh minute and was given all the time he required to slot home from the edge of the area in first-half added time.
Rhys Healey had headed home Watson’s free kick for 2-0 in the 33rd minute as Posh abandoned marking duties.
Aneke had seen an early drive well kept out by Posh ‘keeper Conor O’Malley after five minutes and that chance arrived after Marcus Maddison should have fired Posh ahead. Maddison pounced on a defensive slip, but tried to beat Moore at his near post rather than shooting across him a la George Boyd.
Remarkably, Posh played poorly and yet created and missed four great first-half chances. Ivan Toney mishit over the bar from eight yards after a terrific cross from right-back Darren Lyon and also volleyed straight at Moore following a superb Maddison cross. Isaac Buckley-Ricketts then picked up a pass from Cooper behind the home defence, but shot over.
And the trend continued at the start of the second-half as Maddison again picked Toney out beyond the MK back four, but the (alleged) £600k striker headed wide.
Posh sent on latest signing Walker at half-time - he became the third debutant alongside Lyon and Buckley-Ricketts - and he was sharp enough to help improve the Posh performance markedly. Woodyard’s introduction for early injury victim Callum Cooke also helped.
And Posh claimed the goal their second-half play deserved when Cooper curled home a set-piece from 25 yards following a foul on Toney.
Posh now started to dominate the game and Walker’s superb 25-yard strike crashed onto the inside of the post and, somehow, to safety.
Aneke was taken off 20 minutes from time just after he’d missed a great chance to complete his hat-trick following a loveley exchange of passes. His dink drifted wide of the post.
Posh kept pressing, but failed to get on the end of a stream of crosses from Maddison and co with the ball often pinballing around the home penalty area.
Late substitute Godden fired wide from a Lyon cross 60 seconds after his introduction before Posh pulled a second goal back three minutes from time through the impressive Walker.
Left-back Denton was the creator following an outstanding crossfield pass from Louis Reed and Walker finished tidily.
Incredibly O’Malley made two saves in added time before Posh broke away to score a 93rd minute equaliser when Godden was on hand to tap in Cooper’s cross.
Godden even had time to force a save from Moore after more excellence from Walker before the penalty shootout took place.
Toney, Maddison, Godden, Cooper and Walker all scored from the spot, but so did the first five MK Dons takers. It was left to Sam Nombe to win the game from 12 yards after Woodyard’s failure with O’Malley having come close to saving a couple of home efforts.
Posh: Conor O’Malley, Darren Lyon, Tyler Denton, Josh Yorwerth, Ryan Tafazolli, Callum Cooke (sub Alex Woodyard, 37 mins), Louis Reed (sub Matt Godden, 82 mins), Marcus Maddison, Isaac Buckley-Ricketts (sub Jamie Walker, 46 mins), George Cooper, Ivan Toney.
Unused substitutes: Aaron Chapman, Jason Cummings, Siriki Dembele, Rhys Bennett.
MK Dons: Stuart Moore, Ryan Watson, Ousseynou Cisse, Mitch Hancox, Callum Brittain, Baily Cargill, Oran Jackson, David Kasumu (sub Aiden Nesbitt, 84 mins), Finn Tapp (sub Charlie Patterson, 84 mins), Rhys Healey, Chuks Aneke (sub Sam Nombe, 68 mins).
Unused substitutes: Wieger Sietsma, Brandon Thomas-Asante, Liam Sole, Dylan Asonganyi.
Goals: Posh - Cooper (56 mins), Walker (87 mins), Godden (90 + 3 mins).
MK Dons - Aneke (7 mins & 45 + 2 mins), Healey (33 mins).
Cautions: Posh - Woodyard (foul).
MK Dons - Kasumu (foul), Jackson (foul).
Referee: Brett Huxtable 6
Attendance: 2,404 (573 Posh).