Peterborough United squeezed into the knockout stages of the Checkatrade Trophy with a 2-1 win over Luton Town at the ABAX Stadium tonight (November 13).
Posh looked set to cruise through after easing into a 2-0 half-time lead through Colin Daniel - his first goal for the club - and Ivan Toney’s excellent free kick.
But a terrible error from goalkeeper Conor O’Malley let Luton back into the game in the 73rd minute and Posh had to survive a few nervy moments before clinching the win and a place in the last 32 of a much-maligned competition.
Nineteen changes between them showed the clubs believed match practice for squad players was more important than the victory. Luton at least had the excuse of having already qualified as group winners.
Only centre-back Rhys Bennett survived (or was punished) from the Posh starting line-up following the FA Cup success at Bromley on Saturday. He lined up alongside debutant Sebastien Bassong at the heart of the Posh defence and the veteran defender showed plenty of composure on the ball.
Luton started the better and saw a ‘goal’ wiped out for offside after just three minutes, but good possession and positions didn’t lead to clearcut chances and not for the first time this season Posh did more with less.
Marcus Maddison endured a fairly ropey start to the game, but his run past a defender and right footed dink was volleyed home on the sidefoot by Daniel in the 19th minute. Daniel caught his marker napping and made the cross look better than it was.
And from that moment Posh controlled the first half. Maddison was soon beating his man again and feeding Jamie Walker whose snapshot crashed into the sidenetting.
But it was 2-0 10 minutes before the break. Toney punished the poor control in midfield of Luton’s Alan McCormack and reached the edge of the penalty area before the same player fouled him.
Toney’s revenge was instant and most sweet as he curled the free kick into the top corner.
Toney was a man possessed for the final stages of the half, first reaching Maddison’s excellent long pass to sweep a shot from a difficult angle wide and then volleying Louis Reed’s corner over the bar from 16 yards.
The start of the second half was punctuated by many free kicks and a couple of cautions before Luton enjoyed a purple patch which included Harry Cornick slicing badly wide after a speedy breakaway and O’Malley making a fine low save to thwart Lazenga Lua Lua’s 20 yard strike.
O’Malley was in action again two minutes later to block Jorge Grant’s shot before Alan Sheehan missed a sitter at the far post with his head.
Posh appeared to have weathered the storm and launched a few decent attacks of their own, but a horrible blunder from O’Malley 17 minutes from time dragged the Hatters right back into the game.
Full-back Matt Pearson smacked a fierce cross in from the right which travelled straight to O’Malley who managed to spill the ball backwards and over the line.
O’Malley had no time to sulk as he was needed to push a shot from Grant away 60 seconds later.
Pearson then mistimed a free header from a corner as Posh did their best to throw a commanding lead away.
But they held firm to get into Friday’s (November 16) draw.
Posh: Conor O’Malley, Darren Lyon, Colin Daniel, Rhys Bennett, Sebastien Bassong, Louis Reed, Callum Cooke (sub Mark O’Hara, 82 mins), Marcus Maddison (sub George Cooper, 89 mins), Siriki Dembele (sub Isaac Buckley-Ricketts, 74 mins), Jamie Walker, Ivan Toney.
Unused substitutes: Aaron Chapman, Jason Naismith, Matt Godden, Jason Cummings.
Luton: Marek Stech, Reece James, Matthew Pearson, Lloyd Jones, Alan Sheehan, Alan McCormick, Jorge Grant, Arthur Read (sub James Justin, 82 mins), Kazenga Lualua, Harry Cornick (sub Josh Neufville, 88 mins), Aaron Jarvis.
Unused substitutes: Sonny Bradley, Jack Stacey, Glen Rea, Pelly Ruddock MPanzu, Harry Isted.
Goals: Posh - Daniel (19 mins), Toney (36 mins).
Luton - Pearson (73 mins).
Cautions: Posh - Daniel (foul).
Luton - McCormack (foul).
Referee: Andy Woolmer 5
Attendance: 2,017 (approx 60 Luton).