Crying or celebrating are acceptable reactions after making progress in the early stages of the Checkatrade Trophy.
Here are Posh four wins from Wembley and yet 100% per cent of the fanbase, the management and the playing staff would probably prefer a Bradford/Wimbledon home win double before the end of November to a long slog around the country (it could be Portsmouth, Exeter or Cheltenham away next) in front of handfuls of spectators for the slim chance of playing at the national stadium next year even if it was a fine day out when the EFL Trophy was lifted by Tommy Rowe in 2014.
Just over 6,000 have watched the three Posh group matches - a fifth of Sunderland’s average League One gate at the Stadium of Light - and the ABAX Stadium attracts bigger attendances than most in this competition. Shadow sides, Premier League youngsters who will never make it big and docile atmospheres on cold nights are apparently not that attractive which was all rather predictable when the Football League brains trust expanded rather than killed off an unloved sideshow.
The hubbub around and in front of the press box last night suggested it’s a social occasion for fans as much as a sporting one. A fiver for the chance to continue the Marcus Maddison debate and whether or not there’s a decent referee in the lower leagues. If there is he wasn’t at London Road last night.
Posh are actually well equipped to have a long run again. Strength in depth is not an issue. Manager Steve Evans made 10 changes last night and yet the side he fielded would probably do okay in League One. The team selection suggested Evans either has great faith in his squad or he wasn’t that bothered about progress. The result suggested he got the balance spot on.
Posh needed to beat Luton and hope that Brighton’s kids or MK Dons didn’t better their result to reach the last 32. Brighton taking the lead late on at stadium:mk kept Posh on tenterhooks for an extra minute before safe passage was secured.
Of more importance last night was the form of the back-up boys. Some, debutant Sebastien Basson, Darren Lyon and Louis Reed, did well, while others delivered a mixed performance, particularly goalkeeper Conor O’Malley who had a bonkers 15 minute spell in the second half which featured top saves from Kazenga Lua Lua and Jorge Grant before an inexplicable blunder enabled Luton to serve up a tense finale.
Ben Pearson’s well struck cross was directed straight at O’Malley, but the ball squirmed through the keeper’s hands and over the line. An own goal was the verdict from those down that end of the ground as O’Malley followed number one ‘keeper Aaron Chapman in making a goal-costing mistake in successive matches. Mark Tyler had better keep in shape.
Fortunately there were only 17 minutes to go and Posh were still in front courtesy of a half-time lead given to them by Colin Daniel’s first goal for the club and Ivan Toney’s terrific free kick.
Daniel struck after good work from club maverick Maddison, a player who probably impressed Evans more by tracking back and making the odd tackle.
Bassong played soundly, although he was helped by the immense presence of Rhys Bennett alongside him. He’s good on the ball (not necessarily a plus point in this team) and defended soundly against Luton’s reserve team, but he won’t be bringing Ryan Tafazolli out in a cold sweat just yet,
Anyway job done as they say in football, even if the final whistle was treated with a shrug of indifference rather than any obvious joy.
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 (254 Luton).