Three days after the Hatters’ FA Cup run came to an end at the third round stage, the same fate befell them in the Checkatrade Trophy at Kenilworth Road tonight as Peterborough won 7-6 on penalties after an entertaining 0-0 draw.
The Sky Bet League One play-off hopefuls paid the Town huge respect by making just two changes to the side that beat Aston Villa on Saturday, and one of those was enforced by a Trophy suspension.
Hatters boss Nathan Jones, meanwhile, made ten changes to the side that lost at Newcastle at the weekend, with James Shea in goal and Alan Sheehan eligible to captain the side despite serving a three-match league and FA Cup suspension.
Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu was the only player included who started at Newcastle on Saturday, while Harry Cornick and Luke Gambin – both who appeared as substitutes at St James’ Park – appear in attack.
It took former Hatters striker Jack Marriott just eight seconds to have the game’s first effort on goal, but his left-footed shot fizzed wide, before Lawson D’Ath sent a first-time volley on target at the other end with just 42 seconds gone – Posh keeper Jonathan Bond diving to his left to turn it behind.
It was a blistering start, and with Jack Stacey flying down the right, the Hatters were making inroads to the Peterborough defence, Jordan Cook firing a rocket just wide of the upright in the fifth minute before Stacey had a go himself, though Bond dealt with
Marriot got his body between Frankie Musonda and the ball to engineer space in the area on eight minutes, but Shea was equal to his low shot, as he was again ten minutes later when the former Town striker shot straight at him.
In between, Akin Famewo carried the ball out of defence and reached the Posh penalty area with some neat footwork, before laying it back to Mpanzu, whose shot was diverted into Jack Senior’s path.
The left-back’s path was blocked, but the Town were more than playing their part in an end-to-end encounter, and – after Josh McQuoid had come on for Gambin, who was injured in a strong, but fair, challenge by Posh captain – Senior had a go with his right foot, only to be blocked again.
Town were having their share of the chances, with Mpanzu teeing McQuoid up to crack a left-footed shot straight at Bond in the 28th minute.
On the half-hour mark Cornnick carried the ball deep into Peterborough territory from inside his own half, then got it back via Stacey and a back-heel flick from Cook, to fire a right-footed volley at goal, though once again Bond saved comfortably.
Maddison picked out United left-back Andrew Hughes to head just wide in the 34th minute, seconds before Shea had to produce a smart stop to keep Danny Lloyd’s powerful cross-shot out.
Cook came within a lick of paint of putting the Hatters in front in the 37th minute when he met Cornick’s inviting right-wing cross with a cushioned header that bounced back off Bond’s left-hand post.
Marriott called Shea into action again a minute later, before play once again moved to the Oak Road End, where McQuoid – who was looking lively – set D’Ath up for a 20-yarder that flew over the bar.
Captain Sheehan had to produce a timely challenge on the stroke of half-time to prevent Marriott getting on the end of a left-wing centre from Lloyd, but it was the Hatters who started the second period on the front foot.
Stacey made headway down the right, revelling in the space afforded him by the 3-4-3 formation, and standing up a lovely cross to the far post where McQuoid was poised to head home before Posh right-back Liam Shephard intervened with a timely header.
Marriott had another go soon after, but his shot was way off target, before Sheehan stepped up to take a 25-yard free-kick that only found the wall.
McQuoid sent another shot just wide before Shea had to deal with a cross-shot from Shephard as the sides continued to trade blows, without breaking the deadlock.
Just after the hour Jones made his second substitution, replacing Cornick with Andrew Shinnie, and it was the Town who continued to pose questions, D’Ath and Senior combining to set McQuoid up for a 65th-minute shot straight at Bond, before Ryan Tafazolli did well to clear Mpanzu’s cross over his own bar straight after.
Sheehan and Famewo then saw headers go wide, the former with the aid of a deflection, before Hughes sent a 25-yard left-footer high over Shea’s crossbar as Posh went on the attack again.
The Town were playing the better football, however, and in the 80th minute they were denied a clear chance goal when Stacey kept the ball brilliantly with a long, snaking run across the edge of the Posh penalty area, before laying off to Shinnie, who was brought down 22 yards out.
The ball rolled to D’Ath, who slipped Mpanzu into the box – only for referee Antony Coggins, who had let play go on, pull it back to award the free-kick.
The Hatters were bemused by the call, and Sheehan’s curling free-kick proved too high, but the Irishman was soon doing his duty in his own penalty area, clearing a dangerous Hughes cross over his own bar as Marriott looked to profit.
Hatters keeper Shea made another great save to deny Jermaine Anderson in the 89th-minute, diving low to his left to keep the Peterborough sub’s drive out,
The second half hadn’t lived up to the first, but it had been a cracking game and penalties were needed to determine a winner.
Both sides were spot on with Cook, McQuoid, Olly Lee, Shinnie, Sheehan and Mpanzu all on target for the Hatters, while Maddison, Doughty, Marriott, Shephard, Kanu, Baldwin and Tafazolli all scored for Peterborough before Musonda saw his penalty – the Town’s seventh – saved by Bond.
The Posh were through, and the Town are left to focus on the season’s ultimate goal – promotion to the level their opponents are currently at.
TOWN: Shea, Musonda, Sheehan ©, Famewo, Stacey, Mpanzu, D’Ath (O Lee 82), Senior, Gambin (McQuoid 26), Cornick (Shinnie 64), Cook. Subs: Justin, Potts, Cotter, Isted (GK)
Penalties scored: Cook, McQuoid, Olly Lee, Shinnie, Sheehan, Mpanzu.
POSH: Bond, Shephard, Hughes, Tafazolli, Baldwin ©, Lloyd (Kanu 57), Maddison, Marriott, Morias (Anderson 68), Da Silva Lopes (Doughty 33), Grant. Subs: Penny, O’Malley (GK), Freestone, Borg
Penalties scored: Maddison, Doughty, Marriott, Shephard, Kanu, Baldwin, Tafazolli
REFEREE: Anthony Coggins
ATT: 2,253 (408 away)