Chelsea’s Checkatrade Trophy adventure is over for another season after they were defeated 3-1 by Peterborough at Stamford Bridge to leave the competition at the last sixteen stage.
Joe Edwards’ team were impressive in a first half in which they deservedly took the lead through Richard Nartey’s first goal of the season, but they were unable to maintain that level of performance throughout, and Posh scored three goals in nine minutes to claim a comfortable victory in the end.
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The core of Edwards’ team was the one that has been front and centre for the Blues all season, but Tariq Lamptey was absent at right wing-back, and Iké Ugbo was deployed in attack after returning from a loan spell at Scunthorpe, a team from the same division as Peterborough. He was partnered by Martell Taylor-Crossdale, as the prolific forward duo of Charlie Brown and Daishawn Redan had to make do with places among the substitutes.
Peterborough started the better and demonstrated that they were head and shoulders above any of the football league sides Chelsea had come up against earlier in the season. Ryan Tafazolli headed wide when well-placed from a corner, and they looked in confident mood, but the hosts were able to settle themselves down and begin to play. The midfield trio of George McEachran, Conor Gallagher and Billy Gilmour rotated well throughout the opening 45 minutes, and it was the Scottish schemer Gilmour who was at the heart of everything good.
He and captain Josh Grant were both off target with half-chances inside the first twenty minutes before the contest meandered aimlessly towards the interval, with neither side especially interested in forcing the issue. Chelsea looked the more likely, particularly when putting together a slick move that ended with Juan Castillo crossing to Ugbo, who saw his shot blocked, and they did finally sneak their noses in front in the final minute of the half. Castillo was again the provider, his driven corner crashed home by Nartey at the near post for 1-0.
Perhaps part of Peterborough’s problem was the complete ineffectiveness of new signing Lee Tomlin. Short of fitness but hardly lacking in excess timber, he was withdrawn at half time and replaced by George Cooper, and suddenly Steve Evans’ men had a full complement of players. Cooper should have restored parity within two minutes of his arrival but managed to miss the target entirely with nobody around him in front of goal.
Turning the pressure up, it looked a matter of time until they breached the Chelsea rearguard. Marcus Maddison squirted an effort across the face of goal, and Joseph Colley threw himself superbly in front of Siriki Dembele’s goal-bound effort at the crucial moment, but neither player was ultimately to be denied. Dembele grabbed the equaliser with a powerful finish after wriggling and dancing his way through two tacles, and although Jamie Cumming made a superb one-handed save to deny Cooper the go-ahead goal four minutes later, it was merely temporary relief.
Leading scorer Ivan Toney turned home a cross from the right moments afterwards, and Maddison – forever looking to unleash that left foot – got his goal in the 74th-minute when Chelsea were caught with too many men upfield, allowing the former Newcastle youngster to take on Nartey before shifting to the side and finding the far corner.
It knocked the stuffing out of the home team, and not even the introduction of Redan and Brown could help salvage the draw that would have taken them to a penalty shootout. Gallagher was the only player able to lift himself and go again in the closing stages, and was denied a deserved goal when his chip over Aaron Chapman came back off the crossbar, but it wasn’t to be.
The Development Squad return to action next week away to Everton, a big match in their Premier League 2 title challenge, before travelling to Derby County in early February.
Chelsea: Cumming, Grant ©, Colley, Nartey, Guehi, Castillo, McEachran (Redan 76), Gilmour, Gallagher, Taylor-Crossdale (Anjorin 64), Ugbo (Brown 84)
Subs not Used: Ziger, Lavinier, Mola, Maatsen
Goals: Nartey ‘45
Peterborough United: Chapman, Naismith ©, Tafazolli, Cooke, Lafferty (Denton 87), Reed, Ward, Tomlin (Cooper 45), Dembele, Maddison (Godden 90), Toney
Subs not Used: O’Malley, Bennett, Lyon, Stevens
Goals: Dembele ’65, Toney ’72, ‘Maddison ‘74