Our development squad were beaten by the side seventh in League One as this season’s journey in the Checkatrade Trophy was brought to an end at the last-16 stage.
A valiant effort saw us in front at half-time after Richard Nartey powered in a header in the final minute of the first period. However, three goals in eight second-half minutes from the visitors gave them victory and a place in the quarter-finals.
Manager Joe Edwards made four changes from our last outing in the competition, a 2-1 victory over AFC Wimbledon last month, with Tariq Lamptey sidelined after suffering a broken collarbone in the weekend’s PL2 defeat by Blackburn Rovers.
Ike Ugbo returned from his loan spell at Scunthorpe United to lead the line up front alongside Martell Taylor-Crossdale, with Edwards continuing with a 3-5-2 system against the promotion chasers from English football’s third tier.
Joseph Colley, Marc Guehi and Nartey lined up in central defence protecting goalkeeper Jamie Cumming, while Josh Grant started at right wing-back and Juan Castillo on the opppsite flank. In midfield, George McEachran sat deepest flanked by Conor Gallagher and Billy Gilmour.
Peterborough included new loan signing Lee Tomlin in their starting 11 after the 29-year-old completed a move from Cardiff City this week and it was the visitors who started on the front foot in west London, albeit without unduly troubling Cumming in the Chelsea goal.
Ivan Toney floated the game’s first effort high over the bar and into the Matthew Harding stand before Marcus Maddison fired wide inside the opening 10 minutes. The most presentable opportunity of the early exchanges fell to Ryan Tafazolli as an inviting flat corner was driven in from the left, though the defender couldn’t quite direct his header on target from six yards out.
Edwards’s side soon settled, matching the visitors in effort and desire across the pitch. Ugbo had our first chance at the near post following good wing play from Castillo but failed to test keeper Aaron Chapman. The Blues then had a plausible, if not vocal, penalty appeal as one of the Peterborough defenders leant into the ball with his upper arm on the edge of the six-yard box, though the officials appeared not to see any infringement.
The contest became fractured at the midway point of the half, with play centred in the middle third of the field, though the hosts will have been encouraged at having stemmed the early Peterborough threat. Tomlin shot well over as they were left frustrated in the face of resilient Chelsea defending.
As the half wore on, our own attacking sharpened. Gilmour threaded a neat reverse pass forward for the advanced Castillo on the left wing and the Dutchman’s low cross was inviting for Ugbo, though Tafazolli covered well to make the block.
Maddison then forced Cumming into his first save of the evening from a central free-kick, catching the ball sweetly but lacking the direction and firing straight into the keeper’s midriff. Our youngsters had played the half well, settling quickly and then growing in threat, and their endeavours were rewarded with the opening goal in the final minute of the first period.
So often undone by set-pieces against experienced opposition in this competition, it was a corner of our own that broke the deadlock. Castillo swung in a delivery from the right and Nartey arrived on cue and unmarked to power a header beyond the static Chapman. It was a perfect time to take the lead and gave us an advantage to protect in the second 45 minutes.
Steve Evans responded by introducing George Cooper at the interval and the midfielder ought to have brought his side level inside two minutes. Joe Ward made good progress down the right and pulled the ball back into the path of the new arrival, who steered wide from an excellent position.
The Peterborough pressure intensified though and our defending became increasingly last-ditch. Colley threw himself in front of Dembele’s strike after an hour but the Ivorian was not to be kept out for much longer, the wideman dancing into the box moments later and bending an expert low finish into the bottom far corner.
Momentum had turned in favour of the visitors and only an impressive stop from Cumming kept us level. Cooper again caused problems in the box, latching on to Toney’s knockdown and turning the ball towards goal. A deflection on the way through almost deceived the goalkeeper but he flung out an instinctive hand to paw the effort away.
Down the other end, Ugbo advanced as space opened up in the Peterborough half. Collecting a pass from McEachran, the striker drove to the edge of the box but waited a little too long and his eventual shot was blocked behind.
However, two goals in three minutes quickly extinguished our hopes of advancing into the quarter-finals. Toney put the Posh in front, stretching just in front of Colley to toe-poke Maddison’s clever cross into the back of the net and place us behind for the first time in the contest.
Searching for a quick response, the deficit was soon doubled when we were hit on the break. Callum Cooke led the charge forward from halfway and Maddison did the damage, finishing with a powerful left-footed effort across the keeper.
It was a turnaround that capped the second-half improvement from the visitors and left the Blues with too much to do in the remaining 15 minutes. Gallagher went closest to pulling a goal back, forced wide but able to produce a cheeky chip over the keeper that dropped promisingly but bounced on to the crossbar and away to safety.
Chelsea (3-5-2) Jamie Cumming; Joseph Colley, Richard Nartey, Marc Guehi; Josh Grant (c), Conor Gallagher, George McEachran (Daishawn Redan 76), Billy Gilmour, Juan Castillo; Martell Taylor-Crossdale (Tino Anjorin 61), Ike Ugbo (Charlie Brown 85)
Unused subs Karlo Ziger, Marcel Lavinier, Clinton Mola, Ian Maatsen
Scorer Nartey 45
Peterborough United Aaron Chapman, Jason Naismith (c), Ryan Tafazolli, Siriki Dembele, Louis Reed, Callum Cooke, Joe Ward, Ivan Toney, Danny Lafferty (Tyler Denton 87), Marcus Maddison (Matt Godden 90), Lee Tomlin (George Cooper h/t)
Unused subs Conor O’Malley, Rhys Bennett, Darren Lyon, Matt Stevens
Scorers Dembele 65; Toney 71; Maddison 73
Referee John Busby