Injury concerns for Cobblers as slick Posh claim Leasing.com Trophy success
Two goals in four first-half minutes condemned the Cobblers to a 2-0 defeat against rivals Peterborough United in the Leasing.com Trophy on Tuesday night.
Town had made a bright start to their second Southern Group H match but two quickfire goals from Idris Kanu and Siriki Dembele burst their bubble and put Posh in command of the tie.
The home side had their chances, particularly in the first-half, but were repeatedly rebuffed by visiting stopper Christy Pym, while United's pacy forward line proved problematic throughout.
Even more damaging than the result though was the loss of Ryan Watson to injury.
The midfielder, one of the standout performers so far this season, was enjoying another terrific game when he limped off in serious pain with what looked a dislocated shoulder.
Keith Curle kicked a water bottle such was his frustration, and to make matters worse, Matty Warburton was another casualty with a foot problem.
Town boss Curle made six changes to his team and among those to come into the starting line-up included Scott Wharton, Joe Martin and Jay Williams.
Cobblers carried on from where they left off against Plymouth and made a bright start, almost going ahead inside the first couple of minutes but Pym got across to keep out Warburton's well-struck effort.
Louis Reed hit the crossbar with a fine free-kick for Posh, but Town were playing some slick stuff in the final third and again, like on Saturday, their high-pressing almost bore fruit when an error led to Nicky Adams crossing for Harry Smith, whose close-range effort was blocked by Pym.
But Posh struck against the run of play as Andrew Fisher tried and failed to punch clear a corner and the ball dropped kindly to Kanu to poke over the line.
And, to make matters worse, one became two within four minutes when Dembele waltzed through the heart of Town's defence and clinically fired into the roof of the net.
The home side's strong start had suddenly become a thing of the past and it almost got worse as the electric Dembele sliced over and then Kanu shot wide.
Pym denied the home side a route back into the game when producing an excellent save to keep out Chris Lines, who had met a third superb cross from Adams.
Adams flashed yet another dangerous cross across the face of goal while Kanu then dragged wide as Posh's front two continued to be a handful, although Cobblers at least got to half-time without any further damage.
Fisher was called into action twice in the final four minutes of the second-half, keeping out Harrison Burrows and then Joe Ward.
Cobblers were now doing well just to stay in the game and they owed much of that to Fisher after he produced another good save from Kanu, who continued to terrorise Town's back four alongside Dembele.
The introduction of Sam Hoskins, who replaced a limping Warburton, provided the hosts with a spark in attack as his cross was just beyond the reach of Smith before he then was thwarted by Pym at the near post.
Watson's injury stalled Town's momentum though and again Fisher came to the rescue with his best save of the night from Dembele, reacting brilliantly to beat away a lot shot.
The game rather fizzled out from there with Peterborough content with their victory and Town unable to recover from the loss of Watson and Warburton.
Cobblers: Fisher, McWilliams, J Williams, Wharton, Martin, Lines, Watson (Oliver 64), Warburton (Hoskins 51), Adams (c) (Roberts 78), Waters, Smith.
Subs not used: Cornell, Hughes, Pollock, A Williams.
Peterborough: Pym, Butler, Kent (c), Dembele, Reed, Thompson (Mason 67), Bennett, Tasdemir (Toney 78), Ward, Kanu, Burrows (Knight 78)
Subs not used: O'Malley, Barker, Clarke, Jones
Referee: Josh Smith
Posh fans: 553