Peterborough United 1 Northampton Town 1 '“ match review, player ratings and highlights
For a team that has found scoring goals such an arduous task this season, Northampton have shown themselves to be remarkably adept at taking penalties.
After converting all five spot-kicks in the shoot-out victory against Cambridge in their first group stage match last month, Town repeated the feat at the ABAX Stadium on Tuesday evening, scoring four from four to earn another bonus-point and put themselves on the verge of qualification to the knock-out stages.
A draw in their final game at home to Southampton’s youngsters will be enough to see them progress from South Group H, though that’s unlikely to be cause for any great celebration given the way this competition continues to be viewed by fans of all clubs up and down the land.
Even a local derby between two old rivals could not stir the excitement on another drab and deary evening that was low on quality and even lower on entertainment and drama.
Peterborough shaded what action there was in the first-half and deservedly took a lead into half-time through the game’s outstanding player, Danny Lloyd pouncing on a fumble from David Cornell.
The Cobblers improved after half-time and just about merited their equaliser when it came as Jack Baldwin diverted into his own net after Marc Richards had rattled the crossbar.
The subsequent shoot-out was devoid of drama and tension but the standard of the spot-kicks themselves were not in keeping with the previous 90 minutes, at least from a Cobblers perspective, as Matt Grimes, Alex Revell, Billy Waters and Richards all converted with relative ease to earn Town a two-point haul.
In truth, though, this was a night when the team sheet prompted as much debate as the game itself.
Lewis McGugan, five months on from his last competitive outing, displayed some eye-catching flicks, tricks and turns, as well as the occasional eye for a pass, in a 70 minutes that suggested there is far more to come once he’s up to full speed.
There were a few loose touches from an understandably rusty Sam Foley, on his delayed debut for the club, but there was also enough to be encouraged; his boundless energy and willingness to get stuck in were both evident throughout the 75 minutes he was on the pitch.
It was also refreshing to see Hasselbaink use this opportunity to allow two young players from the academy to sample life with the first team. Neither Camron McWilliams, younger brother of Shaun, nor James Gillard got on but just sitting on the bench would have been an invaluable experience for the teenage pair.
As positives go, that was about it. A Wembley final may have edged closer into view but, with still five months of this desperately dreary competition to go, there is little to get excited about.
How they rated...
David Cornell - Should have done better when fumbling Miller’s shot, allowing Lloyd to prod in the rebound, but redeemed himself with two excellent penalty saves... 6
Brendan Moloney - Solid at the back and never really got into the game in an attacking sense. Forced off with a late injury which will be of some concern given Town’s already lengthy list of absentees... 6
Ash Taylor - Fantastic last-ditch tackle thwarted Kanu as he bore down on goal. Didn’t always look at ease against United’s front two, especially playing a high line... 7
Aaron Pierre - Put in a couple of typically robust challenges and made one vital intervention that prevented Miller’s cross from reaching an unmarked Kanu... 6
George Smith - Left-back by trade, this was the first time he played in his natural position since signing for the club having previously featured higher up. Still got forward well and whipped in the occasional dangerous cross... 6
Yaser Kasim - Looked somewhat pedestrian at times and occasionally became overrun by Peterborough’s slicker forward players. Came more into the game in the latter stages... 5
Sam Foley - Finally made his long-awaited debut, several months after signing. A few loose touches suggested he was a little rusty and off the pace but can’t fault his work-rate and his mere presence in the Town midfield was a welcome sight... 6
Daniel Powell - Difficult to recall him giving Posh too many problems in the final third, his threat too easily nullified by the home back four... 5
Lewis McGugan - Produced enough flashes to be encouraged for when he’s up to full speed. Showed an eye for a pass and pulled off a couple of slick turns, one of which led to a shot that O’Malley had to beat away. All in all, given this was his first competitive game in five months, an eye-catching display... 7 CHRON STAR MAN
Billy Waters - Full of running but occasionally needs to get his head up and look for the pass instead of taking on speculative long-range shots. Took his pen well... 6
Marc Richards - Didn’t get a kick for 78 minutes such was the poor service into him but his excellent piece of play, forcing O’Malley to tip his shot on to the bar, forced the corner from which Cobblers equalised. Also emphatically dispatched his spot-kick... 7
Dean Bowditch - 6
Matt Grimes - Excellently-taken spot-kick and was a real bright spark during the short time he was on the pitch... 7
Alex Revell 6