Cambridge United concluded their Papa John’s Trophy Southern Group H set of fixtures with a 3-1 penalty success, after a 1-1 draw in normal time, over local rivals Peterborough United at the Abbey Stadium.
A sublime strike from Flynn Clarke for the visitors looked to be enough to separate the sides. However, a first professional goal for Ben Worman in the dying embers forced penalties, where the U’s held their nerves from there to top their group and secure a first win over Posh since April 1998.
With United’s passage into the knockout stages already confirmed, Mark Bonner deemed it the perfect opportunity to hand out starts to those who had found opportunities limited of late. Callum Burton, Leon Davies, Harry Darling, Tom Knowles and Andrew Dallas all earned starts as the Head Coach made five changes from the Shrewsbury Town encounter three days earlier.
Posh thwarted the U’s to no clear opportunities in a steady start to proceedings, firing two attempts wide themselves with Idris Kanu at the heart of both.
An exquisite over the top ball from Adam May cut open the visitors’ backline on the 20th minute, releasing Dallas who cut inside with composure and curled a shot from 20 yards which grazed the outside of the post.
In the blink of an eye, the flow of the match had changed. Three minutes later, Hiram Boateng marauded forward and played a clever one-two with Harvey Knibbs before releasing a menacing shot at Dan Gyollai who parried well.
Boateng turned provider shortly after, picking Knibbs out exceptionally with a teasing delivery. The striker leaped extremely well but got the direction wrong as his attempt went wide on the half an hour mark.
However, Peterborough continued to look dangerous on the attack. Mo Eisa spurned a golden opportunity from five yards on the 33rd minute, blazing wide a venomous delivery from the left.
Serhat Tasdemir was in on the act on the 40th minute, clattering a crisp shot against Burton’s crossbar from 20 yards. It proved to be the last highlight of an evenly-matched first half, with neither side unable to capitalise during their bright spells.
Just three minutes into the second half, teenager Clarke found the space to roam forward and unleashed a fierce shot from 25 yards which clattered the underside of the bar and into the net to give Posh the advantage.
United were scratching their heads as to how they didn’t conjure up an immediate reply on the 51st minute. Boateng was teed up impeccably on the edge of the box, striking firmly but being denied by a strong Gyollai save. Dallas was then open, and looked set to stab it home, until a phenomenal block prevented that from happening.
The first goal setback did seem to rejuvenate the hosts though, and the chances kept coming as they attacked with pace towards the Newmarket Road End. Harry Darling perhaps should have converted with a close-range header on 63, his attempt skewing off target.
A Tom Knowles free kick from over 20 yards on 76 was absolutely pinpoint, but was miraculously kept out by Gyollai just when it looked destined for the top corner. The resulting corner eventually stumbled in Knowles’ way once more, but was to be denied from range yet again by an inspired goalkeeper between the sticks.
Ben Worman and Joe Neal, recalled from successful loan spells at St Neots Town and Biggleswade FC respectively earlier in the afternoon, entered the field of play during this dominant United period, with the latter making his professional debut. And it was Worman who bagged the equaliser with just four minutes on the clock from a tricky angle.
Despite late endeavour from both sides, penalties loomed. Three solid saves from Burton on Harrison Burrows, Tasdemir and Eisa, as well as successful conversions from Harrison Dunk, Knowles and Dallas, ensured a night to remember for the U’s.
Cambridge United: Burton, Davies, Cundy, Darling, Dunk, Knowles, May, Boateng (Worman, 66), El Mizouni, Dallas, Knibbs (Neal, 79)
Peterborough United: Gyollai, Naismith, Edwards, Blake-Tracey, Kanu (Mensah, 73), Hamilton, Barker, Burrows, Clarke, Tasdemir, Eisa