Read via the Chesterfield Post
Chesterfield were left heartbroken as the Wembley dream was dashed by ten-man Peterborough United who ran out 3-1 winners in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Final.
Paul Cook saw his side produce a largely dominant display but a more clinical Peterborough capitalised on their limited opportunities to secure the first major honour in the club’s history.
First half goals from Josh McQuoid and Shaun Brisely handed the Posh the lead before Eoin Doyle gave the Spireites a lifeline, only for Britt Assombalonga to ensure the win for the Posh from the penalty spot.
Spireites manager Paul Cook made two changes to the side the beat Morecambe, with Gary Roberts and Ollie Banks replacing Mason Bennett and the cup-tied Daniel Kearns in an attacking trio with Jay O’Shea behind Eoin Doyle.
Ian Evatt captained the side alongside Liam Cooper in the heart of the defence, behind the ever-present midfield partnership of Jimmy Ryan and Sam Morsy.
Drew Talbot kept his place on the bench after a lengthy absence but there would be no Wembley appearance for Armand Gnanduillet, the injured Dan Gardner and Nathan Smith.
Peterborough boss Darren Ferguson was left hampered by ineligibility in the competition, and was forced to make five changes to the side that lost to Preston North End.
Former Spireite Nicky Ajose missed out through being cup-tied to leave prolific striker Britt Assombalonga without his regular strike partner as he looked to add to his season tally of 27 goals.
Chesterfield started the brighter and an early spell of intentful possession led to a genuine penalty claim as Doyle appeared to have been tripped on the edge of the box by centre back Shaun Brisley, only for referee Andy D’Urso to wave away the appeal to the frustration of the Chesterfield bench.
In the build up to Chesterfield’s first spell in the final third Evatt sustained a blood wound which forced the 32-year-old down the tunnel for treatment and Peterborough were quick to capitalise on the subsequent defensive frailty.
Only moments later, with five minutes gone, a Tommy Rowe corner was met by the head of Brisley whose powerful header was parried questionably by Lee into the path of McQuoid, for the striker to slot the ball home from close range.
The Spireites responded well to conceding early but their worries were compounded when Ollie Banks suffered a foot injury in a collision with Jimmy Ryan, which forced the distraught midfielder off only 11 minutes into his Wembley debut to be replaced by Sam Hird.
Despite the nightmare start to the final Chesterfield maintained their composure in midfield and began to dictate proceedings with concise and purposeful spells highlighting Peterborough’s weakened midfield.
Hird was soon involved and came close to drawing the Spireites level on 12 minutes when he connected with Roberts’ corner only to see his effort cleared by an unaware Nathaniel Knight-Percival.
Eoin Doyle’s impressive movement caused problems for Posh’s somewhat makeshift defence, with first team regulars Ben Nugent and Jack Baldwin not eligible to play.
Chesterfield’s lone striker created a clear cut opportunity to equalise on 16 minutes as Roberts’ skill afforded the former Hibernian man room down the right, only for his threatening cross to find evade Jay O’Shea at the back post.
Peterborough could maintain little in the form of their own possession, despite the efforts of deep lying midfielder Grant McCann. The League One play-off contenders were limited to only occasional counter attacks which were dealt with efficiently by Evatt and Cooper, who kept £1.5 million summer signing Assombalonga at bay in the first half.
Jay O’Shea and Roberts’ regular interchanging and swapping of wings caused full backs Mark Little and Knight-Percival problems. Pressing high up the pitch, as has been an essential element in Chesterfield’s success this season, proved effective throughout the game with Peterborough losing possession cheaply.
Roberts capitalised on a wayward backpass with a bursting run forward, only to go down softly in Bobby Olejnik’s area with the referee unmoved.
On the half hour mark an intricate passage of play fed through Darikwa whose threatening cross found Morsy six yards from goal, but the midfielder’s scuffed effort flew well wide of Olejnik’s goal, to spurn a golden opportunity to reflect the first half performance on the scoreboard.
Chesterfield should have drawn level with a number of attacks and clear cut chances created, however, as has been a regular fixture this season, the Spireites did not take their chances and were made to pay when Brisley was again involved in the air and beat Liam cooper in the air to double the lead on 38 minutes.
The Spireites again should have found themselves level when Roberts’ whipped in free kick found Evatt unmarked at the back post, but the veteran defender in his fourth Wembley appearance directed his header straight into the grasp of the goalkeeper.
Chesterfield’s dominance in prolonged spells of possession was put to waste and the Spireites were left to rue their lack of a cutting edge on 37 minutes, when Danny Swanson’s corner was again met by Brisley whose bullet header left Tommy Lee rooted, to double the lead on 37 minutes for his first goal for Peterborough.
Despite the set back, Chesterfield continued to press and dominate possession, questioning the division gap between the two sides.
Doyle had another chance just before half time to find a foothold in the game when Robert’s lobbed pass beat the offside trap but the Irishman could not direct the ball over Olejnik.
Under the watchful eyes of 35,663 including Sir Alex Ferguson, Chesterfield resumed the second half with the same optimism in possession as they had ended with before the break.
Peterborough could not match the intensity in possession as their League Two counterparts and Chesterfield were soon thrown a life line, as Sam Morsy drove forward to the byline to deliver a pin point cross to Doyle whose left footed twisting half volley beat Olejnik on 52 minutes.
The goal placed Chesterfield further into the ascendency and Peterborough struggled to break into the Spireite’s defensive third, relying on hopeful long balls to Assombalonga but Evatt produced a captain’s performance to clear the majority of hopeful punts forward.
Chesterfield’s dominance continued but the Spireites failed to capitalise on their superior possession, with half chances falling to Doyle and Roberts in quick succession.
As Paul Cook’s side looked the more likely to score the complexion of the game changed as Peterborough were reduced to ten men on 66 minutes as Joe Newell kicked out at Morsy in an off the ball incident.
Instead of capitalising on the one man advantange, Peterborough became more composed and in control as Darren Ferguson altered his team with two substitutions, giving the side the assurance of five at the back.
Chesterfield lost their intensity in possession in the wake of the dismissal and the Posh grew into the second half despite their numerical disadvantage, enjoying more meaningful spells of composed possession.
Peterborough found themselves in Chesterfield’s defensive third and in a counter attack former Spireite defender Mark Little broke from the right wing and cut inside the box to be brought down by the trailing leg of Liam Cooper, as the referee pointed to the spot on 77 minutes.
Assombalonga confidently stepped up to take the spot kick and fired down the middle to give Peterborough a two-goal cushion for the former Watford forward’s 28th goal of the campaign.
Paul Cook reacted with intent, replacing Hird and O’Shea with Mason Bennett and Marc Richards, but the third goal seemingly dashed any hope of a late comeback.
A number of tired tackles late on led to bookings for Cooper and Roberts, with one eye kept on the disciplinary record for the remaining six league games of the season.
Late desperation prompted long range efforts from Morsy and Bennett but Peterborough had done enough to earn victory in their first visit to the new Wembley.
Chesterfield now focus on the remaining league games in an attempt to maintain their push for automatic promotion to League One and can take great heart from a dominant first hour display against a side pushing for promotion to the Championship.
Darikwa, Evatt (c), Cooper, Humphreys;
O’Shea (Bennett 70′), Banks (Hird 11′) (Richards 77′), Roberts;
Subs not used: Dunbavin, Talbot.
Little, Bostwick, Brisley, Knight-Percival;
Swanson, McCann, Rowe, Newell;
Subs: Day, Alcock, Payne, Isgrove, Ntlhe.
Referee: Andy D’Urso