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Veliz goal not enough as Under-21s suffer first loss

Peterborough United 3-1 Spurs U21s

Tue 31 October 2023, 21:20|Tottenham Hotspur

Alejo Veliz scored his first goal in a Spurs shirt, but costly mistakes in key moments elsewhere led to our Under-21s suffering their first defeat of the season at the hands of League One Peterborough United on Tuesday night.

Taking on a senior Posh side in our second game of the EFL Trophy group stage on a foggy evening at the Weston Homes Stadium, we went ahead via summer signing Veliz's header midway through the first half but then failed to capitalise on a string of opportunities presented to us in the final third while the experienced hosts recovered to lead through Emmanuel Fernandez and Ricky-Jade Jones either side of half-time - goalkeeper Josh Keeley will have wanted to do better on both, especially the second after getting his hands to the ball but failing to keep it out.

There was nothing the Republic of Ireland Under-21 international could have done about Peterborough's third, though, as substitute Kwame Poku cut in from the right and curled inside the far post just over 20 minutes from time to complete a 3-1 win for his side.

The result ended our superb run of 10 wins in all competitions at this level since the start of the season but we remain second in Southern Group D on three points, with qualification for the knockout stages still a real possibility going into next week's last group game away to Cambridge United.

The Posh made seven changes from their 4-2 league win at Blackpool at the weekend and threatened down the right a couple of times in the early stages, but we were pressing high and forcing them into mistakes at the back. Twice goalkeeper Fynn Talley failed to properly clear his lines inside the first 17 minutes but after Veliz shot wide when collecting the first one, Yago Santiago couldn't pick the right pass on the second as we piled forward in numbers and the chances slipped away.

A layer of pre-match fog dissipated at the start of the game but returned with a vengeance to envelope the pitch midway through the first half, making cross-field visibility tricky, but we overcame that to take a 24th-minute lead, Jamie Donley getting to the byline on the left and standing up a cross for Veliz to score with a downward header from six yards out.

Peterborough started to take control around the half-hour mark and threatened on the break as well as from corners, one of which led to their equaliser in the 31st minute as Fernandez got in front of Keeley at the near post to powerfully head home Harrison Burrows' delivery.

The hosts pushed on down the right a couple more times towards the end of the first half but we stood firm and had a couple of good chances either side of the break, Talley palming away Nile John's shot from distance with the last action of the first half before saving Veliz's header from a corner at the start of the second period.

Peterborough took the lead on 53 minutes when Jones got on the end of Poku's cross from the right and fired inside Keeley's near post despite the keeper getting both hands to the ball, but Donley was left kicking himself at the other end after spurning two big chances either side of that, first collecting a wayward clearance from Talley but seeing his shot tipped away by the keeper one-v-one, then robbing last defender Burrows at the edge of the box, only to blaze over the bar. John also went through on goal during that period but the retreating Fernandez did just enough to stop him from getting a shot away as he surged into the area.

Poku made it 3-1 in the 69th minute, curling a fine shot inside the far post on his left foot after cutting in from the right flank, but we continued to create opportunities and certainly didn't seem out of the contest, substitute Will Lankshear heading over the bar after getting across his marker in the box and John firing off-target from 20 yards out. The hosts managed the closing stages effectively, though, and fashioned one final chance of their own in stoppage time as Ephron Mason-Clark rounded Keeley in the box but saw his angled shot blocked in the goalmouth by the solid Ashley Phillips.

'I can't fault the players for the way we tried to play'

Under-21s Coach Wayne Burnett was proud of his players for some of the attacking football they produced on the night, but his overriding emotion was naturally one of disappointment at the final outcome.

"At this level, when you're playing against the calibre of team that we played tonight, when opportunities present themselves, you have to take them," he said. "Usually we've been pretty good at that, so that's the disappointing thing and it's a disappointing result to take, but I can't fault the players for the way in which we tried to play our football.

"If you look at the game, in the first 25 or 30 minutes I felt we dominated the ball, then they came at us and made it a little bit more difficult for us. They've got some very good players and a manager who has had numerous promotions and knows how to win football matches, so it was a good test for us. They're flying high in League One and we knew how tough this would be but, as I said, in terms of effort and the way in which we tried to play, I can't fault our players. We're disappointed that we haven't got a better result after the chances we created and the chances we were given, but we have to regroup and go again because we've got another game on Friday at Norwich in the league."

Peterborough United 3-1 Spurs U21s

Peterborough United: Talley, Katongo, Crichlow, Fernandez, Sturge, Randall (O'Brien-Brady 83), De Havilland, Burrows (c) (Dornelly 73), Ajiboye (Poku 46), Mothersille (Mason-Clark 73), Jones. Substitutes (not used): Bilokapic, Corbett, Van Lier.

Spurs: Keeley, Lyons-Foster (c) (Cassanova 88), Phillips, Dorrington, Sayers, Donley, Abbott (Ashcroft 88), John (Kyerematen 78), Soonsup-Bell (Lankshear 68), Veliz, Santiago. Substitutes (not used): Gunter, Robson, McKnight.

Match data

Goals: Peterborough United - Fernandez 31, Jones 53, Poku 69; Spurs - Veliz 24.

Referee: C Brook.

Venue: Weston Homes Stadium, London Road, Peterborough.

Weather: Fog, light rain, nine degrees.

Attendance: 2,094.