Headers from Ivan Toney and Jason Cummings saw Peterborough emerge 2-0 winners in the Checkatrade Trophy clash at St James Park.
Despite defending well and having a few chances in the first half, two second half strikes from the Peterborough men took the game away from City against their League One opponents.
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Grecians boss Matt Taylor made three changes from the side that beat Bristol Rovers at St James Park in their final game of the group stage, with Lee Martin, Dean Moxey and Craig Woodman returning to the side in place of Jonathan Forte and Dara O’Shea, who were substitutes on the night, and Luke Croll.
The visitors made two changes from their FA Cup tie against Bradford on Saturday; Siriki Dembele and Matt Godden dropped out for Jason Cummings and George Cooper.
City did well to fashion an opening of sorts a few minutes into the game when Matt Jay capitalised on a mis-hit clearance from Rhys Bennett, and looked like they might take the lead after Peterborough played themselves into trouble in the aftermath, with both Jay and Chiedozie Ogbene threatening to capitalise, but the visitors somehow escaped unscathed.
Both sides had chances to take the lead in the opening stages – Abrahams broke through for City, but was shepherded out to a tight angle and his effort was saved by O’Malley, before Peterborough countered and Cummings had a golden chance to open the scoring, but James Hamon read the chip and stood tall to keep the League One side out.
Hamon nearly gifted the visitors a bizarre goal in the immediate aftermath, storming out of his area to clear, though it fell kindly for Louis Reed to strike the ball first-time towards the vacated net – the spin of the ball took it onto the post, however, and not the inside of the City net. The away side started to pile on the pressure, and Moxey was required to clear Toney’s header off the line just before the half-hour mark to keep the game scoreless.
Abrahams then had a great chance to put City ahead in the 36th minute, latching onto Ogbene’s incisive through ball, but O’Malley was out quickly to make the save with his feet.
A defensive miscommunication a couple of minutes into the second-half was rescued only by a superb last-ditch challenge from Aaron Martin, who was able to poke the ball away from Cummings and back to Hamon. A superb free-kick from Maddison, given after a foul by Woodman, then struck the City bar as Peterborough continued their pursuit of the opening goal.
Hamon was called into action again for City just after the hour mark, making a good save at his near post to deny Toney once again, but the striker – involved in an altercation minutes earlier, which saw him booked for an off-the-ball incident – was on hand to head in from the resulting corner routine to score the goal the visitors had been threatening.
Peterborough then doubled their lead in the 77th minute, when Collins lost the ball in midfield, and Peterborough pushed forward, finding Maddison on the right-hand side – his delicate, looped cross to the back post was met by Cummings, who nodded in from close range.
Peterborough had a chance to grab a third in the dying seconds after a fantastic touch from Toney allowed him to release Maddison down the Peterborough right, but his tame shot was deflected wide. The set-piece routine resulted in a shot from Godden, but Hamon was equal to it, making a superb diving save.
Exeter City: Hamon; Woodman (Sparkes 63), A Martin, Oates, Moxey ©; L Martin (O’Shea 78), Dean, Collins, Ogbene; Jay (Forte 87), Abrahams.
Subs not used: Norman, Tillson, Randall, Dyer.
Booked: Ogbene, Oates.
Peterborough United: O’Malley, Daniel, Woodyard ©, Tafazolli, Reed, Ward, Bennett, Toney (O’Hara 90+4), Cooper (Walker 87), Maddison, Cummings (Godden 82).
Subs not used: Chapman, Naismith, Dembele, Bassong.
Booked: Toney, Maddison, Woodyard.
Attendance: 746 (79 away)