The first game of the post-Harry Darling era sees United keep their first clean sheet since October 27.
With Darling gone, Robbie Cundy was recalled to the starting XI, and Wes Hoolahan and Luke Hannant flanked the midfield duo of The Digger and Adam May. Upfront, it was a return for Joe Ironside and the expense of Harvey Knibbs.
The Abbey pitch has taken a bit of a battering this season, due partly to the fact the Coronavirus pandemic meant that Ian Darler couldn’t do the usual maintenance routine in the summer, but mainly down to some absolutely atrocious weather to hit Cambridge recently. Saturday was no exception, a pre-match snow shower coating the Abbey pitch with a mist of white and causing the return of the yellow ball.
Luckily the snow stopped falling and melted fairly swiftly, otherwise we wouldn’t have been able to see any of Bradford’s players in their strange away kit combo of light grey shirts with white names & numbers.
Both teams started as strongly as possible despite the conditions, but it was Bradford who probably held the upper hand in terms of possession, but United had the better chances, with Paul Mullin and Kyle Knoyle coming close. The first half also saw an unfortunate injury to Dimitar Mitov, who left the pitch clutching his shoulder.
The second half was almost a reversal of the first, United looking the better side, but Bradford with the better chances. In particular fifteen minutes before the end when a shot from Gareth Evans (from what looked like a suspiciously offside position) hit both posts before rolling along the goal line, before Greg Taylor wellied the ball out of harms way.
On the latest episode of the UTAS podcast the game was described as a ‘classic League Two encounter‘ and that’s a fair assessment – neither team will be massively unhappy with the result, despite the gulf between the two sides in the table. For a 0-0 it was pretty entertaining too. Bradford are a decent side but underperforming, whereas United are playing out of their skins at the moment, and despite topping the table are probably two or three places above where we should be.
Although you could look at this result as two points dropped there’s still positives to be had. A first clean sheet in ages gets that monkey off our back and will give the defence confidence. Dimi Mitov’s injury doesn’t seem as bad as it first looked, but Callum Burton deputised well. Paul Mullin didn’t score again, but he’s still getting into the right spaces and goals will come again.
We go on to Tuesday’s match at Salford top of the table off the back of a clean sheet and 11 points from 15 in January so far. We’re under no illusions that Salford is going to be a tough game, and one that could have implications in the race for promotion at the end of the season, but confidence seems high at the Abbey at the moment, and we’ve beaten them once already…
Man of The Match: Not for the first time this season, Paul Digby was utterly immense. Controlled the game well, protected the defence and was at the heart of everything we did. Robbie Cundy and Harrison Dunk also had good games, and Callum Burton stepped up when needed.
Soundtrack of the Match: The Mock Turtles – Can You Dig It?
United: Mitov (Burton) Knoyle, Cundy, Taylor, Dunk (Iredale), Hannant (Knibbs), Digby, May, Hooligan, Mullin, Ironside