Death. Taxes. Piers Morgan acting like a prick. Some things in life are an absolute certainty. You can add Cambridge United losing on a Tuesday night to that list too.
We’re making this really hard for ourselves aren’t we? The consensus is that to get automatic promotion now we’re going to need seven wins from our last eleven games. Can you honestly look at that list and say we can get them? Of course, we might get lucky, if this season has shown anything it’s that anyone can beat anyone else, but realistically we should probably be readying ourselves for the playoffs, one game of which will almost certainly be on a… you guessed it… Tuesday.
United went into this game in second, playing a Bolton team on great form but stunned by a last-minute equaliser on Saturday. Bonner set up in a 442 with Hannant on the left and Tracey on the right flanking Boateng and May in the middle. On paper, with Hoolahan missing that didn’t look too bad. Unfortunately for it to be successful it required those midfield players to not have a stinker, and sadly for us, none of that foursome can come out of last nights game with their heads held high, but we’ll get to that in a minute.
Bolton are one of those teams, like Bradford, that are historically too big for this League. But history means fuck-all, and they’re in League Two for a reason: because they are shit. The fancy stadium and expensively assembled squads don’t mean anything when you’re sitting sixth in League Two. If there’s one thing we can fault this club for – and this isn’t a Mark Bonner problem, it’s existed since the days of Shaun Derry and probably before – there’s a real sense of deference to these so-called ‘big’ teams. It’s a mentality issue that permeates the club. Little old Cambridge honoured to be playing at Bolton’s nice stadium. Look at this, it’s better than yours. But Bolton are here like us. Big ground or not they’re on our level. They’re below our level, they were sixth and we were second. They’re beatable. Yes they’ve got history and FA Cup wins, but so what? It was a hundred years ago. Yes they’ve got Eoin Doyle, but we’ve got Paul Mullin. Yes they’ve got Marcus Maddison with his Fendi headband, but he’s a has-been, a waste of talent and space whose career peaked at B*ro. We’ve got Kyle Knoyle, we’ve got Hiram Boateng, we’ve got Wes bloody Hoolahan (on Saturdays) for fucks sake. We’re as good as, if not better than, Bolton fucking Wanderers. Let’s get this club believing we are where we are because we’re decent, not because we’re lucky. Come on, Mark – you watched United go toe to toe with Sheffield Wednesday and Nottingham Forest and Crystal Palace under Roy McFarland, do you think he said to the guys to enjoy playing at Hillsborough? No, we went out to win from the first minute. Do you think at 3-0 down in Nottingham he told the players to take in the atmosphere of the City Ground? No, at 3-0 down he stuck on another striker and tried to get something from the game.
What I’m saying is that, yes we’re a small club, but we shouldn’t have a small club mentality. That goes for all of us – the board, management team, players, even us fans. Let’s believe we’re in this fight. Let’s believe we can beat crap like Bolton.
If you want a detailed run-down of the game itself then there’s not much else I can give you. United started well, but eventually gave Bolton too much time on the ball and they hit us with two quick goals before half time. The second half wasn’t much better, but at least Bonner seemed to realise and made his changes earlier, Harrison Dunk hooked for Jack Iredale at half-time and a dreadful Adam May and Hiram Boateng making way fifteen minutes later for Paul Digby and Liam O’Neil. It was a rare off-day for Boateng who we all know is capable of so much more, but Adam May doesn’t get off so lightly, turning in yet another poor performance. It takes a lot to make O’Neil look like Xavi, but Adam May manages it with ease. He’s poorer in the tackle, poorer in his passing, poorer at getting forward. O’Neil isn’t perfect by any means, but if May doesn’t start another game this season you won’t hear too many complaints from us.
Bonner’s changes impacted the game and credit to him for making them when there was still time to do so, whilst Shilow Tracey and Luke Hannant still played poorly, the oomph provided by Digby and O’Neil, plus Iredale’s willingness to get forward started to pay off and United got back in to the game. We were fortunate to get one back through a Kyle Knoyle long shot, that lacked power and should have been a comfortable save, but ended up squirming through the goalkeepers legs – see, Bolton aren’t that great after all.
Okay, not many people expected us to win this one, but if we had turned up we could have. A win would have made things a lot more comfortable for us in the promotion race, but now we’ve got Bolton breathing down our necks even though a couple of the other results went our way. The one positive from last night, the only positive from last night, is that we don’t have another Tuesday night game for ages.
Man of the Match: He should have done better on the first goal, but Declan Drysdale had an otherwise great game alongside Greg Taylor. He’s beginning to look like quite a decent defender. Kyle Knoyle and Jack Iredale deserve plaudits too.
Soundtrack of the Match: The Smiths – That Joke Isn’t Funny Any More
United: Burton, Knoyle, Drysdale, Taylor, Dunk (Iredale), Tracey, May (Digby), Boateng (O’Neil), Hannant, Ironside, Mullin