Three more points. That’s all we need to
all but mathematically ensure the U’s will be playing League One football next season. There’s three games left for United to get those points, and whilst none of them will be easy, even the most pessimistic U’s fan wouldn’t bet against us now would they?
Brisbane Road was the unlikely setting for the highest away attendance in all four divisions this season as 11 dedicated United fans cheered us on from two balconies overlooking the pitch. With memories of the hopeless performance last time we visited Orient no doubt fresh on their minds, would Tuesday nights game banish those memories forever?
Bonner made one change to the 11 that beat Newport last week, bringing in Shilow Tracey in place of Wes Hoolahan who didn’t make the trip down the M11. A Tuesday night game without Wessi? We’ve had enough of those, but here was just one final game to make it through without our midfield wizard.
The game kicked off in a fast flowing manner, both teams enjoying good spells of possession, and United employing a high press. On 19 minutes our attacking intent paid off when a Jack Iredale cross found the onrushing Joe Ironside to finish neatly past Lawrence Vigoroux.
United continued to stamp their authority on the game and could easily have had more, but stuck to their patient, clinical game plan so it was a disappointment when Kemp tucked home an equaliser on the stroke of half time, after Callum Burton had punched clear a cross.
In the second half it was mostly one way traffic, Luke Hannant’s corner was headed towards goal by Greg Taylor on 64 minutes, and after saving the initial header, the keeper was unable to prevent Shilow Tracey from heading in from close range.
For the second time that evening Taylor proved a menace in the O’s penalty area, another corner saw the onrushing United captain felled by Orient’s number 23. Who else but Paul Mullin would step up from the spot to give the U’s a comfortable lead?
Of course, this is Cambridge United, and we really like to keep us on the edge our our seats, so minutes later a nervy ending to the game was assured as Taylor & Drysdale failed to clear a rebound from the post, the ball ricocheting into our own net. 3-2 and 15 minutes to go.
But this *is* Cambridge United, and these boys know what they’ve got to do to get the result. Paul Mullin chased down a loose pass deep in the Orient half, winning a throw in by the corner flag. The throw was weakly aimed in the direction of keeper Vigoroux, but Joe Ironside intercepted the ball, and after a bit of indecision, leathered the ball into the top corner to give United enough breathing space to see out the last ten minutes in a professional manner, and cause wild celebrations in the balconies overlooking the pitch.
So, what have we learned? Firstly, we CAN win without Wes on Tuesdays, and stylishly too. Secondly, Paul Mullin CAN thump a penalty in when he needs to. Thirdly, whilst we’re still a little shaky at the back – this side is almost, almost assured of promotion now. Results weren’t kind to us last night with every other team in the top six winning, so it was absolutely vital we did too.
The last time Stevenage visited the Abbey we gifted them a 4-0 win. They’re no pushover, but we’d be astounded if we saw a repeat of the kind of performance that put an end to Colin Calderwood’s reign of shite. A win for United would see them all but promoted, whatever happens, and definitely up if Bolton beat Morecambe.
Football fans have been through a lot of shit these past 48 hours, with the formation and subsequent comedic implosion of the European Super League. Fears for the game, for the future of some of this countries most decorated clubs, for lower League football and clubs like ours. It’s clear the fallout for this isn’t over, and what can’t happen is for these six clubs to be allowed to get away with almost destroying football as we know it. UEFA seem keen to draw a line under it and re-admit the six without punishment, so we hope the Premier League take a tougher line. Points deductions, massive fines, transfer bans should all be seriously considered. It’s harsh, and of course it will ultimately be innocent fans that suffer, as always. But if these steps can go some way to ridding football of toxic owners and redistributing some of the immense wealth in the game fairly across ALL levels of the pyramid then that can only be a good thing. Whatever happens with regard to that, for now our club is in the safe hands of Mark Bonner on the pitch and Paul Barry off it. The Future’s Bright, The Future’s Amber.
Man of The Match: We’d honestly give it to the lot of them if we could. But let’s run through the contenders. Greg Taylor, naturally. Our captain, our leader, our legend, involved in two of our goals. Paul Digby in front of him, a rock. Hiram Boateng absolutely ran the midfield in a changed formation. Jack Iredale was a constant thorn in their side, as always. Luke Hannant had his best game in a long time. Paul Mullin for chasing every ball. Those fans that rented out one of the flats to support their side. Mark Bonner for getting his tactics spot on, and for spending time talking to the fans afterwards. But in reality there can be only one clear choice for the award. Big Joe Ironside – a human punchbag for every League Two defender, does all the dirty work and is a massive, massive part of why we are where we are. The perfect partner for Mullin, and exactly the kind of player you want on your side. Plus he can score a few too.
Soundtrack of the Match: Rosie Gaines – Closer Than Close
United: Burton, Knoyle, Drysdale, Taylor, Iredale, Digby, Boateng (O’Neil), Hannant, Tracey (Dunk), Mullin (May), Ironside