Where do we start with that then? I’m not sure I’ve even come to terms with what I watched unfold on Friday night yet. I certainly haven’t been able to watch the goals again or anything like that. Quite simply, that was the most insane game to have involved United since I’ve been watching. The 3-3 against Forest? Always on the cards. That 0-0 draw with 8 man Cardiff? Not so weird when you think about it. Even the 3-0 win against Stevenage in the Playoffs that time? Destiny was always going to take over.
Harrogate made 8 changes to their side on Friday, resting key players for Monday’s FA Trophy Final. United kept faith in the team that beat Newport but struggled to impose themselves on Stevenage. Fans had travelled to the ground to support the U’s, Sky Bet had bought along their ‘Promotion’ hoardings ready for the players to celebrate behind. Like Stevenage, the stage was all set for the U’s to earn the solitary point they needed to all but assure promotion.
And then the game happened. United went out for the win, attacking with intent but seemingly forgetting that every man thrown forward is one less in defence. Harrogate noticed this gaping hole left by Iredale every time he went up the pitch and used it quickly to their advantage, launching quick counter attacks to expose the remaining U’s defenders at least three times in the first 20 minutes. I can only remember three of them because they were the three that resulted in goals, United shellshocked at 3-0 down with the match barely a quarter of the way through.
To their credit (and that’s something I didn’t think I’d find myself saying after the match) United fought back through the battling Wes Hoolahan and Luke Hannant, and ten minutes later had reduced the arrears to 3-2. However United again afforded Brendan Kiernan time and space for him to net his hat-trick and give Bonner’s men a mountain to climb, again.
The second half was much better from United, with Iredale and Drysdale hooked at half time for Okedina and Dunk the U’s had a bit more stability at the back and were able to go about their usual game, pressing Harrogate and eventually finding the two goals they needed to level the match, courtesy of Paul Mullin. But United being United, the finger of fate was hovering over the self-destruct button once more, and as they pressed forward to find a winner Harrogate attacked again earning themselves a corner with just six minutes to go. We all know what happened next…
As is usual on UTAS we try to look for the positives in defeat, but sometimes the manner of those defeats comes in such a way that we can’t do anything but highlight the absolute fucking disaster show it was. Yeah, we scored four goals but we shouldn’t have needed to. Maybe some of the pressure has got to a few of the lads, maybe the fact some of them know their places are all but safe as a result of our small squad. We don’t like digging out individual players for the sake of it, but Burton, Iredale, Drysdale, Digby, Boateng and especially Greg Taylor should all be having serious words with themselves after that game. We know we’ll see Burton, Digby, Taylor and Boateng again against Grimsby, but Iredale will probably miss out for the more defensive minded Dunk. Drysdale? We’d be surprised if we see him again, which is a shame as there’s a player in there, but he’s too susceptible to being caught out to be a serious option for a side looking to play in League One next year.
It’s easy to look for a scapegoat, but there isn’t one really. It doesn’t matter the ref was shite, it doesn’t matter that the team bus got held up in traffic on the way. Sometimes at League Two level you’re going to put in a terrible performance. We’ve put in a few already this season, as has almost every one of our rivals, but ours have tended to come against better opposition. Harrogate were there for the taking, but maybe we didn’t give them enough respect. Maybe we tried too hard to win comfortably when a 1-0 would have done the job. Maybe if Greg would have wellied that ball clear instead of stooping down to softly header it back to Burton from about six inches off the ground we wouldn’t be writing this now.
Grimsby come to the Abbey on Saturday, but just because they’re already relegated don’t think for one minute we’re going to roll them over. They’ll be playing for pride, to sign off their last game in the Football League with a win. We were lucky that results went our way Saturday, with only Morecambe picking up points. There’s something like 27 different permutations of results that are possible amongst the three un-promoted sides on Saturday. All but one of them result in Cambridge being promoted. We could just as easily end up as Champions as finish in the Playoffs. Let’s finish the job.
Man of the Match: Wes Hoolahan is pretty much the only player who can hold their head up high after that, but we don’t think he will.
Soundtrack of the Match: Roger Sanchez – Another Chance
United: Burton, Knoyle, Drysdale (Okedina), Taylor, Iredale (Dunk), Digby (Tracey), Hannant, Boateng (May), Hoolahan, Mullin, Ironside