Cast your mind back ten years ago. Cambridge United travelled to Hayes and Yeading, where in front of 744 people we lost 3-0. And you know what? Of all the shite players that turned out for us in the Conference years, this team wasn’t actually that bad. Chris Holroyd, Courtney Pitt, Robbie Willmott, it’s not like we put out a dreadful side that day. But we lost, and other than those defeats against Histon that shall never be mentioned again, it marked pretty much one of the lowest points of our time out of the EFL. But fast forward to Saturday, and United are in League One – Ipswich Town are the visitors, bringing 2500 fans to the Abbey. U’s fans have packed out the rest of the stadium, and the players wearing the Black & Amber include a certain Wes Hoolahan, who ten years ago was guiding Norwich to a 3-1 Premier League victory over Swansea.
So yeah, lots has changed at the Abbey over the past decade, but one thing that is consistent in football is that Ipswich Town are still crap. Anyone aged between 30 & 45 will remember Town for getting beasted every week in the Premier League, anyone under thirty probably won’t have paid them any attention at all. (Those over forty-five might remember them winning the UEFA Cup and FA Cup, but that’s ancient history now so we’ll gloss over it).
We haven’t played our sixth closest neighbours competitively since 1993 so for many fans of both sides this was their first time seeing us play each other – older fans will have fond memories of our League meetings in 1991 & 1992, where we briefly topped the Second Division after the match at the Abbey and won 2-1 at Portman Road on our way to the ill-fated playoffs that year. Despite the game being absolutely not-a-derby, there was still a good atmosphere around the stadium and in the stands.
Of course, United being United we decided to make things difficult for ourselves almost straight away, a big header out of defence catching the U’s backline napping, and Sone Aluko outmuscled Conor Masterson to race clear and chip over Dimi Mitov into an empty net. At least we kept a clean sheet for ten minutes this week, eh?
Ipswich were impressive and heaped pressure on United, which paid off twenty five minutes later, as Mitov came for and missed a corner which landed nicely for Aluko again to put across the line for his second goal of the afternoon. In the stands U’s fans were beginning to wonder if this was going to be another Lincoln.
Looking like heading in to the break with a two-nil deficit, United managed to get one back in arguably the games defining moment – a goal before half-time always changes things, and once James Brophy had finished a beautiful U’s move involving Big Joe, Wessi and Shilow Tracey you could see some of the confidence drop out of the Ipswich fans and players.
In the second half United were better, although Ipswich still showed moments of class, as well as a number of unsavoury moments where the referee continually missed foul after foul by the Town defence on Ironside. We never like to give refs too much stick (okay, we do), but this guy was one of the worst there is. At times it felt like Ipswich’s players were going to rip the shirt clean off Ironsides back, yet even if they had you think the ref wouldn’t have given the foul. We know Joe is a physical player, and takes the rough treatment without complaint, but refs need to start giving him more protection or there’s a real chance he could suffer an injury we can ill afford.
After being the victim of so much rough play, justice was served two minutes from full time as a corner was floated on to the head of Lloyd Jones back towards goal where the birthday boy himself towered above the Ipswich defence that had spent the whole game fouling him to nod in a deserved equaliser. The Abbey erupted as Ironside was joined by Williams, Digby, Smith and Knibbs in front of the NRE, with Wes Hoolahan, a man who hasn’t EVER lost a game of football against Ipswich Town joining in the fun too.
So, there’s positives and negatives to take from the game, and we discuss those in more detail in the latest episode of the podcast below. In the meantime, let’s enjoy the point, let’s look forward to the match against Sheffield Wednesday on Tuesday, and lets also keep an eye on that three point gap to the teams in the drop zone below us.
Because, when all is said and done – we’re here in League One, we’re here mixing it with the likes of Ipswich, and Sheffield Wednesday because we deserve to be. We might not be the most talented side in the division, and most United fans would be happy if we ended the season as fifth-worst team in the division, but when it comes to spirit and fight – these boys are top of the league. We’ve said on the pod previously that these games against the ‘big’ sides are the bonuses, and we need to be beating the smaller teams in the division to assure ourselves of safety – but the fact of the matter is that we’ve played the likes of Bolton, Portsmouth and Ipswich already and haven’t lost to any of them. We’re competing in this league, and not many teams will fancy a visit to the Abbey if we continue to show this kind of fight. Now all we’ve got to do is shore up the defence (Michael Morrison, John Ruddy are you listening? Come back!) a bit and stop gifting teams easy, early goals and we should be able to put a bit more of a gap between us and the pack at the bottom. And if we don’t? Well, you know this team isn’t going to go down without a fight. As for Ipswich? They can keep their celebrity owner and his shit music, their Portman Road and their FA Cup. Because they don’t have the Abbey Stadium, they don’t have Wes Hoolahan, and they don’t have Joe Fucking Ironside.
Man of The Match: Do you really need us to tell you? The Birthday boy. The main man. Big Joe Ironside. Shout outs go to Wes (obviously), Shilow Tracey and James Brophy.
Soundtrack of the Match:
Ed Sh… Quincy Jones – Theme From Ironside
United: Mitov, Williams, Jones, Masterson, Iredale, May, Digby, Tracey (Smith), Brophy (Knibbs), Hoolahan, Ironside (Dunk)