U’s 4-3 Burton: Sam Smith, Sam & Big Sam

United welcomed Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink’s struggling Brewers to the Abbey on Saturday for what turned out to be one of the most eventful Cambridge games in recent years.
Burton came into the game with only one point in the league so far this season and had only managed to score in one of those games (even though that was 4 goals in their draw away at Accrington). United were looking to keep their 100% league record at the Abbey this season going, but it wasn’t the best start…

Burton came out of the blocks straight from kick-off and scored the quickest goal in their history – Gassan Ahadme heading home after the ball had been lumped forward, driven across the box and sat up perfectly for the striker to score inside 12 seconds.
It was difficult to take much from that start from United’s point of view but it was less than ideal and the U’s looked a little shell-shocked. The game calmed down momentarily as both sides got into their stride but then a big point in the game came when Burton’s Jonny Smith was shown a straight red on the 10th minute, for kicking out at Harrison Dunk off the ball. There were few complaints from the Brewers and United will have felt like the game was now there for the taking.

United toiled and did their best to break down a stubborn Burton side (who of course featured everyone’s favourite Tom Hamer), and were finally rewarded when Sam Smith brought us level on the 34th minute. Shilow Tracey did really well on the left and whipped in a fantastic cross-field ball for Smith to head back across goal and into the bottom corner. Big Joe, who once again toiled all day was sliding in to try and get the final touch/help it across the line but the ball went in and United were level.
Mark Bonner’s men would now surely look to push on and put this game to bed, wouldn’t you think? We all know it’s never that simple and Burton still looked the stronger side, compounding United’s worries on the 41st minute when captain John Brayford headed home a Taylor corner to make it 2-1 to Burton. On reflection it’s a bit of an unforgivable goal to concede – a free header less than 5 minutes from half-time, against an outfit of 10.

As we plodded behind the NRE at half-time for our pies/pints/cigarettes/secret tears at how crap a half that felt, there was a real feeling of it being one of the days and it’s safe to say it all felt a bit flat.

The second half felt unsettled from both team’s points-of-view and no-one was really able to dictate the pace of the game. But on the 53rd minute Sam Smith again found himself in that killer position – Tracey once again very dangerous from the left, whipping the ball in deep and causing the Burton defence all sorts of problems. Eventually the ball fell to Harvey Knibbs, who headed down to Adam May who looked poised to make it 2-2. Indeed May did hit the ball into the ground towards goal, but Smith’s poacher-like reactions were there from him to glance the header towards the corner and he and Cambridge had 2, and were back to parity.
Harrison Dunk had been brilliant, spraying a long ball forward to set up the start of that goal and Ol’ Harry was at again, pinging a ball over the top for Sam Smith who was in to complete his hat-trick, but was well denied by Albion keeper, Ben Garratt.
This game was moving now at a million miles an hour, and then disaster struck for United. Okedina calmly played it back to Mitov to start another move, or so we thought. Dimi took slightly too long over his distribution, giving Ahadme the chance to run in and block the clearance. Mitov could only look on as the ball looped over him into the net, and amazingly the Staffordshire 10 men had the lead again at 3-2.

United had just introduced Liam O’Neil before that goal and that would turn out to be a very wise move from Mark Bonner. Less than 2 minutes after that goal had gone in, O’Neil picked the ball up in the centre of the pitch and played a delightful, side-footed ball over the top for Smith to lash in first-time and secure his first ever senior hat-trick. It was a goal of real quality and yet another chance for the U’s to get back into the game.
United tails now did seem to be up – Burton had managed so much of this game with 10 men, and weather a number of storms but it seemed like they would be in for a tricky last 20 minutes of the game. United huffed and puffed and the long ball once again made the difference for them – this is a lot different to the long balls of League 2, these are things of real quality. United have really honed their range of passing in establishing themselves as a League 1 team but also the players receiving the balls too. The ball was zipped in hard to Joe Ironside’s chest, he brought it down expertly and teed it up perfectly for Liam O’Neil to run in and fire into the bottom corner from the edge of the box, Cambridge now leading 4-3.
A man who has divided fans for a number of years, once again has come on and changed a game for United, incredible stuff. That goal was scored with 10 minutes of normal time still on the clock so the job wasn’t done for United. As much as the last 10 minutes plus stoppage time will have felt like an eternity for Cambridge fans there wasn’t too much incident and on the ref’s final whistle Cambridge somehow had snatched all 3 points. It feels like it is going to be a long season for Burton and their fans, but they can take confidence from their resilience and scoring 3 goals at a fortress like the Abbey…

Man of the Match: The obvious candidate would be Sam Smith – bagging that first ever senior hat-trick and just looking very dangerous. Honourable mentions to Harrison Dunk and Shilow Tracey, whose range of passing and dangerous play from out wide is a wonder to watch. But I’ve gone for Liam O’Neil, coming on at such a crucial time and turning the game on its head (I’m a Liam O’Neil fan if you can’t already tell).

Soundtrack of the Match: Status Quo – Rockin All Over The World

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: