U’s 1-2 Cheltenham: Time to Go

This is the match report I really didn’t want to write. Like most U’s fans, I’m pretty upset this morning, not only at the result last night, but at the realisation that this really has to be the end of the road for Mark Bonner.

Before we get into the thick of it, lets take a minute to remember Mark and the legacy he will leave here at United. Keeping us up against all odds at the end of 2019-20. Leading not only the club, but what felt like the entire City through lockdown and then treating us to a season none of us will ever forget as we won promotion from League Two. An incredible consolidation season in League One and those great days up at Newcastle, Wigan and Ipswich. None of this changes all that. None of this takes anything away from Bonner’s achievements, his status as a fan, his love for the club, and the clubs love for him. When we eventually redevelop the NRE, there should still be a statue of him there – our best manager since Beck.

But last night showed that something is missing, the players aren’t doing what Bonner is asking. Cheltenham are one of the worst sides in the Division, and we showed absolutely nothing in a must-win home game against them. We got what we deserved, and that was nothing.

There’s obviously arguments for and against keeping Mark – in the past we’ve argued heavily for keeping him: he loves the club, he understands the culture here, who else is gonna do it? but in reality, looking at that side that played last night, are we going to get the results we need to stay up with Mark in charge? I don’t think so. Will a new manager keep us up? I’m not sure of that either, but I am certain we would get more points with someone else in the dugout.

Last night should have been a non-negotiable for the players. A must-win, or else. But did anyone show that desire out there? Did anyone have a good game? Liam Bennett maybe, but you can’t place the weight of a football club on the shoulders of a 21 year old right back. Any reasonably competent Sunday league footballer can hit a fairly accurate pass with their weaker foot, but James Brophy won’t even attempt it. Dimi Mitov had longer to prepare for that shot to fly past him than most astronomers have to prepare for that comet that only comes by once every 50,000 years. Lankester gets given the chance he’s been crying out for, then proceeds to do absolutely fuck all with it. Fejiri Okenabirhie is getting paid comfortably by us to rehabilitate himself enough to have a 20 goal season for someone else next year. George Thomas? I’m not sure he even exists.

Yes we’ve been unlucky with injuries, losing Adam May, Liam O’Neil, Dimi Mitov and Harvey Knibbs for long parts of the season. But it was Bonner who wanted a small, close-knit squad. It was Bonner who filled his small squad with players who aren’t adaptable enough to play in two or three positions leaving us with no plan B, no option to change things when things aren’t working out.

So yeah, we think time is up. We really wish it wasn’t. But I think that if Mark is being honest with himself, he knows he can’t get any more out of these players. They’ve given us two great seasons, but what’s left of that Promotion squad will all be gone come May. It’s time for a new start, and we hope to God that it’s in League One.

Bonner doesn’t deserve to be sacked. But he needs to leave now, to walk away with his head held high before he erases his legacy. Barry and the board need to come to some agreement with Mark, a mutually beneficial arrangement that sees him rightly recognised for all he’s done for this club. We’re in a far better place now than we were when he took over and a lot of that is down to Mark. He’s given us memories we’ll never forget, but now it’s time to move on.

Man of the Match: Liam Bennett never gave up.

Soundtrack of the Match: The Doors – The End

2 thoughts on “U’s 1-2 Cheltenham: Time to Go

Add yours

  1. The worrying thing is when..not if..we go down what will we have left of the current squad that can keep us up in div2. I can’t see how Paul Barry and the two yanks can keep investing in the overdue ground redevelopment and the players needed to stave off another relegation to the National league. Sounds pessimistic I know but we need to keep the club in the best condition on and off the field to survive this drop. I hope Bonner is the man for this fight back in div2. He just needs to be more aggressive in his tactics.


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