Hello everybody and welcome to the Abbey Stadium for a game of relegation Bingo! Eyes down for a full house.
Number 19. Season-long injury to your most creative midfielder
Number 6: Own goal in the first derby game in 20+ years.
Number 10: Your best striker wanting a move to another club and not putting in the effort required.
Number 44: Yep, it’s another midfield injury! After less than a two hours of football
Number 2: Right back being played as a centre forward.
That was it then, the last desperate throw of the dice by Mark Bonner, and the final tick on everyones relegation bingo cards – playing a defender up front. Tactical genius, or a man fresh out of ideas on just how the hell he’s going to save us from the mess we’ve found ourselves in?
For the first five minutes or so, we didn’t start too badly. But then it all started to go wrong. A marginal offside call (which was probably correct) didn’t go our way, and Jesurun Rak-Sakyi was running free into the box, he cuts the ball back where Miles Leaburn was there unchallenged to fire home for the opener.
Rak-Sakyi, an impressive loan signing from Crystal Palace (we’ve written enough about our failure to dip in the loan market, our only loan signing coming from Charlton, the ineligible Conor McGrandles) was on the scoresheet for their second, a free kick (softly given, but thems the breaks when you’re down here) floated into the box where Rak-Sakyi found himself unmarked to flick home.
From then on Charlton were fully in control. They weren’t particularly good, but looked like Real Madrid against what passes for a Cambridge United side these days.
The second half saw Bonner make three changes, Michael Morrison, who was doing his best made way for Steve Seddon, a clearly unfit Harvey Knibbs was replaced by Ben Worman, and a clearly couldn’t-be-bothered Sam Smith sulked off for Shilow Tracey.
The changes made a huge difference. Worman showing just how effective playing two central midfielders instead of one can be, Seddon attacked with real intent, and Tracey did very little in all honesty, but it was still four or five times the effort Smith had been putting in.
United came close to reducing the defecit from a corner, Ryan Bennett rising high to head goalwards but he was denied by a great save from the Addicks keeper. 15 minutes later another corner came over to Bennett again, and he flicked on to Lloyd Jones to finish.
At this point United were playing pretty well, with a rarely seen intensity, but it wasn’t enough. With a couple of minutes to Bonner looked to the bench again, hooking James Brophy (who’d had a torrid afternoon) and replacing him with George Williams. Was Bonner shoring up at the back to prevent Charlton getting another and making our goal difference worse? Nope, Big George was going up top. That change was about as effective as you could imagine, and the final whistle was mercifully blown not long after.
I don’t think there’s a pair of hands big enough to clutch at the number of straws you’d need to truly believe that United will avoid the drop now. There’s still a mathematical chance, obviously, but that’s soon going to disappear no matter how badly other teams around us do. There’s nine games left now, and some of them are against pretty decent opposition. It would be the greatest escape of all if Mark is able to somehow find a formula to get results out of this side, but the saddest thing of all is this isn’t a team of shitty mercenaries and no-hopers like the lot that took us down back in 2005. These guys have given us some of our best memories as Cambridge United fans, but for whatever reason have hit a brick wall this season, and that’s what hurts the most. It’s easy to hate shitheads like Danny Webb and Justin Walker, but these boys don’t deserve dogs abuse, no matter how limply we go down. Let’s try and remember that.
Man of the Match: Liam Bennett had another decent game, and Steve Seddon did more in 45 minutes than most of the others managed in 90.
Soundtrack of the Match: Boris Dlugosch & Roisin Murphy – Never Enough
The more I think about it, the more it seems like players not being committed to the cause must have been a major factor in our struggles this season. The modern footballer doesn’t give 110% every week if he wants a move to a bigger club. The modern players sulks and downs tools until his agent can get him an escape route. Cannot advocate for offering many contracts to this squad for next season, even if some players may want them. They may have been heroes last season but their lack of effort and quality at times is taking us down this season.