@vinylperez has been in a state of nervous tension all week, and that got worse at 11:30 on Saturday when the teamsheet was announced showing the omission of Lloyd Jones. How did the day pan out?
I was a teenager the last time we beat P*sh, some twenty-five years ago. When I think about all the shit we’ve had to put up with since then; the almost criminal mis-management of our club that culminated in our spending nine years in non-league, the sale of the Abbey, the players who turned out for us seeking a payday and nothing else, I feel furious. The individuals involved who almost stole our club from us, the people that robbed us of two decades of derby days against that lot up the road. Yesterday was vindication for all Cambridge fans who had to deal with all that.
But this is meant to be a celebration- all that negativity is behind us now, the club is in the strongest position it’s been in in years, and after Saturday, we’re back in our rightful place as the best team in Cambridgeshire.
So: to the game, and the biggest talking point of the morning was the centre-back pairing of Michael Morrison and Ryan Bennett. Where was Lloyd Jones? How were this experienced, but aging, defensive duo going to cope with the divisions top scorer Johnson Clarke-Harris? The answer took a little while to come, and some initial scary moments soon gave way to a performance that started to frustrate and control the team in blue, United calmly going about their game with that back four of Bennett Jr, Morro, Bennett Sr and Dunk all impressing.
Then on the stroke of half time came the moment we’d all been waiting for – Conor McGrandles floating in a corner, Morro and Dunk were marked by one solitary P*sh defender, who was expertly manhandled out the way by Morrison leaving Dunk to tap in past the hapless ex-U Will Norris. Pandemonium erupted around an already feverish Abbey – the ghosts of the past finally being exorcised.
The second half was even more nervy than the first, as P*sh tried to assert themselves on to the game – they managed a decent amount of possession but United were more than a match for everything they tried. Up front Clarke-Harris snatched one wide, and in front of the NRE Norris was getting rattled by a vocal U’s contingent. He can’t have expected anything else, surely?
Eventually United settled back into the game and went about what they’d done so well in the first half. McGrandles was everywhere, Digby back to his usual best. On 66 minutes Smith picked up a long Mitov goal kick, passing it back to McGrandles who found Brophy. Brophy sent Liam Bennett scarpering towards the touchline where he cut it back for Smith to somehow lash at the ball and beyond Norris into the net, off the post. Cue another eruption in the NRE as well as in the Habbin and Main Stand.
After that the game was as good as over – P*sh were shellshocked and had no answer to United. Liam Bennett continued to torment them, tying their defenders in knots, especially after being moved into a more forward position following the introduction of Jubril Okedina from the bench.
As the final whistle blew and Coconuts began to ring out around the ground United fans celebrated another important three points. A couple of months ago there was a real risk that B*ro could have relegated us with a win at the Abbey, so all the credit in the world has to go to Mark Bonner for instilling a belief in this team that they can turn this around. We’re still far from being safe, but it’s in our hands and even if we do eventually come up short it won’t be without a fight – something I didn’t think I’d be saying a few matches ago.
I’ve been critical of Mark in the past, and I’ll also be the first to admit I was wrong there. Hindsight’s a funny thing, and yes, perhaps I was hasty to call for change in the dugout, but football is a strange game and out of nowhere (or more likely out of a shitload of passion and a hell of a lot of hard work on the training ground) teams can start to put together the runs they need to get out of trouble.
Finally, something worth touching on: We made the Abbey a really fucking horrible place for those players in Blue on Saturday. Noise from all three sides of the ground. Constant, and fully deserved abuse towards Darren Ferguson for ninety minutes, the rattling of Will Norris, the passion, the atmosphere and the support from every United fan that was there. Their fans barely made a sound, we didn’t let them. Like the game at their place we were the loudest, proudest and best fans on the day. More importantly, there doesn’t seem to be any repeat of the trouble seen at London Road earlier in the season. But most importantly still, the record for this season reads Cambridge United 2, P*sh 1. It’s been a long time coming, but that makes it all the sweeter. Whatever happens this season, wherever we finish, we beat them, and we’ll beat them again. Sooner than last time.
Man of The Match: You could pick any of them and you wouldn’t hear much argument from us. The club gave it to Harrison Dunk, and we’d be inclined to too, 452 games for the club, over a decade in Amber and a goal against B*ro: rename the stadium after him immediately. But Connor McGrandles, not for the first time put in an immense shift, so he gets the coveted UTAS gong for this match – however, massive, massive shout outs must go to both Bennett’s, Morro, Smith and Digby too.
Soundtrack of the Match: Lou Reed – Perfect Day
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