The club Twitter page said it right: As thrilling as that was, let’s not do it again. @vinylperez looks back on a nerve-wracking Sunday at the Abbey.
Before we get into anything I’m going to start with an apology: Mark Bonner, I’m sorry. I was wrong. Perhaps I was too hasty to call for a change in management earlier in the season. You said you believed in yourself to turn it around, and although I doubted you would, you proved me wrong. Football is a passionate game, and sometimes we let that passion get the better of us and we get things wrong and say things we regret. My stance came purely from wanting the best for this club, and at the time I thought that a change in manager was the way to achieve that. No-one is happier than I am to have been proved wrong on this.
Anyway, this isn’t about me – it’s about Mark Bonner, and those 11 players out on the pitch. Yes we relied on other teams doing us a favour on Sunday, but in the end we achieved enough points to stay up, albeit by the skins of our teeth. Whatever way you look at it, we did enough to stay up and that’s worth celebrating.
You can’t mention our recent run without speaking about two players in particular and it was fitting that both of them ended up on the scoresheet Sunday. Harrison Dunk is Mr Cambridge United, closing in on 500 appearances for the club, and spending over a decade in the Amber & Black. He’s always been an important part of how we play, but that importance has increased tenfold over the last few weeks as he added three massive goals to his tally. We’ll talk about contracts and who should stay/go at a later date, but we’d be astounded if the club don’t offer Dunk a new deal.
The other player is Sam Smith. He’s split opinions at times but after listening to his post-match interview you can be in no doubt that he deeply cares about this club and regrets some of his actions that drove a bit of a wedge between him and some fans. That can all be forgiven now, and it’s looking likely he’ll leave the club in June, he does so with the respect of fans for his goals over the last nine games, especially his last, a Van Basten-esque volley with his weaker foot.
I’m not sure it’s really worth going over the game in too much detail – you can find that kind of stuff on the BBC, and it’s over now, consigned with the rest of this season to history. As a club we now need to look forward – to ensure the mistakes made this season aren’t repeated, and to build on the foundations set by Paul Barry and the owners to buy our ground back. Make no mistake, relegation would have been a huge setback for the club’s ambitions, but now we can look forward to an Amber future and try to get this club to the place that it, that us fans, deserves. Bonner himself said as much on his address on the pitch after the match.
A number of the players this season won’t return to the Abbey, and they leave with our best wishes. However this season panned out (and there were chunks of it that were pretty bad) you can’t fault any of them for the effort they’ve given this club over the past however many seasons. Some will go on to bigger things, some will drop down the Leagues, some might leave the game completely, but we’ll always have those memories of that period from 2020-2023 when we got promotion, won at Newcastle and completed the great escape.
Before I finish there’s one group of people I haven’t mentioned: You U’s fans. Your support has been incredible this season despite some really difficult periods. Not every performance deserved the support you gave Home and Away. It was incredible to see the Abbey full of United on Sunday, and at various other times this season we made it a cauldron, a really horrible place for teams to come. We need to keep that up- the atmosphere we can create is one of our biggest assets, and biased as I am, there really aren’t many sets of fans more passionate in the 92.
The final word of this “match report” goes to who it started with: Mark Bonner. Despite staying up I’m sure Bonner won’t see this as a particularly successful season and he will no doubt strive to make sure that doesn’t happen again next time out. He’s shown incredible loyalty to United, and United have repaid that. The majority of U’s fans repaid that too, and I hope that those who did call for his head have now reconsidered their views (as I have) and will support him into the next season. There’s NO-ONE better to take this club forward than Mark Bonner, and I hope he remains in charge for many successful years ahead.
Man of the Match: Toss a coin between Dunk and Smith.
Soundtrack of the Match: The Great Escape Theme
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