Cambridge United extended their unbeaten run in the Blue Square Bet Premier to nine games with an impressive victory over Stockport County.
United hit the front thanks to Liam Hughes first goal of the season, thumped home from 12 yards in the 19th minute. But their lead lasted little more than 60 seconds, Danny Whitehead charging through to equalise for the Hatters.
Just before the interval Josh Coulson showed good presence of mind to put United back in front from close range, and after the break Hughes added his second with a low finish from just outside the box.
Harrison Dunk then sprinted half the length of the pitch following a Stockport corner to tee up Tom Elliott for a tap-in against his former club.
Elliott, who replaced the injured Sam Smith, was one of two changes to the U’s starting line-up as Richard Money was forced to alter the team that beat Braintree 1-0. Andy Pugh was also missing with a dead leg, so Billy Gibson was handed a first start in amber and black.
Money’s charges made a rapid start, and Elliott had the ball in the net in the fifth minute, when he headed home a cross from Kevin Roberts, but was denied an early goal by the offside flag.
Stockport soon found their feet, playing some neat passing football in front of the United defence. The one time they did manage to breach the home back-line, Danny Whitehead got in behind Coulson but his angled shot flashed across goal and past the post.
The deadlock was broken in the 19th minute. A half-cleared free kick fell to Coulson on the edge of the box, and his half-volley was well saved by Hatters keeper Ian Ormson. But the ball broke loose to Harrison Dunk, and though his low cross was half-cleared, the ball broke to Hughes who lashed it home from 12 yards.
It was the youngster’s first goal of the season in United colours, but a lack of concentration at the back meant County were on level terms almost immediately. Whitehead seized on a loose pass from James Jennings, and with time and space took a couple of touches before scoring with a low shot from the edge of the area.
United’s second arrived four minutes before half-time, following a period of scrappy in which neither side managed to create too many clear cut chances. Dunk won a free kick wide on the left, which was hit into the box low by Jennings. Coulson was among a gaggle of players challenging for it at the near post, and when the ball span clear he managed to poke it over the line from a position prone on the floor.
Buoyed by that goal, United could added another just after the restart, but Gash was unable to get the final touch on a low cross from Gibson which beat Ormson and flashed across the six-yard box.
But the noisy home fans didn’t have to wait long for a third goal. Hughes had already dragged one shot wide when he received a pass from Gash and drilled a superb low shot into the bottom corner from 25 yards, giving Ormson no chance.
The final goal came in the 69th minute following a brilliant save from Craig Ross, who turned James Tunnicliffe’s shot over the bar at full-stretch. Elliott half-cleared the resulting corner, and a mistake from Jordan Fagbola allowed Dunk to seize on the loose ball and sprint clear on goal from inside his own half. Elliott surged up the middle to join Dunk, and was in the right place to roll the ball into the empty net after receiving a square pass from the winger.
Hughes could have had a hat-trick late on, but put a free header wide from Jennings’ left wing cross.
United now have a ten-day break from league action, before they resume the campaign with a home game against Nuneaton on January 15.
Man of the Match: Liam Hughes – A tireless performance in midfield capped with two excellent goals.
Cambridge United: Ross, Roberts, Jennings, Coulson, McAuley, Gibson (Haynes-Brown 65), Dunk (Thorpe 75), Jarvis, Hughes, Gash, Elliott (Wellard 71). Subs not used: Hedge, Willmott.
Stockport County: Ormson, Fagbola, Brownhill (Hobson 58), Tunnicliffe, Connor (Hattersley 72), Kenyon, Nolan, Collins (Newton 58), Mainwaring, Whitehead, Jennings. Subs not used: Sheridan, Smith.
Referee: Mr K.Johnson
FULL TIME: CAMBRIDGE UNITED 4-1 STOCKPORT COUNTY
16.52: The full-time whistle sounds to much applause at the R Costings Abbey Stadium, three more points for Richard Money’s men, and they got them in impressive fashion.
16.50: Drama in the closing stages as a lovely pass from Gash releases Haynes-Brown, who brushes past Connor and is brought down. That’s a free kick right outside the box, and a yellow for Connor, who could’ve easily seen red. Hughes’ free kick strikes the wall and bounces away.
16.48: Four minutes to be added as Michael Gash tries to chip the keeper from 25 yards but floats his shot wide.
16.46: Chances at both ends, with Jennings working a neat one-two with Hughes before shooting right-footed into the arms of Ormson. Then at the other Ross makes a diving save to parry a Hattersley header, think that might’ve been going wide anyway.
16.38: Great chance for Liam Hughes to complete his hat-trick. Jennings’ cross finds him unmarked eight yards out but he can only head weakly into Ormson’s grateful clutches. At the other end it takes a great interception from Coulson to foil Hattersley.
16.35: And now United replace Harrison Dunk with Jonathon Thorpe for the last 16 minutes, Dunk involved in two of the goals today.
16.30: County make their final change, Connor off to be replaced by Danny Hattersley.
16.28: GOAL CAMBRIDGE UNITED 4-1 STOCKPORT COUNTY. TOM ELLIOTT stretches to win the ball on the edge of his own box following a Stockport corner. Fagbola completely misses his kick and leaves Dunk completely in the clear. The winger makes a beeline for the box before teeing up the onrushing Elliott for a coolly taken tap in. That’s Elliott’s last action, he’s replaced by Ricky Wellard to a great ovation from the supporters.
16.27: Dunk, now operating on the right, with a foul on Hobson. In comes the free kick from Newton, half away, ball back into the box and Craig Ross makes a super save, leaping to turn Tunnicliffe’s shot over the bar.
16.26: Jarvis corner causes chaos in the box, but McAuley’s hooked shot is deflected over. Today’s attendance is 2,305.
16.25: First United change sees Curtis Haynes-Brown on for Billy Gibson, who looked decent on his full debut.
16.20: Almost an immediate impact for Newton, who finds himself in space in the box but his shot is well blocked by Kevin Roberts and spins through to Ross.
16.16: Double change for County in the aftermath of that goal, Newton and Hobson introduced for Brownhill and Collins.
16.13: GOAL CAMBRIDGE UNITED 3-1 STOCKPORT COUNTY. United increase their lead and it’s LIAM HUGHES with his second. Ball breaks to the United midfielder from a throw in on the left, and he takes a touch before arrowing a terrific 20-yard shot into the bottom corner, lovely stuff.
16.10: Stockport with a corner, but United break with Dunk. He looks to have held onto the ball for too long, but works it into Jarvis, then Elliott, whose pass round the corner finds Hughes breaking forward. Unfortunately he screws a left foot shot wide under pressure.
16.05: Oooh chance for United as a long cross field pass reaches Gibson. His low cross beats Ormson but Gash can’t quite stretch to turn it home.
16.04: Back underway at the R Costings Abbey Stadium, Jennings escapes down the left for Stockport but his cross floats onto the roof of the net.
HALF TIME: CAMBRIDGE UNITED 2-1 STOCKPORT COUNTY
15.48: There goes the half-time whistle. United in front with a lead they probably deserve. They’ve looked the more dangerous though Stockport have had their chances too.
15.41: GOAL CAMBRIDGE UNITED 2-1 STOCKPORT COUNTY. Fagbola penalised after some tooing-and-froing with Dunk. Free kick United wide on our left. In it comes from Jennings to the near post, JOSH COULSON can’t make a good initial contact, but from a prone position on the ground somehow pokes the ball over the line at the second attempt. Not sure why the keeper didn’t stop that, but in it trickled. United back in front.
15.38: YELLOW CARD. Late challenge from James Jennings on Collins sees him become the first player in Mr Johnson’s book. County work the free kick down their right but Jennings is there to see the ball out for a throw-in.
15.29: Lovely one-touch play from United gets Jennings in on the left, but Ormson just about hangs onto his cross – initially with one hand – as Gash looks to pounce.
15.27: Better from United, Roberts floats a cross in from the right, Gash beats Ormson to the ball and heads it back across, but Elliott can’t quite force it home, and as the rebound drops to Gibson his shot is charged down.
15.25: Bit scrappy since the goals, Stockport have a corner now though, Nolan’s shot deflected behind. Connor meets it at the near post but flicks a header into the side-netting.
15.20: GOAL CAMBRIDGE UNITED 1-1 STOCKPORT COUNTY. Hmm, United’s concentration issues come back to haunt them again. Straight from kick off Stockport come forward, DANNY WHITEHEAD picks up the ball 30 yards out, strides forward and, with no challenge forthcoming, finds the corner of the net with a low shot. All square.
15.19: GOAL CAMBRIDGE UNITED 1-0 STOCKPORT COUNTY. United in front through LIAM HUGHES. Free kick half cleared to Coulson, his shot is spilled by Ormson and reaches Dunk. Although County half clear his low cross the ball runs to Hughes who thrashes the ball into the net from 12 yards, boom.
15.13: Crikey, that’s even closer. A long ball catches out the United defence, Whitehead gets in behind but fires his shot from the left angle across goal and just wide of the far post. Will probably feel he should’ve scored.
15.11: Free kick County right on the edge of the box, Roberts penalised for climbing on Kenyon. Collins takes but curls it over the crossbar, Ross happy to see that one fly a couple of feet over the bar.
15.05: Tom Elliott’s header finds the net against his former club, he guides the ball past Ormson but the offside was already up against the big striker.
15.04: Whitehead with Stockport’s first shot, but Craig Ross watches his effort from 20 yards float harmlessly wide.
15.02: Early corner for United won by Jennings. Over it comes from Rossi Jarvis, McAuley climbs highest but can’t make a clean contact, the ball skims across his forehead and County can clear.
15.01: Off we go, United attacking the South Stand in the first half.
14.56: The teams are out. This fixture finished 2-2 last season, with Luke Berry and Jordan Patrick (remember him?) scoring for United in a match which was broadcast live on Premier Sports TV.
14.38: TEAM NEWS. United make two changes to the team that beat Braintree on New Year’s Day. One is a bit of a surprise, with Billy Gibson starting for the first time at the expense of Andy Pugh, who has a dead leg, and Robbie Willmott, who remains on the bench. Also back in the side is top scorer Tom Elliott, who joined the U’s from Stockport in the summer. He has recovered from a hamstring injury, and replaces Sam Smith, who picked up an injury in the Braintree fixture.
No ex-U’s in the County side, though they do field Connor Jennings, younger brother of United left-back James.
Cambridge United: Ross, Roberts, Jennings, Coulson, McAuley, Gibson, Dunk, Jarvis, Hughes, Gash, Elliott. Subs: Hedge, Wellard, Thorpe, Willmott, Haynes-Brown.
Stockport County: Ormson, Fagbola, Brownhill (Newton 58), Tunnicliffe, Connor, Kenyon, Nolan, Collins (Hobson 58), Mainwaring, Whitehead, Jennings. Subs: Newton, Hattersley, Hobson, Sheridan, Smith.
14.30: Good afternoon and welcome to the R Costings Abbey Stadium for this afternoon's clash between Cambridge United and Stockport County. United will be looking to continue their unbeaten run, which now stretches to eight league games, with victory over Jim Gannon's side.