Local boy Josh Coulson scored the only goal as Cambridge United celebrated their return to the Football League with victory over Plymouth Argyle.
Coulson steered the ball in at the back post after a right-wing corner wasn’t dealt with well by the visiting defence.
Adam Cunnington had missed a first half penalty for United, who carved out a number of chances before Coulson’s intervention. It was fitting that the Cambridge born centre-back, a graduate of the club’s youth system, was the man to net the club’s first goal back in SkyBet League Two after a nine-year spell in non-league.
Chris Dunn and Issa Diallo were handed their full debuts in Richard Money’s starting XI. With Tom Elliott unavailable, Cunnington and Appiah were paired up front, with Robbie Simpson on the bench.
Plymouth enjoyed the better of the early stages, but United were handed a golden chance to take the lead by Plymouth left-back McHugh, who leant into a cross from Appiah and saw the ball rear up and hit him on the arm. However, Cunnington’s low penalty lacked the power required to beat McCormick, who pulled off a comfortable save to his left.
Centre-backs Josh Coulson and Tom Bonner had to make last ditch tackles to foil a couple of Plymouth chances, but though the visitors were seeing more of the ball, United continued to look dangerous. Bonner’s header from Donaldson’s accurate right wing corner was into the ground and bounced up over the bar, then Appiah turned well on the edge of the box and got his shot away but saw his powerful curling effort fly wide of the post.
Simpson joined the action at half time, replacing Cunnington, and playing in a deeper role behind Appiah.
And the switch seemed to work a treat, with the U’s coping better with the Argyle midfield, and carving out two good opportunities shortly after the restart. Donaldson broke through the centre and played in Richard Tait, whose angled shot was blocked by McCormick. Then Harrison Dunk chipped in a cross which Appiah headed over the cross bar.
The big moment came in the 62nd minute. Appiah’s shot was blocked behind for a corner, which was taken by Donaldson. Plymouth failed to deal with the cross, and it flicked off a defender to Coulson, who smashed in from close range.
Dunn made comfortable saves in the closing stages to foil Reid and Norburn, but United saw out time comfortably to record an opening day victory.
The U’s are on the road on Tuesday night, when they travel to Birmingham City in the Capital One Cup.
May I Claim Men of the Match: Josh Coulson and Kwesi Appiah
Cambridge United: Dunn, Tait, Taylor, Bonner, Coulson, Donaldson, Dunk, Champion, Diallo (Chadwick 84), Cunnington (Simpson 45), Appiah (Sam-Yorke 76). Subs not used: Norris, Hunt, Austin, Lennon.
Plymouth Argyle: McCormick, Mellor, Nelson, McHugh, Smalley, Banton (Morgan 70), Cox, Norburn (Blizzard 75), Alessandra (Thomas 83), Reid. Subs not used: Purrington, Harvey, Bentley, Bittner.
Referee: Graham Scott