Cambridge United saw an away point snatched from their grasp with a late goal by Port Vale proving decisive in a scrappy League Two encounter at Vale Park.
Colin Calderwood made two changes to the previous League outing as Harrison Dunk replaced Harr Darling in defence and new signing Samir Carruthers made his first appearance in place of George Maris.
The hosts started brightly with David Worrall attempting an overhead kick inside a minute which was saved by Dimitar Mitov, whilst Richie Bennett and Cristian Montano both missed the target with a pair of clear opportunities in the early encounters.
United weathered the early storm though by disrupting Port Vale’s forward momentum and soaking up the pressure. A break away by former Valiants man Luke Hannant carved out United’s first opening as the midfielder chipped a cross into the path of Sam Smith, who did well to make contact with his head but directed wide of the far bottom corner.
Mitov was equal to a daisy cutter by Worrall from an angle shortly before the half an hour mark, and then the Bulgarian got both hands to a header at the far post by Luke Joyce moments later from a Worrall free kick.
There was not too much between the sides for the remainder of the first half though, which became a touch niggly in the approach to the break as both teams kept referee James Oldham busy with the whistle.
A low cross by David Amoo in the first five minutes of the second half took an awkward deflection off the shin of Carruthers on the edge of the U’s six yard box, but thankfully for the debutant looped over Mitov’s cross bar.
United almost caught the hosts out on a counter attack ten minutes into the half when Marc Richards stole possession at a drop ball before Sam Smith set Liam O’Neil away down the left, but the midfielder could not quite return the favour as his cross was cut out with a sliding challenge by Nathan Smith.
For much of the second half neither side looked like winning the scrappy contest, until Amoo hared between Paul Lewis and Harrison Dunk on 85 minutes and squeezed a pass across the U’s six yard box which was bundled over by a cluster of bodies
United’s big chance of the match soon followed, when an excellent turn of pace by Reggie Lambe saw the Bermudan pick out an unmarked Harvey Knibbs at the far post, who got his header all wrong and bounced it into the turf and over the bar from close range.
Port Vale: Brown, Gibbons, Crookes, Joyce, Legge, Worrall, Conlon, Montano (Taylor, 66 mins), Smith, Amoo, Bennett (Pope, 88 mins)
Cambridge United: Mitov, Davies, Taylor, Taft, Dunk, Carruthers (Roles, 64 mins), O’Neil (Lambe, 69 mins), Lewis, Hannant (Knibbs, 75 mins), Smith, Richards
Bookings: Taft, O’Neil, Roles
Attendance: 4,878 (236)