U's back to winning waysTwo goals in three second half minutes from Robbie Willmott and Tom Elliott gave Cambridge United a deserved victory over Macclesfield Town.
After dominating the first half but not managing to find the net, the U's opened the scoring in the 55th minute when Willmott took advantage of a mix-up between Tony Diagne and Lance Cronin to rob the Macclesfield keeper and slot the ball into the empty net.
Three minutes later Elliott made it 2-0 from close range, heading home after arriving unmarked to meet a James Jennings free kick. United were relatively untroubled in the closing stages, meaning debutant goalkeeper Jed Steer was able to celebrate a clean sheet.
Steer, on loan from Norwich City, was one of five changes made by boss Richard Money following Tuesday's 6-2 humbling at Newport. Jonathan Hedge dropped to the bench, along with Michael Wylde and Tom Shaw, while Ricky Wellard and Sam Smith missed out all together. In came Rossi Jarvis, Harrison Dunk, Robbie Willmott and Kevin Roberts, making his first start since picking up an injury on the opening day of the season. Roberts took the captain's armband as United reverted to a 4-4-2 formation.
In Jon-Paul Kissock and ex-U's man Keiran Murtagh, Macclesfield have a midfield pairing with the quality to unlock most defences in the Blue Square Bet Premier, and from the off it was clear that United's plan was to close down their opponents at any opportunity, with the front four doing a good job of pressurising their Macc counter-parts.
An error from Ryan Jackson gave Michael Gash an early sight of goal, but he could only curl a low shot into the arms of Lance Cronin. Indeed Jackson looked shaky throughout the first half, with Dunk and James Jennings able to raid forward dangerously on several occasions. Tom Elliott saw an angled shot saved by the legs of Cronin, and planted a header wide, while at the other end Roberts had to make a lunging block to get in the way of a shot from Matthew Barnes-Homer.
Overall Macclesfield probably saw more of the ball in the first half, but they struggled to make the most of it and Steer remained untroubled. Murtagh's curling shot that floated comfortably wide of the post was the closest they came to breaking the deadlock.
United's attacks looked a lot more incisive, and a scampering run from Robbie Willmott in the opening moments of the second period saw him lash a shot just past the upright. The former Luton man didn't have to wait long for his goal though. In the 55th minute Steer launched the ball downfield, and as Diagne and Cronin hesitated, Willmott barged past the pair of them, and kept his cool to roll the ball into the empty net.
Three minutes later it was 2-0. The Macc defence switched off as a free kick from Jennings curled into the area, and Elliott was able to rise unchallenged to head home his eighth goal of the season.
Dunk should have made it 3-0 after good play from Gash and Willmott, but the winger dragged his first time effort wide from just inside the box, despite having the goal at his mercy.
Macclesfield boss Steve King introduced ex-United front man Chris Holroyd in a bid to get back into the match, but the only moment of danger for United in the closing stages was when Steer slipped over as he attempted to catch a hanging cross-cum-shot from Braham-Barrett. Fortunately the young stopper was able to recover and palm the ball out from under his cross-bar, and Rory McAuley completed the clearance.
The final whistle heralded a first win in four matches for United, who have another home fixture coming up on Saturday when Alfreton Town visit the R Costings Abbey Stadium.
Man of the Match: Kevin Roberts - A flawless performance from the returning U's skipper, who defended impeccably and got forward well in support of Willmott.
Cambridge United: Steer, Roberts, Jennings, Coulson, McAuley, Willmott, Dunk (Hughes 79), Jarvis, Berry, Gash, Elliott (Shaw 86). Subs not used: Hedge, Wylde, Pugh.
Macclesfield Town: Cronin, Jackson, Braham-Barrett, Diagne, Martin, Mackreth (Fairhurst 71), Kissock, Murtagh, Wedgbury, Morgan-Smith (Holroyd 66), Barnes-Homer. Subs not used: Henry, Mills, Winn.
Referee: Mr J.Hopkins
Attendance: 1,821 (away 89)
FULL TIME: CAMBRIDGE UNITED 2-0 MACCLESFIELD TOWN
16.52: That's full time, United deserved winners here as they claim their first win in four games to send the crowd home happy.
16.49: Three minutes to be added, assuming United see them out, sans disaster, this is a very satisfactory afternoon's work.
16.46: YELLOW CARD. Super play by Luke Berry, who wins the ball near the edge of his own box and carries the ball almost the whole length of the field before he's dumped to the ground by Wedgbury, who is deservedly booked.
16.43: Terrible terrible free kick from Diagne, walloped high over the bar. Bless. Tom Elliott goes off to a standing ovation, Tom Shaw on in his place.
16.42: Crikey, free kick Macclesfield right on the edge of the box, Holroyd goes down rather theatrically under challenge from Coulson.
16.39: YELLOW CARD. Now Willmott, who has moved out to the left in Dunk's absence, goes in the book for hauling back Jackson. Macc's free kick is well headed away by McAuley.
16.37: Here's a change for United, Liam Hughes replacing Dunk, who seemed to have injured himself a few minutes ago. Hughesy's first touch sees him shank a cross high over the NRE, must've hit a bobble or something.
16.35: YELLOW CARD. Harrison Dunk into the book for United, fairly obviously body check on Holroyd. Free kick Macc in a good position for Kissock to deliver, but its headed away by Roberts.
16.31: Another change for Macc, with Fairhurst on for Mackreth. The visitors now switched to a 4-3-3 formation.
16.28: Heart in mouth stuff there as Steer misjudges a cross from Braham-Barrett, just about flapping it away from under his bar. Fortunately there's a defender in place to hack the ball clear from inside the six yard box.
16.25: A chance for number three there, Willmott flights into the back stick, Gash nods it down but Dunk, rushing in, drags his shot wide from just inside the box. First change for Macclesfield sees Chris Holroyd replacing Amari Morgan-Smith.
16.21: YELLOW CARD. Murtagh goes in the book for bundling Dunk to the ground, free kick to United on the left corner of the box. Willmott smashes the free kick into the wall though.
16.16: GOAL CAMBRIDGE UNITED 2-0 MACCLESFIELD TOWN. Easy this goalscoring lark. Jennings launches a free kick into the box, Josh Coulson knocks it down and TOM ELLIOTT finishes off from close range, United two up.
16.13: GOAL CAMBRIDGE UNITED 1-0 MACCLESFIELD TOWN. United in front with a goal out of nothing! Long ball over the top, Diagne and Cronin sort of leave it for each other and ROBBIE WILLMOTT bundles through the pair of them to knock the ball into the empty net. Lovely.
16.09: Murtagh volleys over after a Macc corner at one end, and United promptly race down the other and win a flag kick of their own. Jarvis delivers and Elliott, diving in, heads into the side netting, unlucky.
16.07: Close from Robbie Willmott, who cuts in from the flank and puts a low shot just wide of the post with Cronin scrambling. Today's attendance is 1,821 (away 89).
16.04: Back underway here at the R Costings Abbey Stadium, and Macc have a free kick after the backtracking Elliott fouls Murtagh. In it goes into the box, there's a scramble but Coulson keeps his cool and clears.
HALF-TIME: CAMBRIDGE UNITED 0-0 MACCLESFIELD TOWN
15.49: That's half-time, enjoyable game for the neutral, United playing as well as they have for some weeks. But Macc have looked dangerous in patches, and it remains to be seen whether we can maintain our level of performance in the second half. Still all to play for though.
15.43: Not too much to report at the moment, fairly easy on the eye this game though, both teams trying to pass the ball quickly. Steer almost plays himself into trouble there though, a poor shot clearance to Roberts, who just about manages to scoop it into touch with three Macc players closing.
15.26: YELLOW CARD. Jennings goes past Ryan Jackson, who blocks him off. That's a free kick and a booking for the visiting right back. Cronin gets a good punch on the free kick from Jarvis, Jennings latches onto the loose ball and fires a dipping right footed shot just wide.
15.22: Willmott delivers an inviting cross which zips through the corridor of uncertainty in the six yard box, sadly neither Gash nor Dunk can get a touch and it's behind for a goal kick.
15.21: Martin all over the back of Tom Elliott, that'll be a United free kick. In it comes from Jarvis, but McAuley can only plant a header into the arms of Cronin.
15.14: Good work from Willmott sees him play a pass inside Braham-Barrett for the overlapping Roberts, but Elliott can't quite get enough on his low cross to trouble Cronin. Macclesfield half clear but the U's work the ball back to Dunk, who smashes a shot a couple of feet over, the crowd enjoyed that passage of play.
15.12: Murtagh with Macclesfield's first effort, but it curls harmlessly wide of the post.
15.06: Two chances for the U's and Tom Elliott. First he sees a low shot from a narrow angle stopped by the feet of Lance Cronin, then the big man plants a header wide from Jennings' inviting cross.
15.03: Jackson's poor pass back presents the ball to Gash, but his low curling shot to the near post is saved by Cronin.
15.02: Here we go, United get us underway attacking the South Stand.
14.59: The players are out on the pitch, another spares crowd at the Abbey today by the looks of it. The referee this afternoon is John Hopkins, and he'll get us underway after we've had a minute's silence ahead of Remembrance Sunday tomorrow.
Cambridge United: Steer, Roberts, Jennings, Coulson, McAuley, Willmott, Dunk (Hughes 79), Jarvis, Berry, Gash, Elliott (Shaw 86). Subs: Hedge, Wylde, Shaw, Pugh, Hughes.
Macclesfield Town: Cronin, Jackson, Braham-Barrett, Diagne, Martin, Mackreth (Fairhurst 71), Kissock, Murtagh, Wedgbury, Morgan-Smith (Holroyd 66), Barnes-Homer. Subs: Henry, Mills, Holroyd, Fairhurst, Winn.
14.40: TEAM NEWS. Five changes for United today as Richard Money reverts to a 4-4-2 formation. The surprise is that Kevin Roberts returns for the first time since the opening day of the season, replacing Michael Wylde in defence. Rory McAuley will probably switch across to the centre. In midfield, Rossi Jarvis, Robbie Willmott and Harrison Dunk come in for Ricky Wellard, Tom Shaw, and Sam Smith. Goalkeeper Jed Steer is also in for his debut after joining on loan from Norwich City, so Jonathan Hedge drops to the bench.
Two ex-U's in the Macclesfield starting line-up today, with Ryan Jackson at right-back and Keiran Murtagh in midfield. Peter Winn and Chris Holroyd could join them from the bench.
14.30: Good afternoon and welcome to the R Costings Abbey Stadium for this afternoon's match between Cambridge United and Macclesfield Town. United will be looking to get back to winning ways after a run of three successive defeats, but to do so will have to get past a Macclesfield team described by Richard Money in the press this week as "the best passing team in the division."