Bird swoops to net winner
Substitute Ryan Bird netted the winner as Cambridge United came from behind to defeat Northampton Town.
In front of a noisy crowd at the R Costings Abbey Stadium, a quiet first half was followed by an end-to-end second period, with the Cobblers taking the lead through Ivan Toney in the 50th minute.
But, crucially, United levelled two minutes later when Adam Cunnington was left unmarked to nod in from a corner. He was then replaced by Ryan Bird, who capitalised on some fine approach play from Kwesi Appiah and Man of the Match Robbie Simpson to slot in the second goal 12 minutes from time.
Richard Money made three changes, with Michael Nelson, Harrison Dunk and Tom Elliott missing out. Robbie Simpson, Ryan Donaldson and Cunnington all came into the line-up, with Tom Champion dropping back into defence to stand in for Nelson.
The first half was a cagey affair, with Northampton seeing more of the ball and United content to break at pace, utilising the trickery of Donaldson and Kwesi Appiah.
Visiting keeper Jordan Archer was called into action in the 19th minute after Donaldson had freed Greg Taylor. His cross picked out Cunnington at the back post, but the striker’s header back across goal was parried away.
The Cobblers looked confident in possession, with pacey wide-men Chris Hacket and Kaid Mohamed posing a constant threat. Mohamed stung the palms of Chris Dunn in the 34th minute with a powerful shot that was straight at the U’s keeper, and though the winger was able to collect the rebound, he blasted his second effort into the fans in the Newmarket Road End.
As the half drew to a close, Archer again had to be alert after Donaldson played a gorgeous through ball to the onrushing Simpson. The former Leyton Orient man stretched to control but saw the keeper race off his line to block his shot.
United withdrew Donaldson at half-time, presumably due to injury, and suffered a further blow when they fell behind in the 50th minute. The defence couldn’t deal with a cross from the right, and Toney climbed highest to head into the corner.
But straight from kick off the U’s charged forward, winning a corner. Hughes curled it in from the left and Cunnington, all alone at the back post, headed past Archer. The striker, who returned from a loan spell at Bristol Rovers this week, celebrated with a knee slide in front of the Newmarket Road End, and the match was back in the balance.
The goal seemed to give United impetus, with Simpson and Chadwick probing intelligently from midfield. Bird joined the action in the 65th minute, replacing Cunnington, and with 12 minutes remaining he put United in front for the first time. Simpson’s pass over the top found Appiah, and he held the ball up under pressure from Cresswell before cutting back a low cross which Bird side-footed into the net.
Prior to the goal Toney, who was dangerous throughout, had headed just wide, and as Northampton pressed for an equaliser he saw another header drift just over. But the closest the visitors came was in the last minute of stoppage time, when a Cresswell header from a corner was cleared off the line, and Ben Tozer somehow failed to turn it in from close range.
But the U’s held on to make it back-to-back home wins in league and cup ahead of next Saturday’s trip to Accrington Stanley.
May I Claim Man of the Match: Robbie Simpson
Cambridge United: Dunn, Tait, G.Taylor, Coulson, Hughes, Champion, Naylor (B.Taylor 74), Donaldson (Chadwick 45), Simpson, Appiah, Cunnington (Bird 65). Subs not used: Norris, Lanzoni, Hurst, Foy.
Northampton Town: Archer, Tozer, Newey (Robertson 30), Collins, Cresswell, Byrom (Sinclair 83), Murdoch, Hackett (O’Toole 56), Toney, Richards, Mohamed. Subs not used: Duke, Carter, Langmead, Nicholls.
Referee: Trevor Kettle
ATT: 5,644 (1,084 away)