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3 January 2015

U's march into the FA Cup fourth round

Ryan Donaldson returned to inspire Cambridge United to a 2-1 win over Luton Town and send the U's into the fourth round of the FA Cup.

Donaldson, who has been on the sidelines for a month due to injury, earned United a penalty in the 28th minute when he burst through and was brought down by Luton keeper Mark Tyler. Though Tyler saved Robbie Simpson's spot kick, Simpson was in the right place to bury the rebound.

Luton dominated possession in the second half, but Donaldson sprinted clear to make it 2-0, before Michael Harriman's header ensured a nervous finish.

But the U's, led by the imperious Michael Nelson, held on to book a place in the next round.

United's squad was boosted by the return of Tom Elliott and Ryan Donaldson, who came straight back into the starting line-up after injuries, while Harrison Dunk was also named in the squad for the first time since a hernia operation and took a place on bench. Ryan Bird and the cup-tied Adam Cunnington made way for Donaldson and Elliott, while there was also a change in defence, with Michael Nelson replacing Ian Miller. Tom Champion took the captain's arm-band in Miller's absence.

An entertaining first half saw United attacking well down the flanks, particularly the left where Donaldson and Greg Taylor linked up well on a number of occasions.  At the back some decent pressing ensured Luton were denied space all over the pitch, but it was the Hatters who registered the first attempt of note when skipper Jonathan Smith took aim from 20 yards but saw his shot clip the outside of the post as it flew behind.

Chris Dunn had a couple of uncertain moments when he charged off his line to try and claim long balls into the box, but the U's keeper stood up well to make good close range saves to deny Mark Cullen and Michael Harriman.

The deadlock was broken in the 28th minute after Simpson found space to pick a superb pass through the defence for Donaldson, who nicked the ball away from Tyler and was brought down by the visiting keeper. Donaldson was heading away from goal, which probably saved Tyler from an early bath, and though the former Peterborough keeper saved Simpson's penalty, he could only push the ball onto the post, and Simpson was in the right place to slot in the rebound.

Josh Coulson could have made it 2-0, but completely missed his kick when the ball fell to him in the box after a corner from the right, and then Simpson dragged a shot well wide after Elliott had knocked the ball down into his path.

After the break Luton pressed forward, and Drury somehow missed the target when a cross to the back post left him with an open goal six yards out. But Donaldson delivered the killer blow in the 68th minute, taking a pass from Champion and dashing into the box, before leaving a defender in his wake and dispatching a cool low finish past Tyler.

Pelly Ruddock gave Luton extra impetus when he came on, and after a spell of concerted pressure, the ball fell to Drury in space on the left, and his wicked cross to the back post was powered home by Harriman.

Another substitute, Charlie Taylor, slid in to meet a low centre, but could only guide his shot wide, and though the Hatters continued to pump the ball into the box in the closing stages, United held on. The U's will now look forward to the fourth round draw on Monday night hoping to land a plum tie.

May I Claim Man of the Match: Michael Nelson

Cambridge United: Dunn, Tait, Taylor, Nelson, Coulson, Donaldson (Dunk 79), Chadwick (Kaikai 89), Champion, Hughes, Simpson, Elliott (Bird 84). Subs not used: Norris, Miller,  Atkinson, Hurst.

Luton Town: Tyler, Connolly (Ruddock 60), Harriman, Franks, Wilkinson, Drury, Howells, Smith, Stevenson, Miller (Walker 66), Cullen (Lafayette 60). Subs not used: Justham, Lacey, Rooney, Robinson, Walker.

Referee: Tony Harrington

Attendance: 7,063 (away 1,380)

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