Resilient U’s fall to 2-1 defeat at Fratton Park in Sky Bet League Two
Despite a late strike for Cambridge United captain Luke Berry, goals from Marc McNulty and Adam Webster resigned the U’s to a 2-1 defeat against Portsmouth at Fratton Park.
A goal in each half from the hosts proved to be too much for United in the end, who were looking to extend a run of three wins in four games and leapfrog their opponents in the Sky Bet League Two table.
The U’s made just one change to the side that beat York City at the Abbey Stadium a week earlier, with James Dunne unable to feature following a gentlemen’s agreement between Shaun Derry and Paul Cook ahead of the midfielder’s arrival at the U’s in January. Shane O’Neill therefore gained a place in the starting line-up to make his debut.
Jimmy Spencer stung the palms of Ryan Fulton in the Portsmouth goal during the early encounters of the game, whilst the hosts came close through Chaplin and McNulty as both teams looked to assert an authority on the game.
As the half wore on though attempts on goal were few and far between but a highly physical and feisty affair had broken out.
However, just as the half reached its close and it seemed the sides would enter the dressing rooms level, Kai Naismith slid a pass through to Marc McNulty in behind the U’s defence and the striker crashed a side footed effort off the cross bar and into the net.
Shaun Derry introduced Ryan Donaldson after the break with hopes the right midfielder could inspire an equaliser. But the hosts returned for the second looking to more likely to register next. Adam Webster did just that on the hour mark.
Initially Will Norris pulled off an outstanding stop to push Bennett’s long range strike on to the cross bar, however Webster was in prime position to knock the ball into the back of the net moments later.
Shaun Derry’s side scrapped for all their worth during the closing third of the match but found it difficult to break down a resolute Portsmouth defence, who constantly offered the threat of a counter attack in the form of Bennett.
Worryingly for United, Leon Legge was forced to leave the field with seven minutes left to play after a typically robust challenge in which the centre half came out worse off. He was replaced by Mark Roberts, who assisted Luke Berry as United pulled back a late goal to set up a competitive finish to the game.
Portsmouth: Fulton, Davies, Stevens, Webster, Burgess, Doyle, McNulty, Naismith (Evans, 71 mins), Chaplin (Clarke, 85 mins), Bennett (Tollitt, 90 mins), Hollands
Cambridge United: Norris, Furlong, Legge (Roberts, 83 mins), Coulson, Haynes, Berry, Ledson, O’Neill (Simpson, 55 mins), Dunk, Spencer (Donaldson, 45mins), Williamson
Attendance: 15, 425 (587 U’s fans)