United defeated despite battling display
The U’s will feel hard done by losing this one by two goals after a battling performance at second placed Southend United, at a boggy Boots and Laces Training Ground by the sea on Saturday morning.
The visitors started strongly and looked determined to cause an upset and show the improvements they have undoubtedly made since the meeting between the two sides earlier in the season. It was a fiery affair with both teams playing an aggressive style of play with a lot of intent.
Cambridge defended resolutely and rarely looked under huge threat, bar an effort flashing past the post midway through the first half, and keeper James Macree making a good one on one save.
The best chance of the half fell to Dylan Williams right on the half time whistle which he failed to poke home having been taken by surprise, the ball landing at his feet after some pinball in the penalty box.
Jordan Brown and Tom Knowles both had moments in the first half but were unable to hit the target in a direct opening period, where the U’s showed tremendous endeavour and spirit, playing to frustrate the home side and counter attack.
Both teams continued in similar fashion in the second half, again coming close to scoring, but the hosts took the lead after United’s failure to deal with a high ball, only to see the Blues striker expertly finish from 18 yards.
Cambridge almost responded immediately with their best chance of the half. Justin Leavers found himself through on goal after a neat move, but dragged the ball wide of the upright.
Southend played out the remaining quarter of an hour in a similar fashion to what the U’s had done so well before the opening goal in the 70th minute, frustrating United with controlled play and managing the game well.
As the U’s searched for an equaliser, the best they could fathom up was a few set plays which never looked overly threatening, and it was from one such move that the Blues counter attacked and managed to poke home again and double their advantage in the last minute of added time.
U’s coach Mark Bonner said, “Two sounds harsh on us. We deserved something from the game. We have found better resilience, are working hard for each other and we’re more robust. Our understanding of the game plan was great. We played a new system today which served us well. We were hard to beat and break down, and carried a threat on the break and from set plays.
“We need to be better when our moments come, and be more clinical. We have had enough chances to score, to go ahead and to make it a different game. We haven’t been good enough in the last four games in the finishing phase.
“When we play with intensity, we are not a bad team, without it, we don’t carry a threat and are an easy win for our opponent. The key to the games and for this group of players is that they become self-starters, no longer reliant on a coach to motivate them and get them going.
“I thought our performance was better than Thursday and that we are unfortunate to lose by two goals.
“I cannot fault the players for their mentality, togetherness and work ethic in this performance. But, I can challenge them to deliver that more consistently, this has been the biggest issue for this group. “Secondly, we can demand a greater desire to be better in the areas where we are currently weak technically to make the game changing moments that occur, game changing!”
Team: Macree, Bell-Toxtle, Emmins, Darling, Jones, Burniston (Lea 75), Chambers-Shaw, Williams, Knowles (Finneran 75), Leavers (Bicknell 75), Brown