Cambridge United fell to a disappointing 3-0 opening day defeat at the hands of Port Vale in Sky Bet League Two.
A late first half free kick by Ricky Miller and a second half brace by Tom Pope saw the U’s leave Vale Park empty handed.
The U’s lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Deegan and Maris in the deeper midfield roles, and a forward line of Amoo, Lambe, Dunk and Azeez.
United looked bright early on, with David Amoo finding early joy down the right. The winger’s blistering pace led to the first corner of the game and the U’s first chance, when Ade Azeez rose highest to meet a good corner by George Maris at the back post but headed just wide.
Opportunities continued to arise for the U’s in front of goal, particularly on the end of Maris’ set piece deliveries. Azeez came even closer on 18 minutes, when the striker timed his run to perfection to beat Port Vale’s offside trap and get a toe to the ball ten yards out, however it was saved by Scott Brown on the goal line.
The hosts threatened for the first time on 26 minutes when Tom Pope headed a cross back into the danger zone, but Connell Rawlinson scuffed a volley off target.
David Forde was called into action shortly after the half an hour mark, when the U’s keeper tipped a dangerous Luke Hannant cross out of the path of the onrushing Tom Pope at the far post.
Just as the sides looked certain to head into the break level, Port Vale hit United on a counter attack from a U’s corner forcing Gary Deegan to bring down Ricky Miller on the edge of the area, before the Vale striker then picked himself up to place an unstoppable shot past Forde and break the deadlock.
The lead was doubled within a minute of the restart, after a quick interlinking piece of play by Miller and Pope ended with the former being dragged down in the U’s area for a penalty, and the latter converting from the spot.
United took control of possession and looked likely to grab a goal that would provide a pathway back into the game. Harrison Dunk directed a pair of headers over the cross bar before the hour, before Ade Azeez was denied at close range on 60 minutes by a superb stop from Brown when the striker looked certain to find the net.
Barry Corr replaced Harrison Dunk to give Ade Azeez additional support in the final third.
However it was the hosts who continued to increase their lead, with Tom Pope arriving at the back post to head in his second goal of the afternoon on 69 minutes to confirm the U’s fate on the opening day.
United continued to plug away and were close when Azeez’s cross looped over keeper Brown and was directed out of the path of Amoo at the last minute by Nathan Smith on the goal line.
But in the end it was Port Vale who liked the more likely to inflict more damage on the U’s, and Miller could have done just that but blazed a shot over for the Valiants six yards in the final foray of note.
Port Vale: Brown, Gibbons, Montano, Joyce, Worrall, Oyeleke (Tonge, 72 mins), Pope, Miller (Dodds, 72 mins), Hannant, Rawlinson, Smith
Cambridge United: Forde, Davies, Taylor, Taft, Carroll, Maris, Deegan, Amoo (Osadebe, 72 min), Lambe (O’Neil, 82 mins), Dunk (Corr, 64 mins) Azeez
Bookings: Deegan, Osadebe
Attendance: 5,559 (421)