Cambridge United left it late to deliver a belated Christmas gift for the Amber Army, with Jabo Ibehre bagging a last minute winner in a 2-1 victory over Crawley Town in Sky Bet League Two.
United fought from behind with an excellent strike by George Maris pulling the U’s level after Dominic Poleon’s opening goal, before Ibehre rounded off a hardworking second half display by grabbing three points and Colin Calderwood’s first win as U’s Head Coach.
The U’s lined up with three changes to their starting eleven, as Colin Calderwood re-introduced Jevani Brown, Reggie Lambe and Jabo Ibehre.
Ibehre lashed an early shot on target which Crawley keeper Glenn Morris comfortably caught in the centre of his goal.
Whilst United seemed to carry the greater threat in the early stages, a mix up between Jake Carroll and Brad Halliday gifted the visitors the opening goal of the game on 18 minutes with Dominic Poleon latching on to the loose ball before rounding David Forde and tapping into an empty net.
George Maris attacked a cross off the left by Carroll soon after, making clean contact with a header from 12 yards that flew over the top.
However the midfielder made no mistake on 28 minutes, as he wrapped Brad Halliday’s lay off pass across the face of goal and into the far top corner to level for United.
It sparked a high octane spell in the game which almost saw the U’s earn a lead of their own before half time when Reggie Lambe’s shot dribbled agonisingly past goal and beyond the reach of Jabo Ibehre six yards out.
Halliday and O’Neil both let fire on mid-range efforts in the opening encounters of the second period, but neither tested Morris in the Red Devils goal.
Harry Darling backtracked to crane his neck and header a Jevani Brown corner delivery towards the bottom corner on the hour mark, but Morris scrambled quickly to palm away the attempt.
David Amoo was introduced to proceedings by Colin Calderwood with 17 minutes to play, and he quickly opened up a chance for Brown in the Crawley area, which the forward dragged a half volley wide of the near post.
Despite a largely dominant second half from United, they did survive two late scares when Grego-Cox pulled an effort inches wide of the far post, before Forde just about got the better of Poleon one-on-one.
That set up the stage for the U’s to claim maximum points in the dying embers, as Amoo remained composed when picking up possession inside the area and played through a precise pass for Ibehre to convert with the simplest of finishes, sending the Abbey into wild celebrations.
Cambridge United: Forde, Halliday, Taylor, Darling, Carroll, Deegan, O’Neil (Amoo, 73 mins), Maris (Osadebe, 81 mins), Lambe, Brown, Ibehre
Bookings: Maris, Deegan
Crawley Town: Morris, Doherty (Maguire, 77 mins), Payne, McNerney, Connolly, Poleon, Gambin (Grego-Cox, 77 mins), Francomb, Nathaniel-George (Bulman, 62 mins), Camara, N’Gala
Bookings: Bulman, McNerney
Attendance: 4,601 (121)
Man of the Match: Gary Deegan