Cambridge United produced a performance that matched the endeavour of the U’s ground staff to ensure the clash with table toppers Luton Town went ahead, as Jabo Ibehre’s second half header earned a 1-1 draw.
An unchanged United side shot out the blocks early on, clearly buoyed by the electric atmosphere inside the Abbey from the near 7,000 strong crowd. Gary Deegan bobbled a low shot on target, before Uche Ikpeazu bounced off a Luton defender and curled an effort goal bound, but Marek Stech was twice on hand to deny the U’s inside ten minutes.
However, the visitors soon showed why they sit top of the tree in League Two, taking control of play for long periods across the remainder of the first half.
Olly Lee grazed the outside of the post on 33 minutes, and saw a shot save at full stretch by David Forde moments later, but James Collins was in prime position to follow in the rebound and break the deadlock for the Hatters.
Nathan Jones’ men came out after the break and looked hungry to kill the game as a contest, but to United’s credit they held in the match with ferocious defence and a great deal of determination.
The momentum shifted following a series of U’s substitutions by Joe Dunne, including the introduction of David Amoo and Jabo Ibehre. And the pendulum swung even further in United’s favour when goal scorer Collins received a second yellow card for dissent on 76 minutes.
The U’s soon capitalized against the ten men of Luton, Ibehre heading home Brad Halliday’s cross to lift the roof off the Abbey Stadium and deservedly level for the hosts.
United pushed on late for a winner with Ikpeazu getting off a series of shots and Ibehre also denied a second, but as it was the U’s settled for a well-earned point against their near rivals.
Groundsman Ian Darler, his staff and the volunteers of CFU who worked hard to defeat the snowy and icy conditions of the previous week, were awarded the Vindis Man of the Match award by sponsors Fujitsu five minutes from time, which rightly received a standing ovation from the entire crowd.
Cambridge United: Forde, Halliday, Taft, Taylor, Dunk, Elito (Maris, 63 mins), Deegan, O’Neil (Amoo, 63 mins), Brown, Waters (Ibehre, 79 mins), Ikpeazu
Luton Town: Stech, Potts, Stacey, Lee (Cuthbert, 78 mins), Hylton (Jervis, 65 mins), Rea, Berry, Collins, Downes, D’ath (Gambin, 19 mins), Sheehan
Attendance: 6,722 (2,405)
Vindis Man of the Match chosen by sponsors Fujitsu: Ian Darler, Mick Brown and the volunteers from CFU who worked tirelessly to ensure the match went ahead despite the Beast from the East and Storm Emma.