Cambridge United extended their unbeaten start to the 2019/20 season to four games in Sky Bet League Two, with an action packed 3-2 win over Scunthorpe United under the midweek lights at the Abbey Stadium.
Despite the visitors going down to ten men in the first half, United trailed to a Rory McArdle header at half time having bossed play for long periods. However, a second half brace and Harvey Knibbs’ first professional goal saw the U’s flip the scoreline and move up to third in the League Two table.
Colin Calderwood made no less than five changes to the side that won at Colchester United four days earlier, including new loan signing Jack Roles from Tottenham Hotspur, alongside Harry Darling, Liam O’Neil, Sam Smith and Harvey Knibbs.
United fans were treated to an early glimpse of Roles, who tidily knocked the ball out of his feet on the edge of the Scunthorpe area and showed he wasn’t scared at taking on a shot which was always rising over the cross bar inside two minutes.
Harrison Dunk’s cross towards the near post found the run of Paul Lewis on 16 minutes, but the midfielder got a little too much under the ball and lifted his attempt on the half volley above the target.
The U’s were handed a man advantage midway through the first period when James Perch flew in over the top of the ball on Harvey Knibbs and was shown a straight red card by referee Charles Breakspear.
United quickly looked lively with Knibbs twice testing Rory Watson in the Scunthorpe goal but was denied on both occasions with a pair of strong saves.
However, it was the visitors who broke the deadlock against the run of play four minutes before half time when Rory McArdle ghosted on to a corner delivery drilled into the centre of United’s 18 yard box, which the centre half powered past Mitov with his head.
The pattern of the game continued up to the break with Knibbs again going close when he squirmed a shot through bodies from inside the Scunthorpe area, before Paul Hurst’s men managed to scramble the ball clear and maintain their lead into half time.
Colin Calderwood’s men wasted no time in reversing the scoreline when they returned to action in the second half though. Knibbs grabbed his first and United’s first of the season at the Abbey when the striker coolly slotted away a cut back by Paul Lewis from a divine cross by Leon Davies.
And with the momentum rocking their way, Paul Lewis went from provider to goalcorer as he seized the moment by scrambling in United’s second goal three minutes later after Greg Taylor’s delivery was too much to handle for the Iron.
However, a frantic period of the match swung back in favour of the visitors who levelled on the hour mark as Rory McArdle again popped up unmarked inside the U’s area to head in a Scunthorpe set piece and make it two apiece.
Luke Hannant and George Maris were subbed on to give United extra attacking impetus and get the job done. It proved to be the decisive swing required for Calderwood’s men when Hannant provided a cross for Lewis to bullet in a winning header 17 minutes from time.
Jack Roles had Rory Watson beaten as the game went into the final ten minutes but the Spurs loanee’s half volley deflected inches wide as the U’s pushed for a fourth goal.
The U’s required a late block of miraculous proportions by Luke Hannant who somehow cleared the ball off the line with an overhead kick from the deck, to stop Matthew Lund spoiling United’s party in stoppage time.
Cambridge United: Mitov, Davies, Taylor, Taft, Darling, Dunk (Hannant, 67 mins), O’Neil (Maris, 71 mins), Lewis, Roles, Smith, Knibbs (Richards, 76 mins)
Bookings: Perch (RED), Gilliead, Wooton
Scunthorpe United: Watson, Ntlhe, Lund, Butler, Wooton, Hammill (Slater, 26 mins), Perch, Gilliead, McArdle, McGahey (Clarke, 79 mins), Eisa
Bookings: Taft, Dunk
Attendance: 3,917 (192)
Man of the Match: Paul Lewis