Cambridge United were beaten 0-1 in their opening Leasing.com Trophy group fixture against Northampton Town, with Harry Smith’s early goal the difference on the night at the Abbey Stadium.
Colin Calderwood’s side lined up with seven changes from their previous League outing which included youngster Ben Worman stepping into the side for his first professional start for the Club, whilst second year scholar Lewis Simper (18) was also named on the bench.
Billy Waters fired an early warning wide of the mark inside five minutes, before Harry Smith broke the deadlock on 12 minutes for the visitors, when the striker finished clinically from six yards first time on his right foot past Callum Burton.
Andrew Dallas looked to have levelled on 25 minutes when the striker beat Cobbler’s keeper Andrew Fisher in an aerial challenge before slamming the ball home tidily, only for referee Sam Purkiss to pull the play back for a foul.
Waters hammered a late tester at Callum Burton in first half stoppage time but the U’s shot stopper had no issues in keeping the strike out at his near post, to ensure United were only down by the solitary goal at the break.
Sam Smith stung the palms of Fisher five minutes after half time with an indirect free kick from just inside the Northampton 18 yard box, after the Cobbler’s keeper had illegally picked up from a pass back before recovering with a fine save.
Marc Richards and Harvey Knibbs were introduced with 25 minutes left to play, as Colin Calderwood injected fresh legs to search for a leveller that could force a penalty shoot-out in the event of a draw at full time.
United had a second effort of the evening chalked off, with Knibbs this time burying a shot from 12 yards only for the referee this time to adjudge the striker to have handled the ball as he took it under his control in the build-up.
Leon Davies grew in confidence as the second half wore on and became the U’s biggest threat with the young right wing-back holding his width to stretch the Cobblers, as well as a delivering a series of his trademark crosses.
Paul Lewis pulled a cross back into the six yard box, which Fisher got a touch on but only into the path of Harrison Dunk, who could only ricochet his shot into the rear of Andrew Dallas’ head with the goal at his mercy.
However, the U’s best chance fell the way of Dallas, who initially did brilliantly to carve open Northampton’s defence with a touch and turn when receiving Leon Davies’ short pass, but he couldn’t pick out a finish to match as the striker misfired over the bar in the last minute of the match. The Scot was then denied moments later with an excellent save by Fisher in stoppage time, as the keeper got finger tips to a half volley which sealed the win for the visitors.
Cambridge United: Burton, Davies, Taylor, John, Darling, Dunk, Lewis, Maris, Worman (Richards, 65 mins), Smith (Knibbs, 65 mins), Dallas
Northampton Town: Fisher, Hall-Johnson, Turnbull, Smith, Williams (Roberts, 65 mins), Pollock, Wharton, McWilliams (McCormack, 65 mins), Warburton (Hoskins, 83 mins), Harriman, Waters
Attendance: 764 (90)