Cambridge United picked up a point in their League Two pursuit with a battling 0-0 against Southend United.
Keen for a response to the setback at Salford City four days earlier, manager of the month Mark Bonner shuffled the pack with three changes. Wes Hoolahan, who scooped the player’s accolade for January, returned to the fold alongside Jack Iredale and Joe Ironside.
In an evenly-matched opening to proceedings, the U’s saw their fair share of the ball and registered an early attempt when a trademark Kyle Knoyle cross drifted towards Ironside who planted a header straight at Mark Oxley.
The Shrimpers, who arrived at the Abbey on the back of a morale-boosting victory over Newport County in midweek, posed an early threat also and forced the hosts into a close shave on the 12th minute when goalkeeper Oxley’s wind-assisted free kick from over 70 yards floated straight to Callum Burton who was on guard to palm it over the crossbar.
Jubril Okedina was called into the action on the half an hour mark, astutely flicking behind a dangerous cross into the six yard box from the right. It was a testing spell for the U’s, who remained sound defensively, but couldn’t quite generate enough in the final third to test the visitors.
That was until a pinpoint ball from Paul Mullin on the 40th minute released Adam May who struck an angled shot with pace but with not enough height to beat Oxley who dived well. The aforementioned May did find the net immediately after, albeit it via his hand which was swiftly ruled out.
The U’s did need to stay firm defensively during the opening stages of the second half. Okedina was alert in denying an Ash Nathaniel-George attempt from close range on the 54th minute as the Shrimpers attacked in their numbers.
From the resulting attack, United countered through Ironside, who linked up with Mullin who danced past several opposition defenders before firing an opportunity from 18 yards that deflected wide.
Emile Acquah managed to squeeze his way into a threatening area on the 78th minute, lashing a shot from an angle against the side netting. Timothee Dieng directed a header inches over the crossbar moments later after a dangerous flick from the back post.
With the game deep into stoppage time, United’s backline proved a tough nut to crack. A long ball from Okedina was fractions wide from finding an onrushing Ironside. It was the last action of the afternoon as the stalemate was confirmed, as was a seventh successive game unbeaten on home soil.
Cambridge United: Burton, Knoyle, Taylor, Okedina, Iredale, Hannant, Drysdale, May (Tracey, 66), Hoolahan (O’Neil, 90+3), Ironside, Mullin
Bookings: May, Okedina, Mullin
Southend United: Oxley, Dieng, Clifford, Bwomono, Hobson, White, Taylor (Hackett-Fairchild, 70), Ferguson, Nathaniel-George, Akinola (Goodship, 88), Acquah