Cambridge United suffered a smash and grab 0-1 defeat at the hands of Scunthorpe United at the Abbey Stadium.
A strike against the run of play from Alfie Beestin late on was enough to separate the sides, with United rueing their plethora of missed opportunities at the Abbey Stadium.
In what is the middle of a busy fixture schedule, Mark Bonner rotated his side by making three changes to the side that secured a late victory at Port Vale three days earlier. Liam O’Neil’s late antics rewarded him with a start, with Jack Iredale and Joe Ironside also returning to the fray.
After initially finding their feet within the opening minutes of the encounter, United’s first major foray into the Iron’s box almost resulted in the opener on the 15th minute. Paul Mullin found space down the right flank to float a dangerous cross into the six-yard box, it was cleared only to a looming Shilow Tracey whose attempt had venom but was denied astutely by Mark Howard.
The U’s had the momentum and were creating slick passages of play predominantly down the right. Mullin’s deft pass on 17 found a composed Kyle Knoyle who drilled his attempt from 20 yards inches wide.
Tracey, who had proven a thorn in Scunthorpe’s defence, showcased his speed and agility to engineer an opportunity on the 32nd minute, which was concluded with the winger’s sublime cross being cleared before a rising O’Neil could connect with it.
Defensively, United had to show resolve to dig in and see out numerous attacks from the Iron as the interval approached. Knoyle remained alert to cut out a dangerous cross by Devarn Green with Abo Eisa lurking on 42, before the latter’s cross from the far left went just wide of Burton’s post to conclude an even half where the hosts had shown creativity, but were kept at bay by a stubborn outfit.
That creativity continued as the U’s came out of the blocks firing in the second half. Tracey cut inside with a jinking run and drew a foul on the edge of the penalty area on the 56th minute. Iredale stepped up and fired his free kick low and around the wall which Howard palmed wide. Ironside, who had put in his typical workmanlike shift, then tested the opposing goalkeeper with two headed shots on target moments later.
During a spell where the chances were not at a premium for the hosts, a chipped though ball from Adam May on 66 was absolute pinpoint for Mullin, who scampered forwards and aimed for power but couldn’t get the precision to threaten the Scunthorpe goal.
An accurate pass from Iredale released Tracey down the right five minutes later, who from an angle fired wide of the far post with amber figures awaiting.
The Iron, on the other hand, bided their time and made their golden opportunity count on the 78th minute with a well-worked finish from Beestin who fitted between United’s backline and slotted into the net. The setback zapped the energy out of the hosts, who couldn’t salvage a response.
Cambridge United: Burton, Knoyle, Taylor, Drysdale, Dunk, Tracey, O’Neil (Boateng, 74), May, Iredale (Davies, 74), Ironside, Mullin
Bookings: Mullin, Ironside
Scunthorpe United: Howard, Clarke, Bedeau (Rowe, 72), McGahey, Brown, Karacan, Green (Hippolyte, 85), Beestin, Gilliead, Eisa, Van Veen (Spence, 63)