United twice came back from behind to send their First Round tie with Northampton Town back to the Abbey in a thrilling FA Cup contest at Sixfields…
Goals from Smith and Masterson drew the U’s level and despite both team’s going for the win with the scores level late in the game, neither could claim their place in the Second Round, with the tie to be decided at the Abbey Stadium on Tuesday 16th November at 7.45pm.
Mark Bonner named four changes from the team that won at Morecambe on Tuesday, as George Williams and Adam May returned from suspension whilst Shilow Tracey and Sam Smith also re-joined the fray.
The Cobblers got off to the perfect start, as on-loan Spurs striker Etete opened up the scoring. After racing through on goal - and despite cries of offside from the U’s players - the linesman’s flag remained by his side and the Northampton forward showed great composure to work his way into shooting position and calmly finishing.
Minutes later, he was almost at it again, but a costly slip inside the box at the crucial moment meant United were able to clear.
With 13 minutes gone, the U’s were level after good work from Tracey drew a Northampton foul outside the area, and Iredale’s pin-point free-kick found the head of Smith, who directed the ball home past Roberts in goal.
The action was end-to-end and former United man Lewis headed over soon after before Paul Digby fired over the bar from distance, with 20 minutes on the clock.
It was all U’s at this stage, as only frantic Northampton defending kept the scores level as Mark Bonner’s men pushed for the go-ahead goal. Ben Worman was denied from close range by a brilliant Revan block and delivery after delivery from Iredale was being desperately defended by the Cobblers back-line.
Joe Ironside almost scored a superb acrobatic effort just after the half hour mark, as he teed himself up with his back to goal before volleying on-target, only to see Roberts equal to the shot.
Four minutes later, Northampton retook the lead as the home side’s main man, Kion Etete, raced down to the by-line before squaring the ball for Lewis to score into an empty net.
Neither team created an opportunity of note in the remaining minutes before the half, as United went in down a goal after a topsy-turvy 45 minutes of football.
A knock picked up by Tracey towards the end of the half meant Brophy was introduced for the second half as United went in search of the equaliser again.
10 minutes into the second half, Smith had two fine chances to double his tally but missed the target on both occasions, with the first flying just over the bar and the second directed wide of goal.
Northampton still posted the U’s a threat though, and Hoskins could have doubled the hosts’ lead on 60 minutes, but for some brilliant last-ditch defending to block his strike from 10 yards out.
Knibbs and Weir replaced Worman and May with just under half an hour to go and for the second game in row, an attacking substitute made an instant impact, as Knibbs won the U’s a free-kick, which resulted in Masterson firing home from within a crowded six-yard box in-front of 775 travelling supporters.
There was more freedom to the match than a usual league affair as both teams went for the winner with what was left in the game. Mitov twice denied Pinnock from allowing Northampton to take the lead, as he clawed away an on-target corner before getting down low to push away an overhead kick from the midfield man.
With just a few minutes left in the contest, Williams had a golden opportunity to send Cambridge into the Second Round, as he connected with a whipped cross from Weir at the back-post but sent his volley over the crossbar.
The final chance of the game came deep into added time, as the ball fell to Masterson in the crowded box and despite finding the space to turn and shoot, he lost his footing at the crucial moment and couldn’t connect with enough power to trouble Roberts in goal.
Both teams contributed towards what was an entertaining cup tie that will have to be settled at the Abbey Stadium a week on Tuesday.