Cambridge United recorded a fourth consecutive win with a clinical 3-1 victory against Doncaster Rovers at the Abbey Stadium...
A composed finish from Harvey Knibbs on the stroke of half-time was then extended by Harrison Dunk’s header on the hour mark to put United into a healthy ascendency. Joe Dodoo conjured up an instant consolation to ensure a nervy finish, but the U’s, as they’d been doing so impeccably recently, saw the game out professionally by killing the game off through Sam Smith to steer themselves up to 13th in Sky Bet League One.
Mark Bonner named two changes from the side that clawed victory over Lincoln City at the death three days earlier. Jack Lankester and Knibbs were drafted into the attacking ranks with Ben Worman and Sam Smith making way.
Ahead of the evening’s clash, the U’s were in inspired form – unbeaten in four and proving a tough nut to crack defensively. Boasting a healthy six-point cushion from the bottom four, the aim was to showcase why they’re in a false position. Doncaster’s situation was quite the contrary - they were allocated rock bottom and ten points adrift after a run of nine losses in ten. Uninspiring on their travels, the South Yorkshire outfit had picked up the solitary point from their opening twelve away fixtures.
The visitors started the encounter as the more assertive of the two. After Paul Digby was dispossessed in the middle of the park on the 11th minute, a teasing delivery was made towards Kieran Agard who looped a header over the crossbar. Moments later, some valiant U’s defending denied the opener when the rearguard blocked Josh Martin and then Tommy Rowe’s follow up.
However, United started to forge out some menacing chances of their own. On the 20th minute, Brophy, who had proven threatening down the left, cut inside and played a neat ball into an onrushing Lankester who fired low into the palms of Louis Jones.
Ultimately, it was Rovers who were carving out the clear-cut attempts. Just shy of the half an hour mark, Martin clattered the crossbar from 20 yards with a venomous free-kick. Another attack was imminent – which concluded in former-U Kyle Knoyle taking a light touch inside the box and volleying wide.
On the counter attack, Matthew Smith teed up Agard down the right on 37 with the new signing arrowing towards the far bottom corner which Dimitar Mitov got down low to paw away.
Against the run of play, the U’s drew first blood on the stroke of half-time. Brophy’s splitting pass was on a plate for Lankester, who found an unmarked Knibbs down the right – the winger showcased excellent composure to slot past Jones for his 6th goal of the campaign and break deadlock at a decisive time.
From the early stages following the interval, United were playing with real confidence in an exuberant spell of sheer domination - particularly in the final third - without any real goalmouth action.
That came into fruition on the 62nd minute when the advantage was doubled to allow the U’s some breathing space. A sublime curling cross from Adam May evaded Donny’s defence and fell towards Dunk who headed home his first of the campaign before wheeling away in front of the Newmarket Road End.
The healthy lead turned slender eight minutes later when M. Smith turned into dangerous territory and teed up Dodoo who nestled home from six yards to restore hope for Gary McSheffrey’s side.
Purring, the visitors were now enjoying a neat spell, indistinguishable to their pressure from the first half. Brandon Horton blasted wide a speculative attempt on 75 as they charged forwards in their numbers.
Despite the danger, United sealed the points deep into stoppage time when Brophy terrorised his opposite number and squared the ball to substitute Smith who stabbed home to ensure it was game, set and match.
Home comforts continue on Saturday (22nd January) as the U’s take on relegation-threatened Crewe Alexandra here at the Abbey Stadium. Be sure to back the boys as they seek three more valuable points.
Cambridge United: Mitov, Okedina, Sherring, Iredale, Dunk, Digby, May, Knibbs (O’Neil, 70), Lankester (Worman, 82), Brophy, Ironside (Smith, 63)
Subs Not Used: Mannion, Bennett, Dickens
Goalscorers: Knibbs (45), Dunk (62), Smith (90+3)
Bookings: Iredale, Brophy
Doncaster Rovers: Jones, Seaman (Bogle, 63), Knoyle, Olowu, Horton, Smith (Barlow, 89), Galbraith, Rowe, Agard, Martin (Hasani, 82), Dodoo
Subs Not Used: Bottomley, Greaves, Blythe, Ravenhill
Goalscorers: Dodoo (70)
Referee: Christopher Sarginson
Attendance: 4575 (233 away fans)
Man of the Match: Dunk