Cambridge United returned to Sky Bet League One action with a last-gasp 0-1 victory over Lincoln City at Sincil Bank...
Resilient goalkeeping and defending from the U’s helped survive a first-half onslaught. They improved significantly after the break, nonetheless, delivering when it mattered when Joe Ironside scrambled home in the dying embers to secure a vital three points for the on-song side.
Mark Bonner’s 100th game in charge of the club saw a rotation of the squad – with the Head Coach making five changes from the side that defeated Portsmouth in midweek. Sam Sherring, who joined the club on loan from AFC Bournemouth, was drafted in for his debut. Paul Digby, James Brophy, Ben Worman and Ironside also made returns.
The main objective for United was to use that momentum they’ve generated from cup clashes and convert that into points in the league as they seek to improve their form of the solitary win in their last eight in League One. It proved an excellent time to achieve that coup - with it being the first of five critical encounters against sides languishing near the relegation zone, including the bottom three in that block. For the Imps, they were situated a point and place ahead of the U’s thanks to impressive back-to-back league wins, the first time they’ve achieved the feat this season after a turgid seven-game winless run prior to that. An underwhelming 12 points from their 12 games at Sincil Bank was perhaps something to capitalise on, however.
In a real end-to-end opening to proceedings, both sides saw plenty of the ball in their respective final thirds. After Cohen Bramall’s lung-busting run and teasing cross was collected by Dimitar Mitov on the 7th minute, the U’s went up the other end and Adam May, who was frequently finding himself in the right positions, tested Josh Griffiths with a drilled attempt from under 25 yards which the youngster pawed wide.
On the front foot, the Imps conjured up a dangerous opportunity on the 22nd minute when neat movement down the left orchestrated by Bramall resulted in a shot on target from Liam Cullen who was prevented by Mitov’s firm save.
With half an hour played, Worman was dispossessed in the middle of the park - allowing Chris Maguire to scamper forwards and pull the trigger towards the U’s right post which was denied by an astute block from Sherring.
His centre-back partner Jack Iredale was called into action with a similar clearance minutes later when the ball fell into the path of an unmarked Anthony Scully from 12 yards whose precision was matched by the U’s number 3.
The barrage of pressure was certainly not at a premium for the hosts, who were forcing United’s rearguard to soak it all up. After 41 minutes, Maguire was released but from a one-on-one position the Scot was prevented poking it home by Mitov’s no-nonsense gathering.
Replicating heroics of last weekend, the Bulgarian was to the rescue again with an outstanding reflex save to deny the aforementioned striker from six yards on the cusp of half-time. It concluded a testing first 45 for the U’s with their backs to the wall, but they were definitely not out thanks to real grit and determination to ensure deadlock.
United had more of a foothold on the match as the second period progressed. Ironside had the ball in the back of the net on the 58th minute after the striker rifled home from distance - but the flag was raised for an offside decision.
Showing an assertive manner, Brophy found Sam Smith down the right who scurried into the box, picked his spot and cannoned a low shot into the gloves of Griffiths on 64. Moments passed and they had more freedom to roam when the provider hit a fierce attempt that sailed inches wide of the post.
Despite weathering a slight storm, the hosts carved out a strong chance after 75 minutes when, after receiving a pinpoint long ball, Scully played in Conor McGrandles deep down the left who fired towards the roof of the net which Mitov tipped over.
An immense last-ditch tackle from Iredale on 88 denied Morgan Whittaker’s mazy run as the Imps surged forward. This match still had drama on the cards.
After a scramble in the box, Griffiths made an outrageous save to deny May before Ironside scrambled home his 13thgoal of the season to cue pandemonium in front of the United faithful and wrap up a third win on the spin for the second time this season.
Be sure to back the U’s when they return to home soil on Tuesday evening (18th January) as they Doncaster Rovers in their hunt to continue climbing the division.
Lincoln City: Griffiths, Bishop (Melbourne, 84), Eyoma, Poole, Bramall, Fiorini (Sanders, 78), McGrandles, Cullen (Adelakun, 84), Whittaker, Scully, Maguire
Subs Not Used: Long, Sorensen, Robson
Cambridge United: Mitov, Okedina, Sherring, Iredale, Dunk, Digby, May, Smith (Knibbs, 81), Worman (Hoolahan, 61), Brophy (Lankester, 90+4), Ironside
Subs Not Used: Mannion, O’Neil, Bennett, Dickens
Goalscorers: Ironside (90+1)
Referee: Andrew Kitchen
Attendance: 8507 (681 away fans)