Adam Rooney’s 77th minute goal inflicted a 1-0 defeat on Cambridge United at Salford City, as the U’s were made to pay for a series of missed chances on a frustrating afternoon in Sky Bet League Two.
United made two changes to the starting line up as Paul Lewis and Liam O’Neil replaced Reggie Lambe and Jack Roles who were away on international duty.
The U’s were dealt an early set back in the fixture when O’Neil grasped his hamstring moments after a burst forward and was forced to leave the field after nine minutes, in place of Harrison Dunk with Luke Hannant moving in-field.
Dimitar Mitov produced a good alert stop midway through the first half to claim a curling shot by Craig Conway in his mid-riff, after what had been a very lacklustre opening quarter of the game in which both sides were guilty of gifting away possession far too easily.
United’s first opening came shortly before the half an hour mark on the end of an excellent counter attack which had begun with a great catch by Mitov in a busy six yard box from a Salford corner. The U’s keeper promptly launched the ball forward to Smith and following a neat build up, Marc Richards rose highest to head Kyle Knoyle’s in-swinging cross against a Salford defender which then ricocheted wide.
George Maris was not too far away from the resulting corner with a volley after a tidy piece of ball juggling on the edge of the Salford area, but with keeper Letheren beaten the effort missed the target by fractions. Paul Lewis threatened an opener too ten minutes before the break, but like his midfield partner was unable to find the target with a header from eight yards on the end of Hannant’s corner ball.
Luke Armstrong beat the U's offside trap moments after half time but did not beat Mitov who stood firm at his near post to catch the Salford man's drilled shot goalwards.
United rocked into life ten minutes after the break and created three excellent clear cut chances in as many minutes which all looked likely to break the deadlock, but George Maris and Luke Hannant were both denied with a combination of great saves by Letheren and a superb goal line clearance from Scott Wiseman.
The U’s continued to bang on the Salford door through the hour mark, Marc Richards keeping Letheren on his toes with a smart angled header at goal which forced the keeper into another save as the feeling that a United opener was brewing increased.
However, despite United’s dominance since the break, they fell behind against the run of play on 77 minutes when Harry Darling found himself in a mismatch aga Adam Rooney, with the sturdy striker brushing aside the defender to make room for a header which clipped the inside of the far post and creep in Mitov’s goal.
The Bulgarian denied the Salford front man from doubling that lead minutes later, as Rooney went clean through on goal after a mix up between Taft and Lewis defensively but could not beat Mitov again who ensured the U’s remained in the game for the final ten minutes.
The afternoon was to end in disappointment for the U’s though, who were unable to craft the same threat they had carried before what turned out to be the decisive moment in the match.
Salford City: Letheren, Wiseman, Touray, Armstrong, Maynard, Rooney (Dieseruvwe, 86 mins), Hughes, Burgess, Towell (Threlkeld, 82 mins), Jones, Conway
Cambridge United: Mitov, Knoyle (Dallas, 89 mins), Taft, Ward, Darling, Hannant, Lewis, Maris, O’Neil (Dunk, 9 mins), Smith, Richards
Attendance: 3,026 (656)