Cambridge United’s Emirates FA Cup journey came to an end at the first hurdle as they were edged out 0-2 by Shrewsbury Town at the Abbey Stadium.
A well-taken strike from Charlie Daniels minutes into the second half gave the Shrews the lead. And despite showing heaps of endeavour to conjure up a leveller, hopes of a revival for the U’s were over late on, when a Brad Walker thunderbolt secured the visitors’ passage into Round Two.
The U’s made three changes to the side that dispatched Salford City on Tuesday. Adam May was deemed fit to start, with Idris El Mizouni and Harvey Knibbs all returning to the fold and being deployed as United’s attacking options against their League One opponents. Mark Bonner was without top scorers Paul Mullin and Joe Ironside, who were both absent from the match squad.
The Shrews hit the ground running with a menacing start. A teasing Scott High delivery was acrobatically met by Marc Pugh who cannoned his attempt a whisker over the top in the opening minutes.
Despite not carving out a clear opportunity for themselves in the opening quarter of an hour, the U’s midfield was being orchestrated impeccably by Hiram Boateng and May who continuously attempted to set lone frontman Knibbs away.
A tricky run from May on the 18th minute released Luke Hannant down the right side, he found the right pass into Knibbs whose well-connected shot deflected off a Salop defender and away from danger.
Harry Burgoyne was forced into a superb reaction save on 21 to deny Robbie Cundy, pawing the ball onto the crossbar from a dangerous in-swinging United corner, which proved to be as close as ether side came in the first half.
El Mizouni found plenty of space moments shortly after, in what was a dominant spell for the hosts, drilling an attempt which was tipped inches wide of the post by Burgoyne. At the other end, Dimitar Mitov had to stay alert to keep out a Scott High attempt on the 27th minute, reaching low to gather it up as the away side looked to change the complexity of the game once more.
On the half hour mark, yet another first-class floating corner from United fell to Knibbs, who leapt well but couldn’t quite divert his header goal-bound.
A strong interception by Daniel Udoh on El Mizouni allowed the striker to tee up Pugh in a dangerous area, but the former Premier League player couldn’t convert past Mitov who dived well.
On the brink of half time, Charlie Daniels scampered forwards for Sam Ricketts’ side and executed a tricky cross goal-bound. Harrison Dunk threw his body on the line to deny a golden opportunity, which was enough to keep both sides deadlocked going into the break after a lively first period.
Two minutes into the second half, the Shrews took the lead. An intercepted pass allowed left-back Daniels to drive forward and fire a clean attempt from 20 yards into far bottom corner, in what was a pivotal turning point in the tie.
The visitors couldn’t convert a second of the game, when a long ball forward found Daniel Udoh in United’s box, with the Shrews forward slamming a shot against the side netting just after the hour mark.
United dictated a large majority of possession throughout the second period, but despite the introduction of Wes Hoolahan, Tom Knowles and Andrew Dallas at various points in the second period, the visitors sat back in a strong defensive shape to make life difficult for Mark Bonner’ men.
Burgoyne was forced into a smart save from Hannant on 64, who hit a crisp half-volley which just didn’t have enough direction to nestle past the goalkeeper. Hannant came close ten minutes from time too, but his first time hit from 20 yards, skimmed the roof of the net and clattered the stanchion behind the goal.
Desperate to conjure up an equaliser, the U’s continued to scamper forwards but it would be their eventual downfall. Any hopes of forcing extra time was diminished on the 88th minute when a barnstorming 30-yard attempt from Brad Walker flew past Mitov to double the Shrews’ advantage and put the game to bed.
Cambridge United: Mitov, Knoyle, Taylor, Cundy, Dunk, Hannant, Boateng, May (Hoolahan, 66), Iredale (Knowles, 76), El Mizouni (Dallas, 76), Knibbs
Shrewsbury Town: Burgoyne, Williams, Walker, Pierre, C. Daniels, High, Edwards (Ebanks-Landell, 82), Norburn, J. Daniels (Barnett, 69), Udoh, Pugh (Millar, 90+1)
Bookings: Udoh, Norburn