Cambridge United saw a half-time lead overturned in Gloucestershire on Tuesday night as Cheltenham Town ran out 2-1 winners…
After taking the initiative through Adam May’s rapturous strike on 28 minutes, the U’s twice conceded in the second half through fantastic finishes from Nlundulu and May, to make for a long journey back ahead of Saturday’s home game against Barnsley.
For the third game in a row, Mark Bonner named an unchanged starting XI and following an impeccably observed tribute to Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the action got underway at the Completely-Suzuki Stadium.
Despite heading into the clash full of confidence after two straight wins, it took United a little while to get going in the contest. An errant pass from Dunk six minutes in was played straight into the path of Cheltenham’s Lloyd, who after jinxing inside to open up the shot on goal, skewed his effort into the ground to waste the opportunity.
United’s first opening came on 14 minutes when a perfectly timed over-the-top pass from Adam May found the run of Smith, whose clever back-heel flick fell perfectly into the path of Ironside, but recovering Robins defenders swarmed the forward and snuffed out the chance.
One player who was unusually quiet by his own standards was Shilow Tracey, who barely had a kick of the ball during the opening period of the contest. That was until the 28th minute, when he was let loose down the left hand side before playing the ball into Knibbs, who found the late-arriving May on the edge of the box to devastating effect. May’s trademark strike off the post left Southwood with no chance of making the stop and the U’s were a goal to the good.
The home side put the U’s under reasonable pressure during the first half and Mitov was called into action on 38 minutes with a terrific reaction save, using his legs to deny Broom through a crowded penalty area.
The U’s could have left the home side reeling just before the break, as a presentable counter-attacking opportunity went wasted as Smith's failed to find Knibbs behind the defence after a lung-busting burst through the middle.
It was the counter-attack again which almost paid dividends for the U’s straight out from the half, as after being released on the run down the right hand side, Smith played the ball into the feet of Knibbs but his snap-shot was wide of the mark.
Whilst May’s first half goal will receive plenty of plaudits for its power and precision, Cheltenham’s equaliser will do the same for its deftness and beauty. With barely any space to work with and facing a narrow angle towards goal, Nlundulu curled the ball home from 20 yards to give the home side a deserved equaliser.
The goal prompted a double change as Brophy and O’Neil replaced Smith and Tracey but as the game approached its conclusion, Alfie May capitalised on a hesitant U’s defence to fire in from the tightest of angles to turn the game on its head.
The introduction of Lankester and Okenabirhie helped prompt a late rally from the U’s, but aside from Knibbs’ on-target diversion from a few yards out that Southwood claimed comfortably, the Robins stopper wasn’t tested as the home team ran out victorious.