Cambridge United suffered their first defeat of the season in Sky Bet League One as Stevenage came away from the Abbey Stadium with a 1-2 success...
The U’s had work to do for the majority of the contest after Jordan Roberts poked home on the stroke of the half an hour mark. Although they levelled ten minutes from time through Elias Kachunga’s first strike in amber, a rapid response from Jamie Reid secured maximum points for the visitors.
Morale could not have been stronger in both camps heading into the anticipated encounter. Mark Bonner’s men and Steve Evans’ newcomers were two of just four sides who had retained a 100% record in the league without conceding in the process. Playing a mixture of attractive and effective football, an intriguing spectacle awaited.
Deciding not to change a winning formula, the Head Coach retained the same XI that recorded victory at Fleetwood Town three days earlier. In the sole change to the matchday squad, Will Mannion made way for fellow goalkeeper James Holden.
A lightning introduction from the U’s saw them force the first attempt within the opening minute. After James Brophy’s menacing delivery forced a corner, the resulting cross was flicked at by Danny Andrew and headed narrowly over the bar by Gassan Ahadme.
The only downer to the vibrant start was the forced substitute in the 5th minute when Saikou Janneh went down off the ball following a tackle, calling an end to the winger’s night as he went off for Kachunga.
Boro had the ball in the back of the net for a brief moment on 17 when Roberts was found inside the box - he composed himself and tucked home from close range, cueing a raised flag for offside.
Just as they had done all season, George Thomas’ corners were causing havoc. Delightfully falling into the six-yard box, it evaded a sea of bodies who were rushing to get just the slightest touch which would surely have went goal bound.
Two minutes later, the visitors were celebrating the opener when a long free-kick was flicked on by Carl Piergianni and on a plate for Roberts to nick the ball and poke home from a matter of yards.
In response, the U’s put together an immense piece of pressure in the 35th minute when Jack Lankester’s jinking run past several men enabled him to pull the trigger, only to be blocked into the path of an onrushing Paul Digby - who again couldn’t fire past a stubborn backline.
The first half simmered from here, with Stevenage looking tactically composed and limiting United to little, who were yet to gain a real foothold and had work to do, but time was still in their favour.
Five minutes after the break, Aaron Pressley tested the backline after latching onto a lofted ball, twisting and turning towards an angle before blazing wide of Jack Stevens’ crossbar from 10 yards.
Beginning to purr and enjoying the possession, a great cross from Brophy on 54 was crucially headed behind for a corner from Kane Smith with a lurking Ahadme leaping and ready to head.
A potentially match-defining moment occurred on the hour mark when Roberts played in substitute Reid with an inch-perfect pass, allowing the striker to maraud towards the box and pick out a strike, which was superbly stopped by a brave Stevens.
Knocking on the door at the other end, Ahadme and then Brophy had inviting opportunities to test goalkeeper Taye Ashby-Hammond, but each and every attempt was denied by the resolute visitors.
The U’s found themselves level on the 80th minute when play was built towards Fejiri Okenabirhie down the right, who lashed across the face of goal and towards an aware Kachunga who was on hand to nestle into the net.
Within a matter of seconds, Stevenage regained their advantage. Straight from the off, the ball fell to Reid from 25 yards, who took a quick touch and drilled into the bottom corner past Stevens.
The sucker punch zapped the energy from the hosts for the time being. They almost conjured a second equaliser in stoppage time when Liam Bennett’s sublime cross arrowed towards talisman Ahadme, who stabbed inches wide of Ashby-Hammond’s left post.
Ultimately, time ran out for Bonner’s men, who now lick their wounds and go again on Saturday afternoon (19th August) - when the Abbey hosts Bristol Rovers. Be sure to secure your place and get behind the boys.
Cambridge United: Stevens, L. Bennett, R. Bennett, Morrison, Andrew, Digby, Thomas, Brophy, Lankester (Okenabirhie, 72’), Janneh (Kachunga, 5’), Ahadme
Subs Not Used: Holden, Dunk, Okedina, Ibsen Rossi, Simper
Goalscorers: Kachunga (80’)
Stevenage: Ashby-Hammond, Burns, N. Thompson, Piergianni, Smith, L. Thompson, B. Thompson (Forster-Caskey, 60’), Butler, MacDonald (Reid, 60’), Pressley (Freeman, 72’), Roberts (March, 89’)
Subs Not Used: Hegyi, Hannam
Goalscorers: Roberts (26’), Reid (81’)
Bookings: L. Thompson, Butler
Referee: Will Finnie
Attendance: 7521 (1259 away fans)
Man of the Match: L. Bennett