Cambridge United were forced into successive stalemates in Sky Bet League One as they were held by ten-man Burton Albion at the Cledara Abbey Stadium…
Entering the contest in similar circumstances, the outfits sat nailed on points with one place separating them in the table following runs that had seen them register one victory from their previous five. However, enough evidence was on the table to suggest a corner had been turned, with the U’s in particular using their strong home form of seven wins from ten to their advantage against a Brewers side winless on the road since mid-October.
In reaction to the stalemate at Exeter City a week earlier, Neil Harris decided to roll with an unchanged XI. The only inclusion to the matchday squad was the return of Jack Lankester, who recovered from injury and replaced Academy graduate Greg Sandiford on the bench.
During an all-action start, the hosts utilised a front-footed approach and made the first opportunity with four minutes on the clock when Danny Andrew’s delivery down the left was flicked at by the head of Elias Kachunga, who couldn’t divert it on target as it landed wide of Max Crocombe’s left post.
Two minutes later, former U’s loanee Seddon briefly had the ball in the back of the net following a well-angled header, but referee Ed Duckworth had pulled back play owing to a foul in the build-up.
Causing havoc with his crosses, a 10th minute swinger from Andrew was this time met by Lyle Taylor in the six-yard box, who initially touched it down, but the ball was cleared before he could pull the trigger.
Remaining on top throughout the early stages, an excellent move saw James Brophy intercept in the middle of the park, allowing Jordan Cousins to play an inviting ball to Liam Bennett, who marauded towards the area and won a corner following an important block. It resulted in the lively Andrew recycling, cutting inside and drilling an attempt on target.
On the 17th minute, Kachunga linked up well with his fellow attackers to dart down the flanks before playing a brief one-two with Sullay Kaikai, which opened up space in the box and gave the experienced forward time to shoot, but again the disciplined backline blocked.
In the ascendency, the U’s orchestrated the best chance of the afternoon on the half an hour mark when Taylor was teed up from 12 yards out and introduced a venomous strike towards the palms of Crocombe, who showed strong reactions to palm it to safety.
The Brewers looked their most promising out wide and almost snatched the opener five minutes from the break when Deji Oshilaja switched to Jake Caprice on the overlap, who cut back to playmaker Joe Powell whose strike from just over 20 yards dashed inches past the woodwork.
Following the break, there was very little action in the early stages of the second period, with the visitors using up three substitutions as they hunted a change in their attacking approach.
Likewise, the hosts were out to draw first blood and started to turn a corner on the eve of the hour when Andrew’s cross floated all the way to the back post, where Brophy tussled but couldn’t get a crucial foot on it as it went out of play.
The complexity of the tie changed on the 64th minute when, just seconds after entering the book, Seddon received his marching orders following a poor tackle.
Utilising their extra man advantage, L. Bennett ventured down the right with a mazy run ten minutes later, before being dragged down for a free-kick from a promising angle. Clever thinking from Andrew saw him lay it to an open Lankester from 20 yards out, who opened his body and unleashed a curler which arrowed agonisingly wide.
Sitting back, soaking up pressure and putting their bodies on the line whenever required, Martin Paterson’s side had adjusted to the match well, with very little chances falling to either side as the dying embers creeped closer.
The indication of nine additional minutes gave the crowd a further lift, with Harris’ men steaming forwards at every attempt and battering the possession. Despite their endeavour, Burton blocked everything which fell their way, with Adam May’s long-range strike being the final kick of the day as Crocombe claimed to ensure a share of the spoils.
An 11th league clean sheet of the season for United, who again had been resolute at the back but just couldn’t generate enough opportunities to find the back of the net.
Up next, the U’s hit the road as they travel to Shropshire next weekend (3rd February) to take on Shrewsbury Town – be sure to back the boys.
Cambridge United: Stevens, L. Bennett, R. Bennett, Morrison, Andrew, Digby (May, 75’), Cousins, Kaikai, Kachunga, Brophy (Lankester, 60’), Taylor
Subs Not Used: Mannion, Okedina, Ibsen Rossi, Janneh, Njoku
Bookings: Morrison, Andrew, Taylor, Lankester
Burton Albion: Crocombe, Moon, Brayford, Sweeney, Caprice (Bola, 46’), Powell, Oshilaja, Seddon, Bennett, Helm (Carayol, 68’), Hugill (Leko, 46’, Ola-Adebomi, 49’)
Subs Not Used: Blackman, Harper, Chauke
Bookings: Moon, Seddon (RED), Oshilaja, Carayol, Bennett, Crocombe
Referee: Ed Duckworth
Attendance: 6755 (214 away fans)
Man of the Match: L. Bennett