Ten-man Cambridge United suffered back-to-back defeats in Sky Bet League One as Northampton Town remained firm to hold out for a 2-1 win at Sixfields Stadium…
Following a quiet first period, the encounter sparked into life after the break as Kieron Bowie’s opener was immediately doubled by Cobblers’ top goalscorer Sam Hoskins. United handed themselves a lifeline near the closing stages thanks to Gassan Ahadme, but a dismissal from Paul Digby minutes later gave the visitors a mountain too high to climb.
The U’s were looking to make an instant return to winning ways after tasting defeat for the first time in six games prior to the international break, whereas the hosts were out to improve on their recent form of one win in eight and bridge the gap between the sides, which stood at three points.
In response to the derby day loss to Peterborough United a fortnight earlier, Mark Bonner opted to make two changes to his starting XI. George Thomas and Saikou Janneh made way for Jordan Cousins and Jack Lankester, returning from injury and suspension respectively, whilst Glenn McConnell and Sullay Kaikai were named on the bench.
Ensuring there were no signs of rustiness, United contended strongly in the opening moments and importantly cleared their lines when Liam Bennett flicked a header away from danger to prevent Aaron McGowan’s teasing delivery being met by a man in claret.
Up the other end on the 11th minute, the marauding U’s full-back picked out Adam May inside the area, who from 15 yards couldn’t gain the connection he wanted as it slowly rolled towards the gloves of Max Thompson.
A matter of seconds passed before opposite goalkeeper Jack Stevens was forced into action after Shaun McWilliams’ defence-splitting pass was concluded by Marc Leonard, who found the space inside the area to unleash a shot which required United’s number one to get down low and dive to his left in a flash.
The visitors’ build-up play had been good, but they were yet to force and latch onto a golden opportunity. That was evident on the 17th minute when Fejiri Okenabirhie couldn’t get a touch on Ryan Bennett’s headed cushion before Michael Morrison’s drilled delivery across the face of goal just evaded the lone striker – the slightest of touches would have caused trouble.
Both sides had to remain patient with final third action at a premium, but Bonner’s men almost popped up with a moment of magic just past the half an hour mark when Lankester dropped the shoulder twice en route to dancing into the box before pulling the trigger and curling to an angle which required an excellent diving stop from Thompson.
The matchup had undoubtedly fizzled out, with the Cobblers dropping deep and coming close with a switched delivery from Mitch Pinnock on 37, which required L. Bennett to be at full stretch to bravely head behind for a corner.
Ultimately, both sides were cancelling each other out well, with their patient approach and lack of complete control in the middle of the park ensuring that the scrappy tie at Sixfields entered the break in deadlock. In spite of that, both sides shared the equal opinion that the game was there for the taking so long as they generated further energy and drive.
Northampton drew first blood a few minutes into the second half after a lack of communication forced a mishap at the back, allowing Bowie to nick the ball and strike into an empty net.
A well-worked move resulted in their second of the afternoon on the 54th minute when Leonard teed up Patrick Brough in a tight angle of the penalty area, who cut back to Hoskins who powered home from close range.
The U’s needed a rapid response and almost conjured the consolation on the stroke of the hour mark when Danny Andrew’s free-kick whistled just past the far post, prompting the Head Coach to name four changes shortly after.
The substitutions made an immediate impression. The industrious Thomas tested his luck with some quickfire attempts on the 73rd minute, which first looped over the crossbar and second almost sneaked in the near post.
United found their way back into the game a few moments later when Elias Kachunga’s speculative shot from distance was spilled by Thompson, allowing a lurking Ahadme to convert from a matter of yards to breathe life.
However, United found themselves a man down on 79 when Digby received a yellow card for bringing a man down and a second for dissent.
Despite the disadvantage, they battled towards a share of the spoils and gained a key moment in stoppage time when a corner deflected off Ahadme and floated goalbound, but Thompson dived to his right to claim.
It proved to be the end of a disappointing 90 minutes for the visitors, who simply gave themselves too much to do.
The U’s are straight back at it in midweek (Tuesday 28th November) as they mark their return to CB5 by welcoming Lincoln City – be sure to back the boys.
Northampton Town: Thompson, McGowan, Sherring, Willis (Odimayo, 80’), Brough, McWilliams, Somerby, Leonard (Monthe, 90+2’), Pinnock (Appere, 71’), Hoskins, Bowie (Simpson, 81’)
Subs Not Used: Dadge, Hondermarck, Haynes
Goalscorers: Bowie (48’), Hoskins (54’)
Cambridge United: Stevens, L. Bennett, R. Bennett, Morrison, Andrew, Cousins (Thomas, 62’), May (Ahadme, 62’), Lankester (Kaikai, 63’), Digby, Brophy (Kachunga, 62’), Okenabirhie
Subs Not Used: Mannion, Okedina, McConnell
Goalscorers: Ahadme (76’)
Bookings: Brophy, Digby (RED), Andrew
Referee: Lewis Smith
Attendance: 6,929 (1,213 away fans)