Cambridge United returned to winning ways in Sky Bet League One with a well-deserved 1-0 victory over nine-man Carlisle United at the Abbey Stadium…
The U’s grew as the game progressed and earned the breakthrough mid-way during the second half thanks to George Thomas’ astute header. Red cards from Jack Armer and Alfie McCalmont late in the afternoon helped ensure maximum points for the hosts, who cancelled out the eight-game winless run and registered back-to-back clean sheets.
United were looking to use their positive home form of just one defeat in six to their advantage and use their midweek showing as the foundation to help gain their first win since early September. As for the Cumbrians, they made the pilgrimage down the country hoping to register back-to-back victories for the first time this season.
Following the valiant stalemate against leaders Portsmouth four days earlier, Mark Bonner opted with an unchanged starting XI. The only change to the matchday squad was the inclusion of Brandon Haunstrup, who replaced ill goalkeeper Will Mannion.
The U’s were forced to contend with an early spell of pressure after Jordan Gibson and Jack Armer linked up well on the overlap, with the latter picking out a lone Daniel Butterworth from 12 yards who dragged his attempt wide of the right post.
Paul Simpson’s men continued to prove promising with their effective wing play and recycled play well in what was an extremely open and end-to-end introduction, where the hosts too were itching to get ahead. Their opening attempt fell to Michael Morrison on the 8th minute, who met Danny Andrew’s corner with his head, which dipped and landed on the roof of the net.
With 20 minutes on the clock, Carlisle roamed into the final third, earned a corner and concluded it with Butterworth’s sliced shot on the edge of the box, which took a heavy deflection and fumbled to a looming Sam Lavelle – the captain got a boot to it from a matter of yards, but was deemed offside.
The tide turned in the latter stages of the first period, with the U’s claiming some quickfire attempts. On 34, Sullay Kaikai jinked into the box and blasted a drilled attempt at former U Tomas Holy, before the resulting corner was chested down by Morrison and on a plate for Jordan Cousins from 15 yards, who volleyed high and wide.
Two minutes later, Gassan Ahadme engineered a well-worked attack which found its way to the industrious Paul Digby down the right. He picked out a pinpoint cross which floated back to the lone striker, whose sharp volley on target was claimed by Holy.
The last kick of the half almost resulted in the termination of deadlock when Jack Lankester’s inswinger evaded an onrushing Ahadme – any contact and it could have been enough. All in all, the U’s had started to turn the screw in terms of attempts, but the Cumbrians remained the more inventive in possession.
On the 49th minute, United progressed up the field and caused pinball when Ahadme’s shot was blocked, eventually landing to Liam Bennett from distance whose ferocious attempt skewed not too far wide of the post.
Ten minutes later, it was Kaikai’s turn to pick out a speculative effort. After cutting inside, he pulled the trigger from 25 yards but it landed just wide of Holy’s left stick.
A triple substitution just past the hour mark helped continue United’s dominant spell, who were churning out a plethora of chances. Their most clear-cut opportunity fell to James Brophy on 68, who endeavoured down the right and picked out a sweet 20-yard drilled effort towards the bottom corner which Holy exceptionally pawed behind.
The U’s secured a deserved opener on the 72nd minute when creative spark Liam Bennett picked out a delightful cross which was latched at by Thomas, who leapt well and emphatically headed home.
With the clash reaching its conclusion, full-back Armer received his second yellow card after taking down Saikou Janneh – handing the hosts a great chance to see out the game with more assurance.
During a nine-minute spell of stoppage time, United were handed a two-man advantage after McCalmont was handed a straight red card for a poor high tackle.
As a result of this, Bonner’s men cleared their lines whenever they were troubled as they held out to register the long-awaited victory, chalked their seventh clean sheet of the campaign and cued the sound of coconuts.
Up next, the U’s make the journey to Adams Park on Tuesday evening (31st October) to take on Wycombe Wanderers – be sure to back the boys.
Cambridge United: Stevens, L. Bennett, R. Bennett, Morrison, Andrew, Digby, Cousins, Brophy (Gordon, 78’), Lankester (Thomas, 64’), Kaikai (Janneh, 64’), Ahadme (Okenabirhie, 64’)
Subs Not Used: Ibsen Rossi, May, Haunstrup
Goalscorers: Thomas (72’)
Bookings: Lankester, R. Bennett
Carlisle United: Holy, Barclay, Lavelle, Mellish, Armer, Guy, Moxon (Robinson, 84’), Maguire (Ablade, 60’), Butterworth (McCalmont, 60’), Gibson (Plange, 74’), Garner (Edmundson, 74’)
Subs Not Used: Andresson, Whelan
Bookings: Armer (RED), McCalmont (RED)
Referee: Sam Purkiss
Attendance: 6513 (661 away fans)
Man of the Match: L. Bennett