Cambridge United put in a professional away performance to clinch a memorable 0-1 victory against Ipswich Town at Portman Road...
Buoyed by over 2000 of the United faithful, the U’s showcased grit and determination to secure maximum points after forcing an own goal from Dominic Thompson on the hour mark. In the process, they elevated themselves to 13th in Sky Bet League One and went another step closer to confirming their stay in the third tier for another season.
Mark Bonner named an unchanged side from the XI that claimed a resolute victory at AFC Wimbledon a week earlier. The matchday squad was completed by the returning Jack Iredale on the bench, replacing Shilow Tracey for his first inclusion since the start of February.
Heading into the first clash in East Anglia since 1993, United had little to fear with league survival all but secured. With a five-game winless run banished and 20 points accumulated from their 20 travels this campaign, there was a real sense of optimism that they could conclude a sound campaign in promising manner. Understandably, the pressure was on for the hosts. A watertight defence that had conceded just six goals in 2022, the least of any side in the EFL, had sparked an 11-game unbeaten run to ensure a play-off charge was on.
In front of the biggest crowd they’ve played under in a league fixture in decades, the visitors started in energetic fashion - capitalising on misplaced passes in the middle of the park. Both goalkeepers’ gloves received an early test when Bersant Celina and Adam May tried their luck from distance.
The desire continued in what was a real end-to-end introduction with the visitors utilising their flanks well. Delirium was generated on the 14th minute when United thought they had taken the lead, only for it to be cut short due to an offside when Joe Ironside poked home George Williams’ delicate header.
Two minutes later, Williams’ menacing run deep down the right was terminated by Cameron Burgess who brought the full-back down on the edge of the box. From a tight angle, James Brophy teed up an unmarked May from his territory, but the powerful attempt was well-blocked by a sea of blue.
Momentum on their side, it was all United in a ferocious spell. On 19, Williams connected with a quick corner but his header was tipped over the crossbar astutely from Christian Walton.
James Norwood was released down the left on the 26th minute – from here, he whipped in a cross which Dimitar Mitov collected before it could float to a looming Conor Chaplin. The Tractor Boys had been creative in possession, but were yet to really stamp authority in the final third.
This started to come into fruition after the half an hour mark with United pegged back and needing to soak up pressure. Thompson executed a low cross towards an open Sam Morsy in the middle who flicked towards the corner, but the Egyptian was denied by Mitov who gathered it well to his left.
Ultimately, Bonner’s side defended bravely when called upon to ensure deadlock going into the break. Possessing a threat on the counter too, particularly down the left, it was a strong shift thus far.
Seconds after play resumed, United’s rapidness almost conjured the perfect start. Brophy, in a menacing battle against counterpart Wes Burns, skinned his man and delivered a cross towards Lloyd Jones who thundered a header which Walton dived to deny.
At the opposite end on 48, Chaplin wriggled about in the area and fizzed a drilled shot which went inches wide of the post despite Norwood’s best efforts to slide in and convert.
The U’s produced pandemonium in the away end on the 57th minute when they opened the scoring. May delivered a teasing free-kick which was flicked on excellently from Paul Digby, falling into the path of Thompson who struck into his own net following Ironside pressure.
In response, Town went close ten minutes later when Norwood outmuscled his man and pulled the trigger from 8 yards which Mitov kept out with a sublime stop. A storm had to be weathered – the introduction of attacking prowess in Sone Aluko and Macualey Bonne added danger.
With 70 minutes on the clock, Bonne got on the end of Janoi Donacien’s deep cross – the header dipped but nestled against the crossbar netting.
Buoyed by the breakthrough, United enjoyed the freedom when roaming forwards and weren’t too far from killing the game off on the 75th minute when Ironside, on the turn, fired wide from outside of the penalty area.
As the encounter creeping towards its final moments, the U’s continued to cling on. They had to survive a heart-in-mouth moment in stoppage time when Town had the ball in the back of the net after poking home a scramble from Celina’s corner, but it was ruled out.
It proved the last of the action as United held on for a memorable, valiant away win to surpass the 50-point mark and climb up to 13th in the division.
Up next, a double header at the Abbey Stadium is kickstarted on Tuesday (5th April) when the U’s take on another play-off chaser in Wycombe Wanderers.
Ipswich Town: Walton, Donacien, Woolfenden, Burgess, Burns, Carroll (Aluko, 62), Morsy, Thompson (Penney, 72), Chaplin (Bonne, 62), Celina, Norwood
Subs Not Used: Hladky, Bakinson, El Mizouni, Pigott
Bookings: Norwood, Donacien, Woolfenden, Bonne
Cambridge United: Mitov, Williams, Jones, Okedina, Dunk, Digby, May, Smith, Knibbs, Brophy (Sherring, 90+3), Ironside
Subs Not Used: Mannion, Iredale, Hoolahan, Tolaj, Lankester, Worman
Goalscorers: Thompson OG (57)
Bookings: Smith, Dunk, May
Referee: Craig Hicks
Attendance: 26515 (2009 away fans)