“It was a topsy-turvy game that I’m sure supporters probably enjoyed watching more than we did!”
After going through all of the emotions during an enthralling encounter against Burton Albion, Mark Bonner was left gratified after the U’s clinch maximum points.
Despite going a goal behind on three separate occasions, his side remained composed to continuously turn the game on its head – snatching a 4-3 victory late on when the side were on the front foot.
“We always hung in there - our reaction to every moment that went against us was really good. We were able to see the game out well and I think we deserved the win over the balance of 90 minutes against a tough team that are fighting and scrapping for things.
“I thought some of our attacking play at times was excellent. It’s never easy when you’re behind, but we created a good number of chances and I’m delighted with the result in the end.”
As far as opening ten minutes go, this was rampant and feisty. Conceding after a matter of seconds changes the complexity of the game plan immediately, as did Jonny Smith’s early bath. Going into the break behind too was a blow, but it was critical the hosts understood the importance of biding their time.
“15 seconds into a game, that’s the complete opposite of what we prepared for. They get a foot up so early on but we just knew that we’d have the ball, the sending off changes the game massively. That was a different challenge, we had to find different ways of attacking and exploiting the space.
“In the end, if you win 4-3, you come from behind three times and you’ve got your third home win on the spin in the league, a lad scores a hat-trick and we have as much attacking play as we did, that’s worth the headlines.”
Buoyed from the briefing during the break, United added their clinical edge – Sam Smith secured his first career treble as the hosts plummeted three in front of the Newmarket Road End.
“Great shout from Gary (Waddock) to change to 4/4/2 at half-time. The temperament of the team today was brilliant, we managed to stay calm enough and execute a few situations really well. I actually thought our performance from that bit (Burton’s third goal) onwards was outstanding.
“I thought he (Smith) took his goals really well, really instinctive and he’ll deserve the headlines for scoring a hat-trick because I thought his performance was very good. When you need those moments of quality, he gave us them.”
The Head Coach concluded by heaping the praise on the calibre he can introduce to the pitch when the chips are down – more often than not this season, they’ve made a valuable impact. Liam O’Neil injected that intensity and attacking threat by producing an assist and drilling home the winner with a sublime strike.
“He came on and did exactly what we needed. We were in possession a lot, Liam’s a very good passer of the ball and we know he can create moments. Jack Lankester in that was great, he dodges people and cuts inside really well. Zeno comes on, it’s two minutes but he has to win two headers and does it perfectly.
“I think the players are beginning to respect the whole squad. There’s going to be some unhappy players when they don’t start and when they do come off. There has to be a healthy respect that, if you’re not starting, that’s because someone good is. That’s a real strength of ours at the moment.”