Cambridge United chalked their first point on the road in the Sky Bet League One season with a determined 1-1 draw against Charlton Athletic at the Valley...
Despite an evenly-matched first-half, the U’s went into the break a goal down after Scott Fraser headed home from close range. Capitalising on their dominant spell during the hour mark, Harvey Knibbs converted to level matters. A nerve-wracking conclusion dawned, but the visitors stood strong to force a share of the spoils.
Frankly, the sides couldn’t have headed into the encounter on the back of more contrasting results. For the U’s, it was a chance to redeem themselves after falling to a 4-1 defeat at Portsmouth in a real ‘game of two halves’ clash in midweek, whereas the Addicks plummeted five past Plymouth Argyle, maintaining their 100% start on home soil and accruing the momentum.
Mark Bonner tinkered with his squad by naming four changes from their most recent outing. George Williams and Harrison Dunk deployed the full-back roles, whilst Adam May and James Brophy returned after brief rests.
It took the U’s just 20 seconds to stamp their authority with the first golden chance of the afternoon. Shilow Tracey beat George Dobson for speed with a lung-busting run towards the following faithful – he crossed towards Knibbs inside the six-yard box but the attacker headed wide.
On former soil, Dimitar Mitov was called into action on the 7th minute when Albie Morgan’s teasing free-kick from 25 yards was denied by the Bulgarian - who dived low to his left and forced a corner.
Five minutes later, United flexed their wing-play again when an overlap from Harrison Dunk and James Brophy resulted in the latter crossing towards Sam Smith in the area – the lone striker generated an immense amount of loop on the header, falling in slow motion and landing inches past the crossbar.
Inventive when stretching play, Paul Digby’s incisive lofted ball on 16 was met by a racing Knibbs, who floated it back to an unmarked Brophy from 20 yards who drilled wide of the left post.
From there, the hosts turned the screw - they enjoyed the majority of the possession as the half an hour mark approached. Bonner’s men had to showcase real defensive grit to get a plethora of blocks in to deny deliveries into the mixer.
On the 37th minute, Brophy spearheaded a promising break, dancing around the left and squaring towards Tracey from yards away but Eoghan O’Connell did extremely well to clear the danger.
The deadlock was broken a few minutes later - falling the way of the hosts when Mitov denied Jayden Stockley’s close-range shot, only to be directed straight to Fraser who headed home with the net at his mercy. A frustrating one for the U’s to concede, forcing a change to the complexity of the half-time team talk.
Clearing their lines when called upon, Jubril Okedina denied Ryan Inniss’ goal bound powering header on the 54th minute.
Starting to purr, the U’s levelled matters five minutes later with a well-worked move. Dunk’s sumptuous delivery was headed at by Smith, the attempt eventually fell to Tracey whose follow-up was snatched at by a lurking Knibbs who stabbed home.
Buoyed by the equaliser, the U’s looked likeliest to grab the next goal. A May free-kick from under 25 yards was drilled with both speed and curl – Smith was able to get a touch, but so did a defender, as it sailed wide for a corner.
The visitors had to contend with a heart-in-mouth moment on 72 when Corey Blackett-Taylor’s whipped cross into Stockley allowed the targetman to crack a venomous volley excruciatingly wide of the post from close proximity.
Mitov was calm and collected to catch George Dobson’s ambitious attempt on the 89th minute. Despite being under pressure, the visitors rolled their sleeves up and put their bodies on the line to see out the game and collate a point for their endeavours.
The U’s now divert their attentions to the anticipated Carabao Cup Second Round clash against Premier League outfit Southampton on Tuesday evening (23rd August,) who travel to an electric Abbey Stadium.
Charlton Athletic: Wollacott, Clare, Inniss, O’Connell, Clayden, Dobson, Morgan, Fraser (Payne, 71), Rak-Sakyi (Blackett-Taylor, 61, Henry 80), Kirk (Leaburn, 71), Stockley
Subs Not Used: MacGillivray, Lavelle, Chin
Goalscorers: Fraser (40)
Bookings: Clayden, Clare
Cambridge United: Mitov, Williams, Okedina, Jones, Dunk, Digby, May, Tracey (Ironside, 77), Knibbs (Lankster, 90+6), Brophy, Smith
Subs Not Used: Mannion, Haunstrup, O’Neil, Ibsen Rossi, Janneh
Goalscorers: Knibbs (59)
Bookings: Okedina, Tracey
Referee: Carl Brook
Attendance: 12644 (792 away fans)