In another enduring pre-season test, Cambridge United fell to a 1-3 defeat against higher-tier Norwich City at a sweltering Abbey Stadium...
A well-executed header from Sam Smith was the cherry on top of an encouraging first period for the U’s, who had navigated tricky conditions and shown signs of excellence. Despite continuing in that manner after the break, the Canaries turned on the gas and secured the comeback thanks to Liam Gibbs and a double from Jordan Hugill to separate the hard-working East Anglian sides.
Returning to CB5 soil for the first time in the 2022/23 campaign, the hosts treated their faithful with an encouraging opening minutes – stretching the opposing full-backs with pace and tenacity. They crafted the first opportunity on the 4th minute through a trademark Adam May 20-yard attempt which had fizz, forcing Michael McGovern to paw away for a corner.
The Northern Irishman was called into action once more six minutes later when a slight scramble in the box resulted in Paul Digby performing an acrobatic flick which sailed in slow motion before it was palmed from danger.
Momentum was scuppered on the 15th minute when, after feeling discomfort following a strong defensive tackle, Mamadou Jobe was stretchered off and replaced by fellow Academy prospect Joe Tarpey.
Not fazed by the conditions; the U’s continued to dictate. Promising in the final third, a neat pass from May on 23 found Jack Lankester whose jinking run allowed him to get a shot away from 10 yards which an approaching McGovern was there to block.
Slight miscommunication from a United pass released Teemu Pukki in the middle of the park ten minutes later. The Finnish striker made an intelligent driving run forwards and pulled the trigger from an angle which Dimitar Mitov reacted well to at his near post.
The Canaries’ first attempt spearheaded a second on the 41st minute when Dimitris Giannoulis’ teasing delivery was headed onto the roof of the net from Adam Ideh’s excellent leap and header.
Up the other end, the U’s deservedly broke deadlock on the cusp of the whistle when May’s whipped corner was diverted home by the head of Smith, who got a delightful flick with his back to goal to conclude a pleasing half.
The visitors, who had freshened up during the interval by making four changes, threatened to turn the screw on 56 when Onel Hernandez used his pace and power to cut into the middle and lash a shot from range which, despite an awkward deflection, couldn’t trickle past an alert Mitov.
United were agonisingly close to extending their lead moments later when Smith’s endeavour allowed him to find a lurking Joe Ironside by the six-yard box – somehow, the striker was denied by McGovern’s outrageous low stretch.
Dean Smith’s side clinched the equaliser on the hour mark when Gibbs side footed past Mitov after a creative set up from Hernandez. From here, Mark Bonner injected ten new faces for the final stretch.
The Championship outfit completed their comeback on 68 after substitute Hugill pounced on an error before racing towards a shooting range and firing past Will Mannion.
The number 9 was at the double on the 78th minute when he remained calm inside the box, beat his man and lashed into the net.
The prospect of taking home the match ball was denied five minutes later when Josh Sargent missed a cut back, only to fall on a plate for the striker who was prevented by an astute Mannion save. The U’s goalkeeper was called into action in the next attack, keeping out Gibbs’ audacious curler.
All in all, another invaluable 90 minutes in the tank for the hosts as the start of a new league campaign beckons. They conclude their pre-season schedule on Saturday (23rd July) when they host another Championship outfit in Hull City here at the Abbey.
Cambridge United: Mitov (Mannion, 60), Jobe (Tarpey, 17), Okedina (Rossi, 60), Jones (Taylor, 60), Haunstrup (Dunk, 60), Digby (O’Neil, 60), May (Simper, 60), Smith (Tracey, 60), Lankester (Knibbs, 60), Brophy (Yearn, 60), Ironside (Janneh, 60)
Subs Not Used: Holden, McConnell
Goalscorers: Smith (43)
Norwich City: McGovern, Aarons (Cantwell, 70), Tomkinson, Hanley (Omobamidele, 45), Giannoulis (McCallum, 70), Rowe (Rashica, 70), Sorensen (Gibbs, 45), Lees-Melou (McClean, 70), Hernandez (Sinani, 70), Idah (Sargent, 45), Pukki (Hugill, 45)
Subs Not Used: Gunn, Krul, Springett
Goalscorers: Gibbs (59), Hugill (68, 78)
Referee: Neil Hair