Cambridge United celebrated Women’s Football Weekend with a battle-hardened 0-0 draw against Shrewsbury Town in Sky Bet League One...
In an encounter which lacked any real clear cut chances for the U’s, they had to remain firm defensively, particularly in the closing stages, as they shared the spoils with a well-drilled Shrews side and extended their unbeaten run on home soil to six games.
Mark Bonner rotated his pack by making three changes to the side that succumbed to defeat at Wycombe Wanderers in midweek. Jubril Okedina and Wes Hoolahan returned to the XI, with Joe Ironside making a first start since mid-January.
Donning their ‘Her Game Too’ warm-up shirts as the clock ticked down, optimism was in the air for the mid-table U’s thanks to their imposing form in CB5 - particularly since the turn of the year, losing just the once in all competitions. As for Salop, although they haven’t showcased a ruthless side to their game in the final third like in the reverse fixture, they boast immense defensive resolve. No side outside the automatic promotion spots had conceded less than them, ensuring a healthier goal difference and a seven-point gap bridged from the drop zone.
The Shrews generated the first opportunity of the encounter after 3 minutes when Tom Flanagan got on the end of an inswinging corner by planting a header from six yards which Dimitar Mitov pawed away, cueing some recycling which concluded in Luke Leahy lashing wide from the edge of the penalty area.
Joe Ironside, very much in the thick of it within the opening minutes, teed up Adam May who thundered a trademark attempt from 25 yards that blazed wide. The U’s had posed problems beforehand with some tricky corners.
United had to contend with a sustained spell of pressure from Steve Cotterill’s side. Although they were creating the chances, there was yet to be an execution as the hosts remained aerially dominant.
On the 18th minute, the post was clattered when Tom Bloxham delivered menacingly to Ryan Bowman. The striker connected well first-time from a tight angle but deadlock remained intact despite a flurry of pressure.
Salop remained well on top, frustrating Bonner’s side who couldn’t get a foothold of the game from the middle of the park as they were pinned back in their numbers. Nonetheless, the tide did change as the half reached its dying embers.
On the 39th minute, the opposing backline failed to clear a free-kick which fell to May who generated a powerful header from some distance that nestled wide of Marko Marosi’s left post. George Williams launched a speculative effort in the following attack that wasn’t overly far from breezing the crossbar.
Finishing the first-half in the ascendency, Ironside almost marked his return to action with a goal when May’s 44thminute floating cross was latched at by United’s number 9 but the header was cushioned as Marosi caught the attempt from the six-yard box. Growing into the game, it was important the hosts came out of the blocks firing.
Although it was proving a stern game to stamp authority, United did have some positive spells of note. A defence-splitting pass from Hoolahan released James Brophy down the right but he was hacked down before he could drive forwards.
The aforementioned winger arrived late into the box on the 61st minute but just couldn’t get his shot away on two occasions after Ethan Ebanks-Landell recovered well to clear the danger.
A golden opportunity fell the way of the U’s on 72 when May floated towards Sam Smith who rose highest in the box but couldn’t divert it on target with the goal gaping as it hit the roof of the net.
A relatively identical attempt fell at the other end of the pitch just short of ten minutes later when an unmarked Daniel Udoh met Elliott Bennett’s cross inside the six-yard box but he got the angles wrong as it didn’t test Mitov.
When the Bulgarian was called upon, he made sure he delivered on the cusp of additional time when an excellent header from Leahy looked destined to be the winner – but United’s number one was on hand with an appluadable diving save
Eight minutes into injury time, a dangerous cross was met by Bowman who headed towards the corner of the soggy goalmouth which ultimately may have been critical as Leahy slided in but couldn’t tap home from yards. Unable to be separated, an 11th league clean sheet of the season and a point apiece was intact on a testing afternoon.
Next up, the U’s travel to Hillsborough for the first time since 1998 as they take on high-flying Sheffield Wednesday. Be sure to back the boys as part of a healthy away following and spur them towards a return to winning ways.
Cambridge United: Mitov, Williams, Jones, Okedina, Dunk, Digby, May, Smith (Knibbs, 83), Hoolahan, Brophy (Tracey, 66), Ironside
Subs Not Used: Mannion, Tolaj, Lankester, Worman, Bennett
Shrewsbury Town: Marosi, Bennett, Pennington, Ebanks-Landell, Flangan, Nurse, Leahy, Fornah, Udoh, Bowman, Bloxham
Subs Not Used: Burgoyne, Pierre, Craig, Bondswell, Daniels, Caton, Janneh
Bookings: Nurse, Bowman
Referee: Neil Hair
Attendance: 5651 (477 away fans)
Man of the Match: Mitov