Cambridge United’s perfect Sky Bet League One record at the Abbey Stadium was shattered by Barnsley as the visitors ran out with a comprehensive 0-3 success...
Despite a creditable opening to the clash, the U’s were undone mid-way through the first-half when Devante Cole showed composure to slot home. A sending off from Liam Kitching on the hour mark handed hope of a comeback, but the Tykes killed the game off professionally with goals from Robbie Cundy and James Norwood.
The hosts were in need of a quick response after going down 2-1 at Cheltenham Town last time out, extending their winless start on the road. Contrastingly, they were just one of two sides to retain a 100% record on home soil, breeding momentum and using CB5 as a real advantage. Standing in their way, a well-drilled Barnsley side unbeaten in three and slowly picking up steam.
After naming an unchanged side for three successive games previously, Mark Bonner opted for two changes this time out. Adam May and Joe Ironside made way for Liam O’Neil, returning to protect the defence and pull the strings, and James Brophy, who was drafted back to the wing as Sam Smith was converted to the lone striker role.
Within the opening minutes, both sides had demonstrated early desire. Despite obtaining a heavy press, the U’s got their passes in and threatened through the pace of Smith who almost got on the end of a lofted ball.
The hosts almost introduced the ball to the net on the 6th minute when Shilow Tracey teed up Brophy on the outskirts of the six-yard box who, without any hesitation, pulled the trigger which slashed the post before being cleared.
Deadlock was broken on 23 when a faint pass by Liam Kitching evaded United’s defence, falling perfectly to Cole who picked his spot and nestled coolly into the bottom corner.
The boys in amber responded well, crafting a shot on target moments later. After the ball was fired out to Brophy on the left, the number 7 recycled and cut back astutely to Smith who connected well from inside of the box but couldn’t direct the first-time attempt past Brad Collins.
The encounter slowed down from here. Overall, it was the hosts enjoying more of the action in the final third, but it was understandably tricky against a determined trio of central defenders.
Probing, they broke through in the dying embers of the first period and almost levelled matters. A foray into the final third from George Williams resulted in him cutting back to Harvey Knibbs who couldn’t generate the power to poke home.
In a blistering introduction to the second half, O’Neil gloriously connected a volley that fizzed towards the bottom corner but was denied by a brilliant Collins dive.
The Tykes’ goalkeeper suffered a nasty clash of heads shortly after but fortunately, after lengthy treatment, was able to walk off to an applause from all four ends of the ground.
On 67, Michael Duff’s side were down to ten men when Kitching received his second yellow after bringing down Knibbs when the attacker was about to race down the left flank.
Frustratingly, the advantage in numbers couldn’t galvanise the U’s. With 75 minutes on the clock, former loanee Cundy rose highest to head home from close range and hand Barnsley further authority.
Within the space of ten minutes, the hosts did convert twice through Smith’s venomous volley and substitute Jack Lankester’s lash into the near corner, but both were swiftly ruled out for offside.
Any hope of a comeback was diminished on the 90th minute when Norwood killed the game off by outmuscling his man, raced into the box and slotted past Mitov.
Attention now turns to the Papa John’s Trophy on Tuesday night (20th September), when Bonner’s men travel to Northampton Town as both sides look set to ring the changes and, most importantly, get up and running in the Southern Group H.
Cambridge United: Mitov, Williams, Okedina, Jones, Dunk, Digby, O’Neil (May, 73), Tracey (Janneh, 84), Knibbs (Lankester, 84), Brophy (Ironside, 73), Smith
Subs Not Used: Mannion, Ibsen Rossi, Okenabirhie
Bookings: Dunk, Smith
Barnsley: Collins (Searle, 59), Williams, Andersen, Cundy, Edwards (Cadden, 69), Kitching, Wolfe, Kane, Thomas (Norwood, 75), Cole, Aitchison (Benson, 75)
Subs Not Used: Martin, McCarthy, Hondermarck
Goalscorers: Cole (23), Cundy (75)
Bookings: Kitching (RED), Cole, Thomas
Referee: Declan Bourne
Attendance: 6138 (1224 away fans)