Cambridge United picked up another crucial three points towards their Sky Bet League One survival pursuit after recording a memorable 2-0 victory over rivals Peterborough United at the Abbey Stadium...
Coming out of the blocks with confidence, the U’s restricted Posh to little throughout the first half and were rewarded on the brink of the whistle when astute servant Harrison Dunk took the roof of the ground, before Sam Smith bagged for the fourth game in a row shortly after the hour mark to help win the battle of Cambridgeshire.
For the first time since 2001, CB5 graced a league clash between the bitter rivals. Adding to the occasion, this had so much at stake for the sides at opposite ends of the table. Play-off chasing Posh were unbeaten in six and boasted a watertight defence, whilst the U’s were enjoying a three-game unbeaten run, matching their best form of the season. With the gap from safety at three points, they looked to utilise home advantage and take the next step towards their escape, as well as gaining some bragging rights in the process.
Following the resolute draw at Bolton Wanderers five days earlier, Mark Bonner named two changes to his starting XI as he opted for more of an attacking approach. Returning to a four-man defence, Lloyd Jones and Steve Seddon made way for Jack Lankester and Harrison Dunk, with George Thomas returning to the squad for the first time in two months.
In front of a deafening atmosphere, both sides started in committed fashion, with the visitors orchestrating the first attempt on the 7th minute through Ephron Mason-Clark - who raced down the left and teed up Jonson Clarke-Harris, who fiercely pulled the trigger from under 25 yards but lashed over Dimitar Mitov’s crossbar.
Enjoying their fair share of opportunities, the U’s plugged away to up their shot tally, but each and every time they were prevented by blocks from Posh defenders. Nonetheless, the application had been exemplary.
Although lacking in clear-cut attempts, the cagey affair needed just one moment to immediately change the complexity. Both ex-U Will Norris and Mitov continued to collect dangerous deliveries to keep the game in deadlock.
The best opportunity of the encounter fell to Mason-Clark on the 36th minute when he was released in-behind from a floated pass, outmuscled Liam Bennett and unleashed a strike from the left of the penalty area past the post.
With one of the last kicks of the half, Dunk scampered down the left and won a valuable corner. What happened next will live in United folklore. Following Conor McGrandles’ cross, the ball was flicked on to the U’s full-back who poked home from a matter of yards to unleash pandemonium and rock the Abbey.
Carrying on with the momentum they picked up prior to the break, United peppered with the Posh backline and almost forced a second on 48 when L. Bennett’s deep cross was towards the head of Jack Lankester, but Norris was there to claim.
Five minutes later, the free-flowing Lankester dispossessed in the middle of the park, roamed forwards and picked his spot from distance, but it arrowed inches wide of the left post.
On the hour mark, a pass back from Dan Butler to the opposing goalkeeper was nearly matched by a scampering Harvey Knibbs, who got a touch to Norris’ clearance but it rebounded off the attacker and wide.
A heart-in-mouth moment occurred on 65 when Nathanael Ogbeta was picked out down the left, who drilled towards the corner but was denied by Mitov’s smart and crucial stop.
Straight down the other end, L. Bennett picked out a delightful low cross which fell to the in-form Smith who fired at the post, before it slowly creeped in for his 40th goal in amber to send the Newmarket Road End delirious and hand the hosts the two-goal advantage.
The blistering few moments concluded with a match-defining stop from Mitov after Jack Taylor was left alone in the six-yard box, headed towards goal but couldn’t pass the inspired Bulgarian.
From here, Bonner picked his substitutes to perfection, who helped see the game out with real determination as they recorded a first league victory over the Posh in 25 years on. With a desirable performance like that, it was well worth the wait.
Walking off the field to a tumultuous applause and with coconuts in their ears, the U’s had picked up steam at the perfect time.
Up next, the Abbey action continues on Tuesday evening (18th April) as United pit their wits against play-off chasing Wycombe Wanderers - be sure to back the boys in their bid for survival.
Cambridge United: Mitov, L. Bennett, Morrison, R. Bennett, Dunk, Digby, McGrandles, Knibbs (Tracey, 76), Lankester (Okedina, 79), Brophy (Okenabirhie, 79), Smith (Ironside, 84)
Subs Not Used: Mannion, Seddon, Thomas
Goalscorers: Dunk (45+3’), Smith (66’)
Peterborough United: Norris, Thompson (Knight, 73), Kent (Butler, 56), Edwards, Ogbeta, Burrows (Kyprianou, 56), Norburn (Randall, 81), Taylor, Mason-Clark, Poku (Tshimanga, 73), Clarke-Harris
Subs Not Used: Blackmore, Thompson
Bookings: Kent, Taylor
Referee: Ross Joyce
Attendance: 7711 (1473 away fans)
Man of the Match: Dunk