Cambridge United returned to the win column with a fine 2-0 victory over Port Vale at Vale Park…
Two goals to start the second half saw United pick up a rare away win in one of the best performances by the U’s this season.
Smith opened up the scoring on 47 minutes before Jones doubled the advantage four minutes later, to give the team and their supporters hope ahead of the run-in.
Four changes were named to the starting XI from the side that lost to Charlton two weeks ago, with Will Mannion, Harrison Dunk, Conor McGrandles and Shilow Tracey all coming into the team.
The U’s got off to a reasonable start in the contest and saw two promising entries into the box thwarted during the opening moments of the game. The first saw Brophy win the ball high up the pitch before driving inside and seeing his pass cut out before the second coming from Tracey – on the opposite wing – who flashed his ball across the six-yard-box to no avail.
Harrison had the home side’s first sight of goal, breaking the U’s offside trap before firing wide and Smith did similar soon after at the other end, as United continued to find joy on the counter-attack.
Brophy – playing on the right of a front three – sent a shot whistling wide of the post after taking the space that opened up for him with just under 30 minutes on the clock and there were strong appeals for a penalty when McGrandles went tumbling in the box moments later.
Then, when the referee waved away the protests, Tracey had a golden opportunity to put the U’s ahead but sent a curling effort just past the woodwork as United continued to play in the ascendancy.
Although the U’s had plenty to be encouraged by during the first third of the match, the struggling to find the scoresheet was once again a concern.
That was amplified as four minutes of time were added on, as Lankester was played through on goal with a marker for company, but after twisting and turning to shrug him off, he curled agonisingly wide to send the teams in level.
Mark Bonner turned to his bench for the beginning of the second half with Harvey Knibbs sent on for Shilow Tracey. Mannion – coming in for the poorly Mitov – made a crucial save to deny Ojo on 47 minutes and his fine keeping was rewarded a minute later, as United went straight up the other end to score through Smith, who found the net on the rebound after Stone parried Lankester’s shot right into his path.
With confidence finally flowing through them, United pushed for a second and got one a few minutes later, as Jones glanced in McGrandles’ free-kick to give the team their first two-goal lead in a game since the October win over Wycombe Wanderers.
It looked like there was going to be a third as Smith bore down on goal after Lankester played a well-weighted pass into his path, but the striker’s right footed effort was right at Stone who was able to take the ball under.
With half an hour to play, the U’s were all over the home team as the opportunities kept on coming. Smith came inches away from finding the bottom corner from a free-kick 25 yards out and then Bennett fired over the bar after a period of serious pressure on the Vale goal.
United were able to see out the contest with ease as Bonner’s men registered a ninth victory of the season.
There is of course, still much to do and a huge uphill task to overcome if the U’s are to survive in League One this season, but today’s win does at least breathe life into the challenge ahead of the remaining games.