Cambridge United continued their perfect start to the Sky Bet League One season as they professionally dispatched Fleetwood Town 0-2 at Highbury Stadium...
No-nonsense in defence and blistering in attack, the complete performance was kickstarted by Paul Digby - capping his 150th appearance with a close-range opener on the half an hour mark – and concluded by Gassan Ahadme in the second half, who made it two in two with a trademark header.
With both outfits eager to bounce back after bowing out of the Carabao Cup in midweek, the U’s were looking to improve their fortunes on the road this time around and start a winning streak, whilst Scott Brown’s men – who finished a respectable 13th last time out – awaited their first triumph of 2023/24.
Following Tuesday’s penalty shoot-out defeat to Sutton United, just Liam Bennett, James Brophy and Saikou Janneh retained their places in the XI, as the Head Coach reverted back to the side that started the first league outing. On the bench, Zeno Ibsen Rossi and Lewis Simper came in for summer arrivals Sullay Kaikai and Jordan Cousins.
The U’s found themselves under the cosh within the opening minutes, with the hosts pinning them back and forcing the men in the defensive third to contend with some neat on the floor passing sequences.
Although they couldn’t dominate the possession, it was all United in terms of chances. On the 9th minute, Janneh’s interception and lung-busting run down the left frightened the Cod Army - he pulled back to Danny Andrew inside the box, who slashed an ambitious attempt over his old employers’ crossbar.
A matter of seconds passed before they were at it again - this time, they felt they probably should have punished Fleetwood. Following a superb George Thomas recovery and pinpoint pass, Jack Lankester was able to square to Ahadme who picked his spot and drilled past Jay Lynch, but it creeped inches wide of the right post.
Either side of bookings for the men in red, Brophy orchestrated the only attempt of note on 19 after starting a rapid counter attack and concluding it after firing Ahadme’s tee up towards Jay Lynch, who claimed assuringly.
Bonner’s men deservedly claimed the breakthrough with half an hour on the clock. Livewire Lankester and the energetic Janneh exploited the space down the left, before the latter blasted at goal – it required a top save by Lynch, who could only parry to the onrushing Digby who was on hand to slot home from a matter of yards.
The vibrant following were eyeing up a potential second on the 37th minute when United utilised their pressure out of possession by winning the ball and finding a path to Janneh – the Gambian winger marauded and shrugged towards the penalty area but skewed his attempt wide of Lynch’s left post.
In familiar fashion to seven days prior, Cambridge allowed their opposite number to enjoy the ball - soaking up anything that came their way and boasting a superb threat in the attack. Stepping on the gas constantly, they were proving a tricky outfit to contend with.
Different half, similar United. Four minutes in, Lankester was presented with a golden attempt after Thomas’ exquisite first time through ball fell to the number ten in a one-on-one position, but he was denied by Lynch, who scurried and made himself big.
Straight up the other end, Jack Stevens popped up with some heroics of his own. On at the break, Jayden Stockley picked out unmarked strike partner Jack Marriott, who timed his run to perfection and cannoned towards the far corner from a left angle. Alert, the shot stopper was on hand to dive low and get a finger to put it out for a corner.
The lead was extended and pandemonium was sparked on the stroke of the hour mark when Thomas’ delightfully teasing corner was powered home by the head of six-yard specialist Ahadme, who wheeled away and towards the delirious 400 in the away end.
Understandably, this sparked an all-out attack approach from the Cods, meaning the visitors had to dig deep and get their bodies on the line for the few minutes that exceeded the second.
Deciding to stretch the home defence with fresh legs and powerhouse figures, the U’s management introduced Fejiri Okenabirhie and Elias Kachunga to the fold on the 75th minute.
In spite of blustery conditions, United were weathering the slight storm on the pitch extremely well. An inviting ball into the box with 82 minutes gone was expertly dealt by Liam Bennett, who scooped away for a corner before the trigger could be pulled.
A late flurry ensued. On the 88th minute, Shaun Rooney composed himself down the right flank and floated a cross to Marriott, who clattered across the face of goal and at the side netting, before the experienced poacher tested the U’s number one with another shot in the next attack.
Deep into additional time, Okenabirhie directed an attempt towards goal from 12 yards which was collected by Lynch. He prompted a counter up the other end, which almost resulted in the deficit being reduced when Promise Omochere leaped and headed against the crossbar.
It proved to be the last action of a complete away performance for the U’s, who surrendered nothing in defence and gave everything in the final third. Two games, two wins and two clean sheets – momentum is building.
Up next, the U’s kickstart a double header in CB5 with a visit from League One newcomers Stevenage on Tuesday night (15th August) – be sure to back the boys in what is primed to be an enticing evening.
Fleetwood Town: Lynch, Wiredu (Quitirna, 78’), Nsiala, Earl, Johnston (Rooney, 46’), Mayor (Omochere, 60’), Robertson, Vela, Patterson (Hayes, 60’), Graydon (Stockley, 46’), Marriott
Subs Not Used: McMullan, Broom
Bookings: Robertson, Mayor, Vela
Cambridge United: Stevens, L. Bennett, R. Bennett, Morrison, Andrew (Dunk, 82’), Digby, Thomas, Brophy, Lankester (Okenabirhie, 75’), Janneh (Kachunga, 75’), Ahadme
Subs Not Used: Mannion, Okedina, Ibsen Rossi, Simper
Goalscorers: Digby (30’), Ahadme (59’)
Bookings: Brophy, Digby, Lankester
Referee: Sebastian Stockbridge