Cambridge United steamrolled into the Third Round of the Emirates FA Cup after expertly dispatching Fleetwood Town 4-0 at the Abbey Stadium...
A scintillating opening 12 minutes saw the U’s race into a three-goal lead thanks to Danny Andrew’s free-kick and clinical strikes from Elias Kachunga and Fejiri Okenabirhie. The hosts remained fluid throughout the encounter and wrapped up the proceedings late on through Gassan Ahadme to secure their place in the famous velvet bag.
United were looking to kickstart their new era by cancelling out three consecutive defeats and booking their place in the Third Round of the competition for the second time in the last three seasons, whereas the visiting Cod Army possessed recent history having secured their best-ever run of the Fifth Round last time out.
In retaliation to the midweek defeat to Lincoln City, interim boss Barry Corr named two changes to the XI as Paul Digby and James Brophy returned to the fold, with Jordan Cousins and Gassan Ahadme dropping to the bench.
A fog-stricken stadium was treated to a blistering start when Andrew struck a delightful 20-yard free-kick into the bottom left corner to get the ball rolling on the 6th minute after Kachunga was fouled in an enticing position after being released by the full-back.
Just four minutes later, the United faithful were celebrating their second of the afternoon when the silky Sullay Kaikai beat his man inside the area and struck against the post, which invitingly fell to Kachunga who poked home from a matter of yards.
Liqiuid football continued and the U’s were in dreamland on the 12th minute when Kaikai’s through ball dissected the opposing defence and released Okenabirhie who marauded into the area and showed great composure to stroke into the net.
The only dampener of a blistering introduction was the forced substitute of striker Okenabirhie on 20, who couldn’t continue despite his best efforts after picking up a thigh injury.
In desperate need of a response, Lee Johnson’s men engineered some quickfire opportunities moments later, with Jayden Stockley’s half-volley from outside the six-yard box blocked by Jubril Okedina, before Jack Marriott picked up a smart Jack Stevens save but blazed over the crossbar.
With 27 minutes on the clock, Corr’s rampant side had the chance to make it four from the spot after Kaikai was brought down whilst charging inside the area. Substitute Ahadme stepped up and attempted a cheeky chip, but Stephen McMullan was on hand to adjust and catch the attempt.
On the half an hour mark, it looked to be a sense of déjà vu when Andrew stepped up with a promising free-kick, but this time the 30-yard effort was well-denied by McMullan, who dived to his left.
Although unable to deal with the hosts’ fluid attacking runs, Town were starting to turn the screw as the half progressed and undoubtedly should have gained a consolation on the 32nd minute when a goalmouth scramble resulted in defender Brendan Wiredu lashing wide from close range.
The U’s exited the field for the break with their confidence at an all-time high thanks to a commanding and extremely clinical first 45. They entered it again in the same fashion and tested the gloves of McMullan when Kachunga cut inside the middle and drilled from distance.
Brophy was agonisingly close to opening his account for the season on the stroke of the hour when Kachunga teed up the winger down the left, who scampered towards goal and unleashed a vicious attempt which rattled the crossbar.
Likeliest to grab the fourth of the afternoon, Liam Bennett picked out a great delivery on 66, which evaded the Cods and fell to Ahadme, whose shot from close range was blocked by an onrushing defender.
Shortly after the fifth and final substitution was made, the U’s had the ball in the back in front of the Newmarket Road End after Digby’s sublime ball was expertly directed into the bottom corner by Ahadme.
In the last moments of an entertaining afternoon, Glenn McConnell lashed a shot inches over the crossbar, whilst at the other end Stevens protected his clean sheet with a fine stop from Kabongo Tshimanga as United roared towards the next round.
Up next, London is calling for the U’s as they travel to Charlton Athletic next Saturday (9th December) with the sole aim of restoring winning ways in Sky Bet League One – be sure to back the boys.
Cambridge United: Stevens, L. Bennett, Okedina, Morrison, Andrew (Haunstrup, 79’), Digby, Thomas, Brophy (McConnell, 80’), Kachunga (Janneh, 72’), Kaikai (Lankester, 72’), Okenabirhie (Ahadme, 21’)
Subs Not Used: Mannion, R. Bennett, May, Cousins
Goalscorers: Andrew (6’), Kachunga (10’), Okenabirhie (12’), Ahadme (82’)
Fleetwood Town: McMullan, Wiredu, Lawal (Montgomery, 56’), Heneghan, Johnston (Rooney, 56’), Broom (Dolan, 33’), Vela, Mayor, Patterson, Stockley (Tshimanga, 68’), Marriott
Subs Not Used: Lynch, Holgate, Teale, Brown, Armstrong
Referee: Sebastian Stockbridge
Attendance: 3387 (106 away fans)
Man of the Match: Kachunga