United earn valuable victory at the Abbey

Cambridge United secured their first victory of 2023 with a morale-boosting 1-0 victory over Sky Bet League One opponents Oxford United at the Abbey Stadium...

An early header from Lloyd Jones handed the U’s the impetus to dominate the first half of football, where they were in control and pleasing on the eye. Following the break, the stubborn hosts dealt with everything that came their way to grind out three precious points.

Going into the encounter, back-to-back defeats had hampered the U’s of late - stretching their winless run to eight games and forcing them to rue missed opportunities to climb up the league. With the gap from safety at three points, registering points on a more consistent basis could prove crucial. In their way, an Oxford side who had lost five of their previous six, registered one away win in eight and had fallen to 16th as a consequence.

Following the frustrating defeat to Cheltenham Town four days earlier, Mark Bonner opted with an unchanged side. Two changes to the bench saw deadline day signing George Thomas included in the matchday squad, whereas Liam O’Neil returned for the first time since suffering an injury against Peterborough United in late October.

The U’s rapid start was rewarded on the 8th minute when Conor McGrandles’ delightful inswinging corner was met by Jones inside the six-yard box who rose highest to head home and give his side the early ascendency.

Playing with tenacity and energy, United continued to nullify their opponents to very little with their physicality and front-foot approach, which heled engineer promising attacks into the final third.

A prime example of that fell on the 19th minute when James Brophy’s endeavour down the left allowed him to embark on a mazy attacking run before his curling cross landed to Paul Digby from 12 yards who fired just wide.

Striving to double their advantage, a long ball from Michael Morrison on 33 floated to Liam Bennett down the right who played in an open Sam Smith on the outskirts of the box – the forward drilled towards the corner but Simon Eastwood was on hand to dive to his left and paw the attempt.

The last golden opportunity of the first half fell to Bonner’s men three minutes before the whistle when a move down the left resulted in McGrandles lashing at an attempt which gained a crucial deflection on the way as the ball landed whiskers wide of the crossbar.

Because of the hosts’ superb application, Oxford could not really get a sniff at goal throughout, but that soon changed moments after the interval when Sam Baldock latched onto a through ball and attempted to lift the ball over Dimitar Mitov, but the Bulgarian protected his clean sheet with an astute prevention.

With the tie becoming more end-to-end, the U’s started to become slightly under the cosh, with Cameron Brannagan firing a free-kick from 25 yards straight at Mitov on 55. In spite of that, they continued to clear their lines and hold their ground.

United’s number one impeccably dealt with another Brannagan effort on 73, as Karl Robinson continued to ring the changes with some attack-minded options.

With ten minutes of play remaining, Ryan Bennett was forced into a crucial intervention after Yanic Wildschut chased down Morrison’s header in the penalty area.

A crucial counter on the 84th minute saw Smith released down the left on the 84th minute, who scampered forwards and looked to pick out an unmarked Thomas, but a critical block from an Oxford man ensured the game couldn’t be killed off.

A heart-in-mouth moment occurred on the 90th minute when a Wildschut piledriver from 20 yards looked to be creeping in, but Mitov importantly got a hand on it to see out the danger and ultimately the game, as the U’s put to bed an eight-game winless run and hand them the momentum they need. As coconuts ringed around CB5, the belief that they were striving for had been acquired – now, they looked to build.

Up next, the U’s make the mammoth trek to Lancashire on Tuesday evening (21st February) ready to take on Fleetwood Town in their next crucial League One tie. Whatever way you can, be sure to back the boys.


Cambridge United: Mitov, Morrison, R. Bennett, Jones, L. Bennett, Digby, McGrandles (Worman, 76), Brophy, Lankester (Thomas, 68), Smith, Ironside

Subs Not Used: Mannion, Williams, Haunstrup, O’Neil, Okedina

Goalscorers: Jones (8)

Bookings: L. Bennett, Jones, Ironside


Oxford United: Eastwood, Long, Moore Brown, Murphy, Fleming, Bate (Henry, 74), Brannagan, Joseph (Wildschut, 64), Baldock (Konate, 74), Smith (Browne, 45)

Subs Not Used: McGinty, Findlay, McGuane


Bookings: Baldock


Referee: Ollie Yates

Attendance: 6613 (745 away fans)

Man of the Match: Jones