Cambridge United were made to rue their cutting edge in front of goal as Portsmouth secured a 0-1 victory at the Abbey Stadium in their latest Sky Bet League One matchup...
In an authoritative opening hour, the U’s looked destined to break the deadlock, with all of the main opportunities falling their way. Ultimately, they couldn’t convert them as a clinical Pompey claimed maximum points thanks to Colby Bishop’s close-range header.
Following back-to-back defeats, the U’s needed to use CB5 to their advantage to help improve their overall form of one win in 11. After garnering 13 more points on home soil than they had on the road, utilising that edge would help bridge the mere two-point gap from safety. The in-form Pompey, unbeaten in four and settled under John Mousinho, arrived with the momentum following impressive 4-0 and 3-1 victories over Cheltenham Town and Bolton Wanderers.
Following the 2-0 defeat in Devon seven days earlier, Mark Bonner opted with an unchanged side for the fifth successive game. The only change to the matchday squad was the inclusion of Steve Seddon, who replaced fellow left-back Brandon Haunstrup.
Starting in an impressionable manner, Joe Ironside forced an early 6th minute corner with some industrious battling, which eventually floated to Jack Lankester whose attempt from 20 yards was sliced by the Pompey defence and into the arms of Matt Macey.
Peppering with the visitors’ defence, the U’s continued to break well – Lankester was presented with an opportunity from a similar distance five minutes later, keeping the shot down but it was collected by Macey.
Bonner’s men were unfortunate not to have taken the lead on the 15th minute when James Brophy’s teasing delivery landed on a plate for Liam Bennett, who had made an excellent run towards the six-yard box, but headed just wide of the post.
The chances kept falling the way of the hosts, with Michael Morrison going close next on 23 when he met Conor McGrandles’ corner with a thumping close-range header, but it flew just over the crossbar.
Although Pompey started to find a bit of rhythm in possession, the U’s had the endeavour in their attacking edge. Great endeavour from Sam Smith on the half an hour mark allowed him to win the ball back in the middle of the park, giving McGrandles the space to drive forwards and tee the striker up to his right, but his strike from distance was stopped by the men in turquoise.
On the 38th minute, the chance of the half was rued when an exquisite through ball from Lankester set Smith free in a one-on-one position. At an angle from 15 yards, he pulled the trigger but drilled it just wide.
Determined to continue the second period in the same authoritative manner, United rapidly continued the trend within a matter of seconds after Ironside was teed up, before shrugging off his man and, on the turn, lashing at the alert Macey.
On 49, a jinking run into the final third from Brophy helped engineer a switch to L. Bennett down the right, who picked out a sublime venomous shot which rattled agonisingly close to nestling in the top corner.
With the ascendency changing, Tom Lowery’s long ball was inch-perfect for Owen Dale, who carved out the Blues’ first shot on target by cannoning at Dimitar Mitov, who denied with a fine stop.
The deadlock was broken on the 65th minute when Dale’s cross was met by the head of Bishop who nodded home from a matter of yards.
Needing to find an immediate way back into the encounter, a 78th minute cross down the right from Morrison was grabbed at by Smith, who guided a header from 12 yards on target but it was a tricky distance to beat the goalkeeper.
A promising move one minute later concluded with unmarked substitute Steve Seddon touching the ball down from 10 yards and shooting towards goal but was denied by Sean Raggett’s excellent defensive block.
With the visitors looking to protect the points, they held firm against the U’s, who couldn’t muster the final golden chance as their third defeat on the bounce was confirmed.
A quick turnaround sees the Abbey Stadium host the next League One clash on Tuesday evening (7th March) when Morecambe make the journey down south. Be sure to back the boys in what is posed to be a crucial battle near the basement.
Cambridge United: Mitov, Morrison, R. Bennett, Jones, L. Bennett, Digby (Tracey, 76), McGrandles, Brophy (Seddon, 76), Lankester (O’Neil, 67), Smith, Ironside
Subs Not Used: Mannion, Williams, Okedina, Worman
Portsmouth: Macey, Rafferty, Raggett, Towler, Ogilvie, Morrell, Tunnicliffe, Dale (Pigott, 88), Jacobs (Lowery, 59), Scarlett (Hackett, 77), Bishop
Subs Not Used: Steward, Thompson, Bernard, Lane
Goalscorers: Bishop (65’)
Referee: Andrew Kitchen
Attendance: 6667 (1466 away fans)
Man of the Match: L. Bennett