Cambridge United were consigned to back-to-back defeats in Sky Bet League One as Charlton Athletic fought for a 1-2 victory at the Abbey Stadium...
A rapid start saw the Addicks race into a two-goal lead within 20 minutes thanks to instinctive finishes from Miles Leaburn and Jesurun Rak-Sakyi. A change in system helped reignite the U’s spirits after the break, but Lloyd Jones’ poke home proved to be just a consolation as they were unable to claim a point.
With the 2022/23 campaign approaching its final 10 matches, the U’s - who were winless in five – needed to reignite their goalscoring touch and deliver the points on a consistent basis, starting against the Addicks, who were depleted and also without victory in five prior to a midweek thrashing at Morecambe that had instilled belief for Dean Holden’s group.
Following the 1-0 defeat to fellow relegation rivals MK Dons a week earlier, Mark Bonner named two changes to his starting XI. Opting for an attacking approach, he drafted in Joe Ironside and Harvey Knibbs for the ineligible Conor McGrandles and Shilow Tracey, who was joined on the bench by the returning Harrison Dunk.
Despite enjoying some early possession, the U’s were dealt with an early blow on the 13th minute when Rak-Sakyi danced into the box from the right and picked out a drilled pass into the six-yard box for Leaburn, who tapped home to open the scoring.
Matters worsened on the stroke of the half an hour mark when Albie Morgan’s free-kick was whipped towards livewire Rak-Sakyi who unleashed a delicate flick into the far corner to hand United a mountain to climb.
As the encounter progressed, the energy was zapped. The hosts were unable to carve out a major opportunity to test Ashley Maynard-Brewer between the sticks, with a lash at the side netting during additional time the only chance of note.
Determined to find a way back into the game, the U’s made a triple change and from the get go it helped their fortunes in the attack. Tinkering the system, they claimed their first attempt at goal on 51 when substitute Ben Worman tested his luck from 20 yards.
After Ironside helped force a corner five minutes later following Michael Hector’s clearance, Ryan Bennett unleashed a powerful header which was well stopped by Maynard-Brewer – much better from the U’s.
Purring, a deep cross from Worman on 64 floated to Ironside in the area, who did well to get his head on it but couldn’t direct it towards goal.
With 70 minutes on the clock, United received the consolation after a corner was nodded at by R. Bennett and towards Jones who was able to jump and poke home from close range to cue a roar in the Newmarket Road End - it gave the side the spirit to fight.
Lightning down the left, Shilow Tracey embarked on a menacing run on 77, before cutting inside and pulling the trigger which was smartly blocked. Seconds later, the winger was denied from Ryan Inniss’ interception when the ball looked likely to travel towards goal.
The Addicks forced Dimitar Mitov into an excellent diving save five minutes from time, as Gavin Kilkenny’s venomous strike towards the top corner was denied.
It proved the last action of a tough afternoon for United, who were unable to muster up a comeback and were forced into back-to-back defeats.
Attention now turns towards back-to-back away journeys in League One as the U’s make the trip to Burton Albion next Saturday (25th March) – be sure to back the boys.
Cambridge United: Mitov, Morrison (Seddon, 45), R. Bennett, Jones, L. Bennett, Digby, Lankester, Knibbs (Worman, 45), Brophy (Williams, 88), Smith (Tracey, 45), Ironside
Subs Not Used: Mannion, Dunk, Yearn
Goalscorers: Jones (70’)
Bookings: R. Bennett, Seddon
Charlton Athletic: Maynard-Brewer, Clare, Inniss, Hector, Thomas (Sessegnon, 71), Morgan (Kilkenny, 73), Dobson, Fraser, Rak-Sakyi (Bonne, 90), Campbell (Payne, 78), Leaburn (Kanu, 45)
Subs Not Used: Wollacott, Henry
Goalscorers: Leaburn (13’), Rak-Sakyi (27’)
Referee: Marc Edwards
Attendance: 7068 (1469 away fans)