Cambridge United’s latest Sky Bet League One clash saw them fall to a 2-1 defeat against Wigan Athletic at the DW Stadium...
Quickfire strikes on the hour mark from Stephen Humphrys and Thelo Aasgaard handed the Latics a comfortable cushion and the visitors a mountain to climb. Fejiri Okenabirhie restored parity from the spot shortly after, but it couldn’t mount a late comeback despite pressure at the death.
Encouraging early-season form saw Mark Bonner’s men approach the meeting in Manchester in the top six, with the aim now to preserve that by securing consecutive victories. In their way, a newly-relegated Latics side who have pedigree in the third tier and were desperate to respond from back-to-back defeats suffered prior to the international break.
Following the EFL Trophy defeat to Peterborough United four days earlier, the Head Coach rotated his squad by naming eight changes as he reverted to the same XI and substitutes that were present in their last league outing.
A fast-paced and dominant start from the visitors forced their opposite number to camp back and contend with the early endeavour, which resulted in the first shot on target after just two minutes when Liam Bennett’s deep cross was met by a battling Gassan Ahadme inside the six-yard box who lofted a header at Sam Tickle.
Shaun Maloney’s men rued a golden opportunity just a few minutes later when Aasgaard nicked possession and played in Charlie Wyke through on goal – the experienced frontman had acres of spaces to run into, allowing him the time to compose himself and pull the trigger, which smashed the foot of the post before the U’s cleared their lines.
Following the let off, the hosts began to find more freedom in possession, with their inciteful passes causing problems again on 21 when Sean Clare’s delivery from the right was snatched at by Wyke from a matter of yards, only to be denied by the body of Will Mannion – who then crucially tipped Ryan Bennett’s deflection over the crossbar.
Although the momentum remained in the Tics’ favour from here - with plenty of enjoyment in the final third - the U’s remained compact and resolute and utilised their counter-attacking prowess on the 38th minute when Sullay Kaikai marauded forwards and tested his luck from 25 yards, prompting Tickle to dive to his right and paw away.
Three minutes later, captain Michael Morrison came mightily close to bulging the opener when he received George Thomas’ darting cross at the back post, powering a header towards the far top corner which was ultimately a few inches too high.
On the balance of play, a stalemate heading into the break was fair – the U’s had to ride their luck at times, but certainly maintained that attacking threat and had arguably concluded the first half in the ascendency.
An energetic and persistent start from United was cancelled out on the 56th minute when Humphrys scampered down the right hand side, cut inside and jinked past a man in amber before directing a 20-yard curler past a helpless Mannion.
Five minutes later, the advantage was doubled when Martial Godo did well to work his way into the box and tee up Aasgaard, who leathered a shot against the crossbar which bounced just over the line.
Eyeing up an instant response, James Brophy powered a speculative effort over Tickle’s crossbar before winning a penalty on the 75th minute after being brought down by Callum McManaman. Up stepped Okenabirhie, one of three substitutes recently introduced, who converted from 12 yards with aplomb to breathe life.
Despite pouring forward at every attempt, United couldn’t quite cause a scare until the encounter reached its remaining six minutes of injury time. Building up play nicely, the ball was teed up to Brophy in the area whose shot was denied by Kelland Watts’ vital block.
The following corner produced bedlam in the box as first Gordon and then Okenabirhie lashed towards goal, but both were denied by a pile of bodies on the line. The late flurry was not enough to force a comeback as the U’s suffered defeat on the road.
Up next, the U’s return home on Saturday (23rd September) as Port Vale make the journey to CB5 – be sure to back the boys once more.
Wigan Athletic: Tickle, Clare, Hughes, Morrison, Rekik (Watts, 77’), Adekeo, M. Smith, Good (McManaman, 69’), Aasgaard (Lang, 62’), Humphrys (J. Smith, 69’), Wyke (Magennis, 68’)
Subs Not Used: Amos, S. Smith
Goalscorers: Humphrys (56’), Aasgaard (61’)
Bookings: Rekik, Adeeko
Cambridge United: Mannion, L. Bennett, R. Bennett, Morrison, Andrew, Digby, Thomas (Simper, 83’), Brophy, Lankester (Kachunga, 66’), Kaikai (Gordon, 66’), Ahadme (Okenabirhie, 66’)
Subs Not Used: Holden, Dunk, Ibsen Rossi
Goalscorers: Okenabirhie (75’)
Referee: Adam Herczeg