Report: Port Vale 0-0 Cambridge United

Cambridge United secured their status as a Sky Bet League One outfit for another season as they played out a goalless draw against Port Vale at Vale Park on the final match of the 2023/24 campaign…

A single point was all that the U’s needed to secure safety and they did that in professional fashion by claiming a 14th league clean sheet, which in turn helped conclude in 18th position.

For the second successive campaign, United’s fate came down to the very final kick. This time around, they were well and truly in the driving seat, knowing that simply avoiding defeat – or potentially even a favour from others – would be enough to get through the line, but their sole focus was on grabbing a first win in six and signing out in positive style. As for the Valiants, whose fate was sealed last weekend, they too wanted to give their fans something to cheer about following just one victory in Burslem in 2024.

In reaction to the midweek draw against Wycombe Wanderers, Garry Monk opted to make two changes to his starting XI as defensive mainstays Ryan Bennett and Danny Andrew returned from illness to replace Jordan Cousins and Sullay Kaikai.

Buoyed by well over a thousand travelling supporters from Cambridgeshire, the U’s got the ball rolling on the mammoth pitch with a positive start. An ambitious 20-yard attempt from James Gibbons two minutes in blazed well wide of the crossbar, but just a matter of seconds later Gassan Ahadme picked the ball up on the outskirts of the area, bided his time and drilled towards the corner but was matched by Connor Ripley, who parried behind for a corner.

On the front foot against a youthful outfit, the U’s importantly didn’t give them a sniff, with the hosts’ first moment mustered on the 11th minute proving to be just a half-chance as a deep cross from Jensen Weir fell invitingly to the head of 17-year-old Baylee Dipepa inside the box, who could only loop it as Will Mannion calmly claimed.

A slight break owing to an injury for Rhys Walters died down the early tempo, with a nervy sense around the side following a period of real restriction in the final third. Up the other end, the creative Ethan Chislott tested his luck with a long-range strike on 27 – it was on target but didn’t panic Mannion.

Loud cries of “U’s are staying up” began to ring throughout the away end on the half an hour mark as results elsewhere heavily went in their favour. As a result, it handed some impetus on the pitch, with a nice move almost resulting in the opener shortly after. A spinning free-kick from Andrew was switched to Jubril Okedina down the right, who whipped in an impressive delivery to R. Bennett who cannoned a header just past Ripley’s near post.

With the cards consistently being dished out, it was fair to say it hadn’t been a classic in terms of action, but United had been in control throughout a calm and resilient first period.

The task coming out from the break for the U’s was to express themselves even more in the attack by forcing the game to their opponents. Sullay Kaikai was brought on to add the pace and creativity as Macauley Bonne made way.

On the 51st minute, the ball was given away and handed to former U Uche Ikpeazu, who picked his spot from 25 yards out and drilled a weak curler straight at the visiting goalkeeper.

The target man rued a golden opportunity to draw first blood a minute later when Chislett’s pinpoint cross fell to Ikpeazu from virtually yards out – the slightest of touches with his head would have rippled the net but he couldn’t leap high enough to connect.

Darren Moore’s side remained in the ascendency following the let-off, with no real sign of the U’s breaking deadlock until the 66th minute when Liam Bennett was played in down the right before slipping in a teasing ball to the six-yard box where captain Nathan Smith crucially sliced over his crossbar.

Taking things up a gear, a rally of vicious strikes from L. Bennett and Kaikai five minutes later were well-blocked, before a defence-splitting pass from Okedina was met by a racing James Brophy – he sprinted towards the box but was fouled in the nick of time. Despite cries for a penalty, it was adjudged to be inches outside by referee Ross Joyce, and as a result Andrew territory, who hit it cleanly with bend but Ripley got down low to force a smart stop.

The atmosphere ramped up from here, with news also being revealed that fellow battlers Burton Albion had gone 3-0 down away at Fleetwood Town in addition to Cheltenham Town being held at Stevenage, so the job was all but done but the cherry on top would certainly be a late winner in Burslem.

Ultimately, the points were destined to be shared, with the U’s battling to their 14th and final clean sheet of the campaign to ensure the job of safety was accomplished and a fourth consecutive season in the third tier on the cards for the first time.


Port Vale: Ripley, Debrah, Smith, Iacovitti, Shorrock, Garrity, Walters (Ojo, 21’), Weir (Clark, 83’), Chislett (Buah, 83’), Ikpeazu (Lowe, 68’), Dipepa

Subs Not Used: Leutwiler, Lopata, Agnero


Bookings: Weir, Smith


Cambridge United: Mannion, Okedina, R. Bennett, Andrew, L. Bennett, Digby, Brophy (May, 89’), Gibbons, Kachunga (Hoddle, 92’), Bonne (Kaikai, 46’), Ahadme

Subs Not Used: Chadwick, Okenabirhie, Lankester, Cousins


Bookings: Gibbons, L. Bennett, Ahadme, Okedina


Referee: Ross Joyce

Attendance: 6378 (1066 away fans)