Cambridge United Women overcame a first half deficit by running riot in the second 45 to run out 5-1 winners and begin climbing back up the league table.
For the second week running, the U’s were on the road in National League Division 1 action, this time travelling to Actonians in a midtable clash. United were looking to return to positive form after last weeks defeat at Wimbledon and complete the league double over the hosts. This fixture also saw the debut of new signing Abbi Smith on loan from Ipswich Town for the remainder of the season.
The early stages of the game saw neither side really able to assert themselves on the tie which resulted in a transitional game with few chances. It was the home side, however, that were first able to mount some sustained pressure which resulted in a number of corners, however none of these caused any real trouble to Webb in the U’s goal.
Cambridge began to grow into the game as the half went on, and with this came some chances. Harley-Jean Simpson could only manage to find ‘keeper with a headed effort from a corner, before both Zoe Wood and Ruth Fox lifted the ball over the bar in efforts to lob the onrushing Actonians‘ keeper.
The breakthrough for the hosts came in the 44th minute. The U’s were temporarily down to 10 as Mayzee Seymour received treatment on the sidelines, and Actonians broke quickly from the back, making the most of their numerical advantage, to get the games opener. Despite trailing at the break, the U’s looked positive as they headed into the dressing room after they had begun to get a foothold in the game.
As has started to become customary, Cambridge looked to start the second half fast as they probed at the Actonians rearguard, especially down the United left. That being said, the early exchanges mostly followed the first half’s pattern, with neither side really creating anything clear cut despite getting into promising positions.
This all changed in the 56th minute however, as Bella Simmons punced on a bouncing ball in the penalty area to fire home the leveller after Abbie Jackson caused difficulties for the hosts from a set-piece situation.
Barely 2 minutes later things got even better for United. Simmons was able to loft a ball in behind the Actonians back-4 for Ruth Fox, who touches it past the ‘keeper before being dragged down by a defender. This saw a penalty awarded to the U’s, and Actonians reduced to 10-players following a straight red card. Despite some time-wasting antics from the hosts, Wood kept her cool to slot the ball home from the resulting spot kick and turn the game on its head.
A brilliant counter-attack from a defensive corner led to an attacking corner for Cambridge in the 70th minute. The corner was taken short to Wood, who danced her way past two challenges before placing the ball into the far corner to add her second and United’s third, whilst distancing the home side.
Not wanting to miss out on the action, debutant Abbi Smith rifled home a fourth for the U’s on her left foot after 90 minutes, capping a very solid debut performance. Three minutes later Bella Simmons completed the scoring with Cambridge’s 5th as the loose ball fell to her on the 18-yard box and she slotted home into the corner.
Actonians did offer spells in the second-half and almost added a second themselves if not for the heroics of Lauren Webb in the U’s goal to tip an effort headed for the top corner up on to the bar.
Another positive on the day was the return of Brooke Cheal-Ferris from her injury which sees strength in depth returning at a great time as United look forwards to the rest of the season and some big upcoming fixtures.
Next up for the U’s, after a 10-day break is a midweek fixture hosting AFC Sudbury on Wednesday 21st February, followed by the huge semi-final tie against Barnsley on Sunday the 25th. Both ties will be played at St Neots Town.
Line Up: Webb, Seymour, Rouse, Jackson, Marden (Cheal-Ferris 85’), Edgar (Otten 80’), Smith (Morley 90’), Wood, Simpson (Gillies 70’), Simmons, Fox
Unused subs: None