Coconutter' Andrew Bennett gets his teeth into yesterday's clash with our friends from Hertfordshire:
and it was in 1443 that the first Nosferatu was born.
That name rings like the cry of a bird of prey. Never speak it aloud...
Men do not always recognize the dangers that beasts can sense at certain times.
Some people are naturally pale. I mean really pale, almost translucent, like a ghost. Many of them are my people, the redheads, the ones who can’t go out in the sun for fearing of immolating and leaving just a pile of ashes in their shoes, or at least turning a nasty shade of pink. But pale is much better than suntan-orange (or “Winton”), either the natural skin-ageing sort or the preposterous bottle variety. And it’s much healthier to stay indoors, safe from those damaging UV rays, anyway. So all hail the first appearance of the palest man ever to wear the colours of Cambridge United: Rory Gaffney!
Here is an important letter from Transylvania. Count Dracula wishes to buy a house in our city. It's a good opportunity for you, Harker. The Count is rich, and free with his money. You will have a marvellous journey. And, young as you are, what matter if it costs you some pain - or even a little blood?
Gaffney’s first appearance on the bench at the Abbey (he was an unused sub at Old Trafford last season) came against Stevenage, with whom we enjoyed such a fierce rivalry back in the Conference days, when you were guaranteed at least one red card per match, sometimes one for both sides. We have drifted apart since those days, and that beady-eyed little scamp Graham Westley has joined those slightly odd people in the swamplands of North Cambridgeshire, to be replaced by Teddy Sheringham, for whom Broadhall Way must feel like the under-12s training ground after the clubs he has played for over the years.
Stevenage’s team included a player notable in Cambridge United’s history for the shortest loan spell in the club’s history: one day. Goalkeeper Jesse Joronen arrived on loan from Fulham in February 2013, but when he threw a hissy fit on being told that he would just be on the bench against Hereford, Richard Money packed him straight off back to Craven Cottage. The Violet Elizabeth Bott of football is still a Fulham player, but is now on loan to today’s opponents. The rest of the team were not exactly household names, although Chris Whelpdale used to ply his trade for the Posh and Ronnie Henry was playing for Stevenage against the U’s as far back as Boxing Day 2005.
And now, gentlemen, here is another type of vampire: a polyp with claws...transparent, without substance, almost a phantom.
United line-up: Dunn; Legge, Roberts, Taft; Omozusi, Newton, Berry, Dunk, Demetriou; Simpson, L.Hughes
On the bench: Beasant, Taylor, J.Hughes, Morrissey, Donaldson, Chiedozie, Gaffney
Unusually, Money made only one change from the side which drew at Hartlepool, and that was enforced; with Jacob Blyth returning to Leicester at the end of his loan spell, Liam Hughes was pressed into service as target man alongside Robbie Simpson up front. Jordan Slew and Danny Carr were absent injured, as were the perennial Keith Keane and Barry Corr, but Ryan Donaldson and Jeff Hughes were fit enough to make the bench, and of course there was the flaming head of Rory Gaffney for the first time at the Abbey.
It was a pleasantly balmy September afternoon and the calm atmosphere inside the Abbey betrayed the fact that Stevenage have been rather overtaken in the local rivals stakes by Luton as far as the amber army are concerned, with none of the edge of yore. The blue-clad visitors created an early chance when Steven Schumacher crossed for Charlie Lee to head onto the bar, but the linesman signalled offside.
It rapidly became apparent that Sheringham is attempting to turn Westley’s former gung-ho stormtroopers into a tiki-taka passing side, but his players were not exactly of Barcelona standard and they usually ended up knocking it around in their own half then losing it when they reached the centre circle, or lost patience and lofted it long where their lack of height meant they lost it anyway.
United were a little slow to get started but eventually began to settle, with Hughes leading the line gamely and a mobile, ball-playing midfield three combining well with the marauding wing-backs. The crowd finally got going on 21 when Hughes knocked down for Simpson to fire a fine first-time shot low for the bottom corner, but he was denied by a good diving save from Joronen.
Lee and Hughes then fired wide and over for their sides and on the half-hour the U’s came their closest so far to scoring when Luke Berry’s corner found Hughes, whose towering header was blocked on his line by Joronen, the ball somehow scrambled away for another flag-kick, from which Leon Legge nodded wide.
United were now in the ascendant but struggled to find that killer final ball against the visitors’ ponderous back line. Hughes fired wide on 38, and five minutes later a rare misplaced pass from Legge allowed Stevenage to break, but Tom Hitchcock headed Lee’s cross wide of the far post when he should have done better. Thus ended a fairly low-key first half which had desperately lacked someone like, say, Barry Corr to take the game by the scruff of the neck and convert half-chances to goals.
Nina, my beloved: Don't be unhappy. Though I am far away, I love you. This is a strange country. After my first night in the castle, I found two large bites on my neck. From mosquitoes? From spiders? I don't know. I have had some frightful dreams, but they were only dreams. You mustn't worry about me.
The second half resumed much as the first had left off, Jack Jebb blasting over for the visitors, and Money made a canny change on 54, replacing George Taft with Jordan Chiedozie and going from 3-5-2 to 4-4-2 with the sub joining Hughes up front and Simpson dropping into midfield, with Conor Newton and Harrison Dunk wide. Chiedozie sprang about like an adolescent gazelle and Simpson and Berry provided plenty of drive from the centre as they hustled and harried an increasingly unconvincing Stevenage side.
Hitchcock was first into the book on 59 for a foul on Elliot Omozusi, whose stooping back-header to Chris Dunn lacked pace and almost dropped his colleagues in it, Legge and the keeper eventually muddling through. Berry fired wide after a corner was blocked soon afterwards, then Hitchcock was withdrawn in favour of Dipo Akinyemi.
The Stevenage sub almost caught United out on the break on 64, but he showed too much of the ball to Mark Roberts, who gratefully conceded a corner. Four minutes later good work by Newton culminated in a cross to the far post where Dunk arrived, only to head it straight into Joronen’s gloves. More approach work by Newton then set up a chance for Simpson, but he scooped his attempted curler over the angle and banged the floor in frustration.
Tottenham loanee and Gareth Bale lookalike Kenny McEvoy then replaced Tom Pett for the visitors, and on 72 Lee was next to see yellow for a cynical foul on Mickey Demetriou. Then came the most embarrassing moment of the match, when the ball ran to Omozusi 30 yards out and his attempted first-time shot swerved away from goal and trundled off for a throw-in. I guess that’s why he’s a full-back.
Newton dribbled into the box on 75 but took too long to shoot, gaining a corner from which Hughes prodded wide, then Omozusi was replaced by Greg Taylor, presumably for fitness reasons, unless Money thought THAT shot really was just too cringeworthy. Fraser Franks then came on for the injured Ryan Johnson, and on 81 came the moment we had been waiting for, as Gaffney made his long-awaited United debut in place of Newton, Hughes now dropping back to the right wing.
You are late, young man. It is almost midnight. My servants have all retired.
The Irishman’s appearance galvanised the amber army and they upped the noise as the U’s began to turn the screw. Simpson crossed on 82 for Chiedozie to head narrowly wide under pressure, then Simpson sent a powerful 30-yarder fizzing just past the upright. Demetriou then tried his luck but Joronen clutched his shot comfortably, and Berry blazed over the top.
Gaffney showed his quality on 88 with some fine footwork to beat his man out on the left flank, and his pinpoint cross found the head of Berry, but he flashed his unmarked header across goal and wide of the far post.
You must not leave now! The evil spirits become all-powerful after dark!
Five minutes added time was indicated even as a Stevenage man received treatment, meaning there would be nearer seven played. Three minutes in, a rare Stevenage break presented Akinyemi with a scoring opportunity inside the box, but he summed up his team’s powder-puff attack by scuffing it feebly wide.
Two minutes later it was United’s turn to break, and Hughes’ inch-perfect diagonal through ball presented Gaffney with a chance to half-volley; it looked like a goal all the way as it screamed for the bottom left corner, but Joronen dived to make a fine save. What, no fairytale ending?
Fear ye not. Simpson had another effort saved, but six and a half minutes into stoppage time, Hughes chipped into space for Gaffney on the right flank. He controlled, turned and arrowed a magnificent curling cross to the far post, where Dunk was barrelling in to bury a brave header into the net. Cue bedlam on and off the pitch: 1-0!
Stevenage had little time to respond and did not look capable of doing so anyway, and United claimed the victory that their overall play had merited, ‘Coconuts’ ringing out for the first time since the 8th of August. Unlike in several matches this season, they had truly looked like a team with a common purpose, everyone familiar with his role and eager to carry it out. The return of a fully fit Corr, Donaldson and Keane to strengthen the side further is an intriguing prospect, and in Rory Gaffney, a star is born, although one should not get carried away on the strength of 15 minutes against frankly second-rate opposition. There’s nothing wrong with being excited for a change, though, is there…?
The Master is coming! The Master is here!
Many thanks to ‘Nosferatu, Eine Symphonie des Grauens’ (1922)
Harrison Dunk has now scored a league goal for United in five consecutive seasons. That places him at equal 19th in the table of such feats in CUFC history. The leaders are:
15 seasons: Harvey Cornwell (1922-1938 – he played for United Cantabs during 1936-37)
12 seasons: Russell Crane (1947-59) and Steve Spriggs (1975-87)
10: Harold “Darley” Watson, Fred Taverner
9: John Taylor
8: Albert George, Paul Wanless
7: Steve Fallon, Tim Finney, Jackie Scurr, Floyd Streete, Stan Thurston
6: Phil Chapple, Derrick Christie, Len Saward, Graham “Willy” Watson, Wally Wilson
5: Ian Ashbee, Gerry Baker, Luke Berry, Alan Biley, David Bridges, Steve Claridge, Len Crowe, Tony Dennis, Joe Gallego, Fred Howell, Liam Hughes (6 if he scores this season), Len Johnson, Joe Langford, Chris Leadbitter, David Lill, Courtney Pitt, George Reilly, Dennis Walker
This is for goals scored in consecutive seasons in which a player has played for Cambridge United, so they may sometimes be spread over two spells with the club.
Rory Gaffney is the third Rory to play for the U’s, after Rory Hutton (2004-05) and Rory McAuley (2008-14). Loanee Johnny Gorman’s first name was also Rory (2012-13).
Stevenage manager Teddy Sheringham played against United three times in his career. He turned out for Millwall on 27th January 1990 in a 1-1 FA Cup Fourth Round draw at The Den, and in the replay three days later which the U’s won 1-0 on the way to the quarter-final. He also turned out as a sub for West Ham in their 4-0 pre-season friendly win at the Abbey on 1st August 2006.
Sheringham’s son, Charlie, has also faced the U’s three times. He played for Histon in their 2-1 defeat at the Abbey on 13th March 2010, for AFC Wimbledon Under-21s in a 2-0 friendly defeat at Clare College on 29th October 2013, and for Salisbury City in a 3-0 away win for United on 26th March 2014. He is currently a team-mate of ex-U’s Tom Bonner, Aiden Palmer, Adam Cunnington and Robbie Willmott at Ebbsfleet United.
Dunn 7. Rarely threatened and handled safely.
Omozusi 7. Settling in pretty well, just needs to avoid the odd silly mistake.
Legge 8. Colossal as usual. We’ll let him off one misplaced pass.
Roberts 7. Calm influence at the back.
Taft 7. Kept it simple.
Demetriou 8. Defensively sound and linked well with Dunk going forward.
Newton 8. Tireless worker.
Berry 8. Improved performance and great to see the old Luke coming back.
Dunk 9. Just gets better and better.
Simpson 8. Drove the team on from three different positions.
L.Hughes 7. Worked hard up front then looked assured in midfield.
Chiedozie 7. Promisingly lively, particularly good at nipping back and stealing the ball off unwitting midfielders.
Taylor 7. Did not put a foot wrong.
Gaffney 8. Very exciting debut; almost scored then created the winner with a peach of a cross.
They may have left it about as late as it was possible to leave it, but United thoroughly deserved their win over an ordinary Stevenage side with a display of industry, organisation and a telling touch of flair. Something encouraging to build on.
Man of the Match
Harrison Dunk. United’s most dangerous player, whether as part of a midfield three or a left winger, and popped up with a brave winning goal right at the end.
Joyce 8. Unobtrusive, sparing with the cards, kept the game flowing when he could.
Soundtrack of the Day
Promised Land Sound “Push and Pull (All the Time)”
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