Cambridge United 3-1 York City: The defence rests York overwhelmed by flood of attacking football – again! (reports the “Daily Mither”)
Furious York City supporters last night demanded to know why a key component of their team – the defence – was left wide open at Cambridge, leaving vast swathes of the Abbey Stadium pitch open to a torrent of attacks and goals from the home team.
Recent improvements were supposed to have shored up the Minstermen’s notoriously leaky back line, but a decision by manager Jackie McNamara to ‘play football’ resulted in an unstoppable deluge of shots which easily breached a hopelessly inadequate defence and left it totally overwhelmed under the weight of the Cambridge forward play, leaving the fans with a reet monk on.
“They were completely paggered, flower,” complained disgusted fan Jedediah Clutterbuck, 83, to our That There London correspondent. “We used to have a back four that were meaner than a Geoffrey Boycott innings, but now ‘appen it’s the worst thing we’ve seen since the Battle of Bosworth Field! Hell fire! I’m proper vexed.”
Bagdemagus Scargill (no relation), Abbey Stadium, Cambridge
There has been much suffering in York this season, even before the recent floods, a fair proportion of which has been due to the dismal form of the city’s football team. The news, therefore, that they had awoken from their torpor to win their last two matches but had not won away since 5th September set alarm bells ringing in the vicinity of Newmarket Road, where all too many clubs have come over the years and ended a barren run thanks to the inadvertent generosity of the black-and-amber clad hosts. Their team today contained no names of particular note, although Michael Coulson seems to have been there for forever and a day.
United line-up: Norris; Furlong, Legge, Coulson, Haynes; Berry, Ledson, Dunne; Williamson, Spencer, Dunk
On the bench: Beasant, Omozusi, Roberts, O’Neill, Horne, Donaldson, Simpson
Shaun Derry’s ever-evolving eleven have been displaying all the hallmarks of a team in flux of late, their form varying wildly from week (Leyton Orient) to weak (Stevenage). He made just one change from last week’s disappointment, bringing in Jimmy Spencer for Ryan Donaldson, and he led the forward line in a fluid 4-3-3 formation, flanked by the speedy Ben Williamson and Harrison Dunk with a tight, solid midfield behind them. Coventry loanee Ryan Haynes, as ginger and translucently pale as Rory Gaffney, made his home debut at left-back and American Irish defender Shane O’Neill was one of two centre-backs amongst the substitutes.
York started confidently, as befitting their recent form, and came within a whisker of taking the lead on 6 when Coulson’s 30-yard thunderbolt flew past Will Norris and smacked against the far upright, a moment almost as stunning as the news that Chesterfield had given a contract to Jordan Slew. Coulson tried his luck again two minutes later but missed the target, and on 10 the direction of the match turned irrevocably the way of United.
Haynes made a splendid run down the left touchline, curled a teasing cross towards the far post, keeper Scott Flinders misjudged it hopelessly and as he groped at thin air, Spencer rose above his marker behind Flinders to nod a simple header home from close range. 1-0.
Catastrophic defending was to be the theme of the visitors’ performance for the rest of the afternoon as, buoyed by the goal, the U’s sprang into life. Nonetheless York created a good chance of an equaliser just four minutes later when Femi Ilesanmi raced down the left channel and picked out Bradley Fewster, but with an unchallenged view of goal, he trundled a feeble shot straight into Norris’ arms.
The combination of a lively, combative midfield trio, two fleet-footed wide men and a strong target man began to pose real problems to York’s ponderous back line, behind which stood a keeper who seemed more nervous than a snowman in a heatwave. United should have doubled their tally on 25 when Dunk cruised past the defence as if they were not there, advanced inside to the near post then, faced with a poised Flinders, waited for Williamson to arrive for a six-yard tap-in, only for the striker to miscue and see his shot cleared away.
A corner swiftly ensued, though, and the visitors were exposed again when Dunk’s flag-kick dropped to the unmarked Josh Coulson near the far post; he drove his close-range volley into the ground to send it bouncing past Flinders on his line. 2-0.
Now York were rocking back on their heels, their previously vociferous supporters silenced. A low, driven Ryan Ledson free-kick from deep on 32 found Coulson unmarked again on the edge of the area, but he lacked a striker’s instinct and his scuffed shot wobbled wide of the far post. A minute later the visitors pulled one back when Haynes’ attempted clearance was charged down by Kenny McEvoy, it ran to James Berrett and he thrashed an unstoppable drive past Norris into the top far corner from 20 yards, a stunning strike. 2-1.
York’s support sprang back to life, but United came straight back at their opponents, Berry and Ledson both firing over in quick succession, although the nearest they came to restoring their two-goal advantage was on the verge of half-time when Spencer crossed for Ledson to force a decent save from Flinders with a looping header. The hosts retired for the interval happy to be ahead, but reflecting that such was the visitors’ defensive vulnerability, they could and should have been much further in front already.
The U’s resumed where they had left off after the lemons and wave after wave of attacks brought panic to the York defence; Williamson fired wide on 49 when he should have squared it, Spencer tried to score a worldie 20-yard volley when he would also have been better employed finding a better-positioned colleague a minute later, then Williamson missed again, and Dunk cut inside and fired a right-footed daisycutter which was heading inside the post until tipped around by Flinders.
United were tearing York’s rearguard apart at will, but just missed a clinical head in the final third, and one suspected that the more ruthless but injured Barry Corr would have helped himself to a hat-trick by now. In fact he would probably have scored if he had faced that ‘defence’ on crutches.
Another goal seemed inevitable, though, and so it proved on the hour as Williamson hared down the middle, the ball broke to Spencer, his drilled angled drive was parried by the hapless Flinders and there was Williamson to poke home the rebound. At last: 3-1.
Jake Hyde replaced McEvoy for the visitors but the tide was still flowing all one way; Spencer drew a parry from Flinders then James Dunne had a shot blocked, and on 68 Lubomir Satka was the first name into the book for bringing down Dunk, who was the main recipient of some robust challenges from the men in red with the blue sash.
The next goal looked like coming on 76 when some more slipshod defending led to Dave Winfield bringing down Leon Legge in the box. Spencer grabbed the ball at first but was overruled by captain Berry, who stepped up to take his second penalty of the season…only to try to be too clever and instead of smashing the ruddy thing he attempted to bamboozle Flinders with a dinky chip and duly dinked it over the bar and into the Newmarket Road End.
That was not great, and nor was his smiling reaction to it, albeit it was not at the mickey-taking Messi/Suarez level, and an unimpressed Derry duly hauled him off three minutes later, as York replaced Fewster and Russell Penn with Reece Thompson and Josh Carson. Thereafter the match rather petered out, York utterly beaten and unable to muster any sort of challenge to Norris, and Robbie Simpson came on for Spencer with a couple of minutes left.
All in all it was a decent win with a lot of good forward play, tempered by profligacy in the final third, and United could and should have scored five or six against a dreadful, leaden-footed defence and a keeper who resembled a 12-year-old taking part in an adults’ game. But it was three points, a useful workout and good preparation for the greater challenges of Portsmouth and Wycombe in the next ten days. The U’s may be a tantalising two points away from the playoff zone, but those two games will provide a better yardstick for the team’s promotion prospects. We’ve had the rain, but the storm is yet to come.
Today’s attendance of 4,822 has been recorded twice before at the Abbey, and United won both games…in the same year. They beat Queen’s Park Rangers 1-0 on 9th February 1982 with an early goal from Tommy O’Neill, then defeated Crystal Palace by the same score on 28th December that year, the decisive strike coming from a Jim Cannon own goal. The same attendance was also recorded for United’s season opener at Grimsby Town on 19th August 1989, which ended in a goalless draw.
Josh Coulson is only the third centre-back in United’s history to score a league or cup goal in seven or more consecutive seasons. Terry Eades is the record holder, notching in each of the eight seasons from 1968-69 to 1975-76, while Steve Fallon appeared on the scoresheet in every season from 1979-80 to 1985-86; in all he scored in 10 of his 13 seasons at the club. Josh joins ‘Fal’ on seven, as does sixties star Jackie Scurr, although he was often employed as a defensive wing-half in those different tactical times. Just behind them on six come Phil Chapple and Andy Duncan, who scored in a total of 8 of his 10 seasons at the Abbey.
Luke Berry’s penalty miss was United’s first of the season, Barry Corr and Berry himself having converted the other two. Luke has now scored three and missed two of the spot-kicks he has taken for the U’s in league matches. The last season in which United did not miss a league penalty at all was 2008-09, when Chris Holroyd, Lee McEvilly and Scott Rendell all converted three each. The last Football League season in which the U’s did not fail from the spot was 2004-05, when Tes Bramble converted the only kick they were awarded in that relegation term.
Ryan Haynes is the ninth United player to be allocated the squad number 34. Previous incumbents are: Marcus Richardson, Kevin Austin, Darren Quinton, Bradley Johnson, Matt Mann, Curtis Haynes-Brown, Luke Chambers-Shaw and Cameron Gayle.
Norris 7. No chance with the goal and otherwise looked comfortable, except when York hit the upright.
Furlong 7. Did a decent job, quick to the tackle and interception.
Legge 8. A colossal presence as usual.
Coulson 8. Back to his reliable best.
Haynes 7. Made the first goal and improved as the game went on, encouragingly calm on the ball.
Berry 8. Drove the team on in inspirational style until that penalty miss.
Ledson 8. Fine, all-action performance.
Dunne 7. Operates more under the radar than his colleagues, but made a vital contribution tidying up.
Williamson 8. Tormented York with his pace and might have scored more.
Spencer 8. Authoritative line leader.
Dunk 8. Always a threat despite taking something of a battering.
Donaldson 6. The game was effectively over by the time he came on and he made little impression.
Simpson 6. Late cameo but he put himself about in typical committed fashion.
After a slow start, United’s opening goal was the trigger for an energetic, dominant team performance that should have yielded a greater margin of victory against one of the worst excuses for an opposing defence seen at the Abbey in many a long year.
Man of the Match
Jimmy Spencer. Led the line with physicality, awareness and skill, and has already scored more than J*rd*n Sl*w.
Kinseley 7. A little over-officious at times but we’ve had far worse.
Soundtrack of the Day
Yak “Victorious (National Anthem)”
Back by popular demand - here's Andrew's match report!