Cambridge Winners

Match report by ALAN ESSEX at the Abbey Stadium

Cambridge 0 Pools 1 (League 2) Tuesday March 14th 2016

So, an evening trip to Cambridge and for me a ‘local’ match, only living 15 miles away. Cambridge is the fastest growing city in the UK and from the evidence I’ve seen it could be a victim of its own success. 

The average house price is over £500k, new-fangled high rise blocks dominate large areas and the infrastructure has little changed for a century. The result being overcrowded roads, expensive parking and high levels of pollution. However, like most successful cities it has a thriving economy much of which is built around the university and its support functions.

Development has crept outwards from the city centre with new hotels, student accommodation and apartments (blocks of flats to you and me) filling all available spaces. These developments are creeping ever closer along the Newmarket Road towards the Abbey Stadium, home of Cambridge United since 1932. How long this remains the case is much debated, with the land now worth a huge amount.

There are plans to redevelop the stadium and bring in other facilities with it but as football supporters we’ve all heard this many times before and fear for the heart of our clubs. The new proposals are planned to be phased in and the only part of the ground that will remain is the South Stand, the newest stand and the one given over to away supporters.

And so it was to the South Stand we (Wallace & Gromit and myself) made our way, walking the mile from the Park and Ride car park. A surprisingly pleasant evening being dry and not too chilly. One side of the road is almost completely taken with Marshall’s, alas not the renowned amplifier manufacturer but a car showroom or rather showrooms as they have the dealership for most of the current car and van manufacturers. “The Chrome Mile” as W & G christened it. For me, a long time ‘petrolhead’, nearly as drool-worthy as their amplification namesake. The other side of the road is also Marshall’s, but this time their aerospace division along with Cambridge airport.

Once in the ground we were cheered to hear a segue of rock numbers played over the PA: Breaking the Law by Judas Priest, Run to the Hills by Iron Maiden and Ace of Spades by Motorhead. It was just like being back in the early 1980’s!

Our away form was ‘not very good’ (being an understatement), having not won since October 1st. In fact we’d lost 13 and drawn 2 since then. Against this Cambridge’s home form was not that bright either: 1 win in their last 7 home games. I suppose the form book may have predicted a draw if we were lucky.

Brad Walker returned from missing a game through injury to his new role at the centre of defence and that was the only change from the defeat at Notts County, Lewis Hawkins dropping to the bench, a bench that had the full complement of 7! Cambridge had strikers Barry Corr, Adam McGurk and Uche Ikpeazu all missing but they did include ex Pools players Jake Carroll and Brad Halliday.

Pools had an early free kick, taken by Thomas, and although from a fair way out he went for goal, his effort landed on the roof of the net. The game had little rhythm with Pools playing with a back 4 and a 5 man midfield who were all sitting very deep. This meant that Amond had to plough a lone furrow (not sure what that means but the term is used a lot by the many farming communities around this part of the Fens!) I guess the idea was that midfielders were supposed to support Amond when we attacked but they were so deep that by the time they got near him the attack had broken up. As a result, Pools were regularly turning their attacks into defence.
"...after this bang on the head he started to play really well – maybe a tactic to be used more often!"

There were many niggly fouls and it seemed a Pools player was on the ground for most of the match. Donnelly seemed to be badly fouled and required lengthy treatment. For the next few minutes he was restricted to just taking throw ins – fortunately there were several in a short space of time and this gave him time to recover.

After half an hour there was quite a lengthy delay as Oates required attention, the referee stopping the game despite Oates not being on the pitch at the time. Oates tried to continue but couldn’t and was replaced by Deverdics. In the meantime, Richardson was booked for a bad / cynical / na├»ve / had to make* (*delete as appropriate) foul.

In a rare foray up-field Alessandra had a shot easily held by Norris, the Cambridge keeper. With the frequent stoppages, there was 5 minutes of additional time. At the break Cambridge brought on Elito who had scored a hat trick at Carlisle at the weekend, also as a 2nd half sub. After 10 minutes of the 2nd half Deverdics received a head injury and continued with his head bandaged – I don’t know why but after this bang on the head he started to play really well – maybe a tactic to be used more often!

Thomas attempted to curl a ball into the top right hand corner of the Cambridge net from just outside of the penalty area, the shot going wide. On the hour Cambridge made a double substitution, Lewis and Maris replacing Dunne and Dunk. This change did little for Cambridge but a couple of minutes later a good ball from Deverdics found Amond and a passing movement involving him and Alessandra found Woods who finished well, shooting past Norris into the bottom right corner.

The game then reverted to type with most of the play limited to the middle third of the pitch. Carroll had a couple of shots in quick succession, trying to get one over his old team but both were off target. In all honesty this was a pretty poor game against the worst Cambridge side I’ve seen. They usually have a striker or two that can cause trouble and capable wingers / wing backs but most of their game consisted of playing the ball across the pitch with no final forward push. Even their central defender Leon Legge, who at this level is consistently good, was not that impressive and nearly gave away an own goal just before Woods scored. Not that I’m complaining like.

Our defence coped well and I was impressed with Walker at the back combining good defensive work with good distribution. Harrison was also good in the heart of the defence. In fact I couldn’t criticise any of the team. They set out to keep a clean sheet and score on the break and succeeded in this. The fact that Leyton Orient were losing 5-0 at Accrington made it all the sweeter, not that I dislike Orient or their supporters, who I hope to meet on Easter Monday, but it makes survival much more of a reality now.