United were well beaten at Cambridge today as the battle of the famous university towns ended 5-1 in Cambridge’s favour. Leading through a Danny Hylton header after nine minutes, the U’s were undone by a devastating spell either side of half time that sealed three points for a confident-looking Cambridge side who have adjusted quickly to life back in the Football League.
Against a big, strong Cambridge side fresh from beating leaders Burton in their last game, United fought hard in the opening stages and then grabbed the lead on nine minutes with a neat opener. Callum O’Dowda spread the ball wide for the excellent Tom Newey in acres of on the left. His delivery was spot on, finding Hylton between the two central defenders. Hylton showed the greater hunger and crashed his header past keeper Chris Dunn for his eighth goal of an impressive first season for the U’s.
United have occasionally been guilty of not holding on to a lead for long enough this season and were grateful to Ryan Clarke for a stunning save two minutes later when he flew to get a faint touch to a rising effort from Kwesi Appiah that took the ball on to the bar. Sadly that was just a taster of what was to come as Cambridge came back strongly. On the half hour Clarke was again there to push a Robbie Simpson header round the post and then three minutes later Tom Elliott poked a poor effort wide as the home side outmanned United five men to three on a swift break.
However a goal looked on the cards and on 41 we were level-pegging as the contrast between the two approaches was perfectly illustrated. Oxford had enjoyed two or three minutes of possession and were passing the ball nicely; had the final cross at the end of one move been headed home then it would have been goal of the season. Instead Cambridge cleared and burst forward. United retreated and when the ball reached Appiah he lashed an unstoppable effort past Clarke from 25 yards for a well-taken equaliser.
Two minutes later it was 2-1 as Appiah gave the home side a half-time lead. The striker got the better of a 50/50 challenge and forced Clarke into another great save but this time fortune favoured Cambridge with the ball going straight back to Appiah who clipped the ball home beyond the desperately covering United defence.
United almost got back on level terms before the break as a goalmouth scramble saw Raynes hit the post and two shots flash wide, but they hadn’t really been able to impose their passing style on the game. They started the second half well and again had the home side penned back for ten minutes but on 55 it was 3-1 as Cambridge again showed clinical finishing. There was plenty to do when Ryan Donaldson saw the ball come across the edge of the penalty area to where he was waiting on the left corner. He showed excellent technique to smash the ball back across the flying Clarke and into the far corner to open up a two-goal lead.
Four minutes later and it was effectively game over as it became 4-1. Again a simple goal undid United: Taylor sent in a cross, Elliott was all alone and his nodded header flew into the right-hand corner with Clarke helpless.
The introduction of fit-again Andy Whing was an encouraging sign, as was a late appearance from striker James Roberts for his debut, but it took another good save from Clarke on 74 to keep out a Hughes free kick and in the last minute Robbie Simpson scored from a corner home to make it 5-1 and torment United further.
No hiding place in front of the Sky cameras. United had been outfought and outplayed and their decent recent run was over. They now welcome Tranmere to the Kassam Stadium next Saturday looking to make amends.
Att: 4,435 Away: 493
Report by Chris Williams
Pictures Darrell Fisher
Stats by OPTA
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