Blues Held at Home
Blues find late equaliser but lose 100% record
Cambridge 2 – 2 Bedfordshire
A last-gasp equaliser saved the Blues blushes as a spirited fight back from the University of Bedfordshire (Luton) almost saw them leave Fenners with all three points.
Cambridge entered the game with a 100% record in the League, having scored 9 and conceded 0 in their first three games, and this game looked like following a similar pattern.
The Blues found their rhythm straight away, settling into a good tempo and looking far the more comfortable of the two teams on the ball. Even with captain Johnson starting on the bench and striker Kerrigan, who has burst onto the footballing scene so spectacularly this term, out injured Cambridge appeared undeterred.
Johnson has been emphasising the need for his side to keep their shape and they did so to great effect in the early exchanges; the midfield squeezed high up the pitch and Bedfordshire never looked like finding a way through, being forced to knock it long or simply panicking and giving the ball away.
The pressure told midway through the first-half with the first real chance of the game, a free kick right on the edge of the area was beautifully curled into the bottom corner by stand-in skipper Baxter.
The Blues were now looking to push on and put the game beyond doubt and the win was certainly the most likely outcome at this stage. Inexplicably though, Cambridge seemed to lose their focus towards the end of the first half.
The tempo dropped and Bedfordshire were allowed a little more time and space on the ball. Lapses of concentration were to prove vital as the Blues let their lead slip. Gwyther was caught trying to shepherd the ball out of play, forcing Ferguson to make a good low save, while a free header from a corner was not capitalised on and Cambridge really should have been made to pay for some lax marking.
Johnson was visibly concerned on the touchline, trying to inject the sense of urgency lost since the goal but the Blues were punished for a defensive mix-up just before half-time when a long ball was allowed to bounce and when neither goalkeeper nor centre-back dealt with the bouncing ball the onrushing forward nipped in and dinked it over Ferguson.
Cambridge seemed shaken by this response, the game was scrappy and the Blues could not get their foot on the ball or squeeze the play as they had done so effectively at first; the Bedfordshire striker was allowed to turn and run at the defence, firing wide from a tight angle.
Cambridge needed to re-group in the changing rooms and start the second half as they had started the first. This wasn’t to be the case though. The opposition came out looking to hold onto the ball more and looked a far more composed side. A driving run from midfield and a low, skimming shot was brilliantly turned around the post by the Cambridge keeper.
The Blues’ sluggish start to the second half was compounded when the ball dropped to a red shirt on the edge of the box and the striker showed great technical ability to side-foot the volley into the top left corner, to put the visitors 2-1 ahead.
Cambridge had lost their intensity and looked rattled by a side who were now gaining in confidence, and they almost grabbed a third straight from the restart but the shot was easily saved. It was now Cambridge who appeared to have lost their composure and shape. Amos curled a shot wide but chances were few and far between.
Johnson, sensing the need for urgency and disappointed at his side’s inability to keep the ball, brought himself on for the last half an hour and immediately Cambridge seemed to find their way again. A quick free-kick saw their keeper spill the shot, while Baxter had a shot deflected narrowly wide.
Rutt, being gifted a lot of space down the right hand side, started to come into the game a lot more and headed wide from a teasing cross at the back post when really he should have hit the target. He again came close to the equaliser when Johnson dispossessed their defender and released him but he curled his shot wide after cutting inside.
The Blues were piling the pressure on, Johnson again dispossessing the centre back, but saw his shot well saved and the rebound was fired straight at the keeper’s legs. Time was running out though, and when a free-kick was curled wide it looked as if Cambridge were going to suffer their first defeat of the season.
But a free kick on the halfway line was pumped forward into a packed penalty box and from the resulting knock down the ball finally fell to a Blue shirt at the back post who tucked it away for a deserved equaliser.
Johnson was visibly (and audibly) disappointed at the final whistle, the Blues would have been hoping for a win against a side who had taken just 3 points before the game, but should be pleased with his side’s spirit and determination after going a goal behind.
There was plenty of evidence from a slightly under-strength Blues team that they have a good footballing side this year, but they will regret not translating that into a 90 minute performance.
They remain second in the league, but a win against the league leaders next week in a crunch game would leave them 2 points off top spot with a game in hand. Cambridge will have learnt a lot from this game, and should use it as a platform for a strong push for promotion.