Football report: UWE Hartpury 2 – 0 Blues
A rocky start to life in the 1st division for the Blues
Having won back-to-back promotions, the Blues went into their first competitive game of the Premier South eagerly anticipating the step up in quality and application that this season will demand. The first opponents were UWE Hartpury, a team who have gone unbeaten for three years and have won this league for the previous seven years.
The morning’s lashing rain had slickened the great Hartpury playing surface, which led to frenetic opening exchanges as the technically gifted UWE players pushed high and dominated possession. The Blues remained resolute in defence, the banks of four holding firm and limiting UWE to a couple of headed chances from corners and a 20 yard curling effort that sailed comfortably wide of Warne’s far post. It wasn’t pretty, but UWE’s attacking threat was well contained.
Unable to retain much quality possession, the away side’s chances were limited. Griffiths broke down the left after a delightful through ball from May but dragged the shot wide, minutes later May’s long-range strike was deflected for a corner and a Sheriff header missed at the near post. As the heavens cleared, the Blues went in at half-time breathing hard in the beating sun, but fully in the game. They must have been buoyed by the realisation that they could compete at this level.
Two minutes into the second half, the game turned on its head as centre-back Day suffered a horrible head collision with the UWE striker, and was forced to leave the field. Childs dropped back into defence with Smith, Sherif into midfield with May, and Hutton came on to partner Forde up top. It was an unwanted change for a Blues side who had been keeping good shape and nullifying central attacking play, forcing UWE to make long switch balls.
Nevertheless, Cambridge began to creep into the game as UWE grew frustrated. Fullbacks Court and Elliot were able to kick on for the first time in support of Griffiths and Baynham-Herd down the wings. Midway through the second period, Sheriff went on a rampaging run past three men and forced the keeper into a good save. The rebound fell to Forde on the 18-yard box but his rising volley flew over the bar.
But a long switch ball from the left was ultimately Cambridge’s undoing, as the right winger, who was dubiously adjudged onside, cut inside and his deflected effort looped over Warne into the far corner. It was big a blow for Cambridge just as they had begun to seize initiative in the game.
Grubic replaced Baynham-Herd on the right, who had put in a dogged performance, and soon broke free, sliding a well-weighted ball into the box that just alluded Hutton’s outstretched leg. As Cambridge pushed forward in search of a late equaliser, Warne was forced into a great one-on-one save before UWE then linked up well down the left and two blocked shots saw the ball fall to the right winger at the far post, who cooly slotted home to make it 2-0 and put the game beyond the reach of a tiring Cambridge.
Overall, the Blues will be pleased with their hard-working and well-organised performance against a team of such high quality. It was a game that, on another day and with a bit of good fortune, they could have edged 1-0. An assured team performance, three good debuts and a new management link with Cambridge United bode well for the forthcoming fixtures. Next Wednesday they play Bath at Fenners at 1pm, in search of their first victory in the Premier South.