Up the U’s: The spectaular show of Cambridge United

League One is the number one league in my heart


A cold, wet, miserable Saturday 3pm is always the perfect time for a game of football, and yesterday was no exception. Cambridge United, currently 12th place in League One, had drawn Bracknell Town, who were 13th place in the Southern Division Premier League South, four tiers below Cambridge. Surely, surely Cambridge wouldn’t lose here?

I had been to see Cambridge a few times before, most memorably on the last game of the season last year, in which they stayed up after beating Forest Green 1-0, prompting a pitch invasion, and, almost more importantly, sending MK Dons down. One of Cambridge’s other great results in recent history was knocking out Newcastle from the FA Cup just weeks after the Saudi takeover, but today the one-time giantkillers had to ensure that they themselves were not taken out by the minnows of Bracknell.

I trudged to over to the Abbey Stadium in Barnwell, somewhat optimistically predicting a 7-0 hammering for Cambridge. Oh how wrong I was. I knew a few of the players, but my eye had previously mainly been caught by the talismanic James Brophy, a left-winger who had previously been at Leyton Orient. He may have only ever scored one goal for Cambridge, but his influence was immense, as if Lionel Messi, Neymar, and Andreas Iniesta had all clubbed together to have a baby who was for some reason from London. He is, in my humble opinion, the best player in the world (or at the very least in League One), and as such when the team sheets were read out and he was on the bench, my nerves started to rise. Nevertheless, Cambridge named a relatively full-strength squad, with Liam Bennet, Paul Digby, and Fejiri Okenabirhie amongst the starters.

After a very hastily-drunk pint and some chips, we hurried to our seats and the game began, after a poignant rendition of the Last Post and a minute’s silence. The fans of both sides were in full force with the Cambridge supporters behind the goal screaming “w*nker” at the Bracknell goalkeeper, and “who the f*cking hell are you” to the Bracknell fans, before the game had even kicked off. The Bracknell lot had brought drums and a trumpet, and never stopped singing throughout the game, even beginning a chant of “this is a library” and then proceeding to shush the Cambridge supporters.

By that point though, the Cambridge fans did not care, since Okenabirhie had slotted in the first goal on 27 minutes following a one-two with Adam May. This prompted the Bracknell fans to go “one nil, and you still can’t sing”, to the tune of Go West, which felt rather unfair given Cambridge seemed in rather good voice. In the 33rd minute, I caught a glimpse of James Brophy warming up, and dreams of the 7-0 were back on again. It got to half time 1-0, with Bracknell not really having major chances, and Cambridge missing a few.

Whilst in the queue for hot chocolate, I heard a huge cheer go around the stadium. I assumed it was Brophy coming on, and thought nothing of it, until my phone binged to let me know Cambridge had scored. Oops. Watching the highlights back later, it was a rather comical own goal. Bracknell had been trying to pass it out from the back, like a seventh-tier Manchester City, resulting in the Bracknell defender Olukayode Osu prodding the ball past his own goalkeeper when Okenabirhie applied the slightest bit of pressure.

With Bracknell now forced to go forwards more (one of their players had a shot that was a near complete recreation of that Dele Alli goal against Crystal Palace in 201, except the Bracknell man narrowly missed the target), one would feel that the chance was there for Cambridge to score many more goals, but they did not come. Bracknell grew into the game more and more, and had a couple of penalty shouts. Following one of these, a member of the Bracknell coaching staff got sent to the stands, and then evicted from the stands by the stewards, prompting what can only be described as raucous cheerios.

Around the 85th minute, when victory seemed assured, Cambridge fans began chanting about going to Wembley, and were swiftly punished when Ben Harris slotted in a goal for Bracknell in the 86th minute, which would not have been too much of a worry if it were not for the absolutely absurd eleven minutes of added time. Bracknell came very close many times, but Cambridge managed to just about hold out, and walked off to victory soundtracked by I’ve Got A Lovely Bunch Of Coconuts . It was a disappointing game given the stature of the opponent, but Cambridge won and in the cup that is all that matters.

And at least James Brophy didn’t get injured.

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