Liam Daish is still waiting for his first win back at his old hunting ground as Fleet were picked off with relative ease by Cambridge United this evening. Indeed Fleet have never beaten Cambridge on their own turf and they showed little evidence of testing that record tonight.
Michael West succumbed to his back injury again, meaning Ricky Shakes came in while Joe Howe replaced ex-Cambridge loanee Alex Stavrinou. And Stav was one of a number of players with experience of turning out for both sides, with Ashley Carew and Michael Gash for Cambridge and Stavrinou, Daish, Calum Willock, Liam Enver-Marum and Johnny Herd (a trialist at the Abbey) for the Fleet.
But there was little friendly charity on show from the home side who took only 10 minutes to unlock the luckless Fleet defence. Before that moment, Preston Edwards had already thrown himself into action, tipping over Peter Winn’s header from Carew’s cross. Fleet had begun well enough, Shakes’ shot blocked by a defender, Willock heading against a defender and Enver-Marum winning a corner.
But from that corner, Cambridge broke upfield with Tom Shaw’s long punt falling for Craig Stone but the Fleet defender lost out to Winn and he eased the ball past Edwards.
Fleet strove to respond in wet, squally conditions and Enver-Marum produced a decent run and shot that eventually was cleared behind for a corner. At the other end, Edwards stopped well from Luke Berry’s powerful shot and he repeated the feat from the same player on the half-hour mark. But Cambridge weren’t to be denied for much longer and two minutes after Berry’s chance, Ross Jarvis clattered a header against the post from a corner. The rebound fell to Tom Shaw 15 yards out and he crashed a shot into the corner for 2-0.
Any hopes Cambridge might back off in the second half were dispelled early on when the lively Berry and Winn had a couple of shots from good approach play. The home side thought they’d earned a penalty on 56 minutes when Shaw’s shot seemed to hit Yado Mambo on the arm but with the scramble going on in the box, the referee must have been uncertain and ignored the protests.
Three minutes later, the Fleet were wasteful with one of their few chances as a corner fell to Ian Simpemba but he blazed over. Fleet stepped up their game from the hour mark and thought they were back in it on 63 minutes when Shakes fed Enver-Marum and he let fly with a tremendous shot that beat the goalkeeper? but not the linesman’s flag indicating offside.
They continued to keep Cambridge on the back foot, Willock glancing a header just over the bar, but couldn’t get much change out of the U’s defence and the home side were still highly dangerous, Carew forcing Edwards into another good tip over the bar before an excellent run by Gash found Winn poised inside the penalty area but he somehow fired it high of the target.
Substitute Lanre Azeez gave Fleet a little more zip down the flanks and he troubled the Cambridge back line on several occasions, so much so that when Winn hacked at his legs inside the box on 82 minutes, he could probably have claimed a penalty had he not stayed on his feet.
But better as their second-half performance was, the Fleet would have considered themselves lucky to get back in this one and with more poise in front of goal, Cambridge could have added to the scoreline in a game they had wrapped up by half-time.
TEAM: Edwards, Stone, Herd (Azeez 52), Mambo, Simpemba, Marwa, Howe, Phipp (Fakinos 78), Shakes, Enver-Marum, Willock (Ginty 68). Subs not used: Welch, Stavrinou.
Yado Mambo netted almost 50% of the vote to win Saturday’s man of the match. Use the drop-down menu above to vote for tonight’s.