Cambridge’s Liam O’Neil goes shoulder-to-shoulder with Burton’s Lucas AkinsBen Phillips

In this afternoon’s 3pm kick-off (21/08), Cambridge United earned an incredible 3-0 win over favourites’ Burton Albion.

The U’s returned to the Abbey on the back of two away trips to Accrington Stanley and Plymouth Argyle in the past week, resulting in a 2-1 loss and 1-1 draw respectively, which left them sitting 17th in the early stages of this season’s table. In their matchup with Plymouth, the U’s suffered an unfortunate injury blow, as captain Greg Taylor was stretchered off the pitch in the 27th minute following an awkward landing.

Speaking at a press call on Thursday (19/08), head coach Mark Bonner explained that Taylor’s injury “is as bad as we thought it might be to begin with [...] which fundamentally is bad for the team and bad for us losing the captain and leader of the team”. He added: “It’s really disappointing for him because he worked his socks off last year and played every single game to help us get to the challenge we are in now”.

Nevertheless, the U’s secured loanee replacement Conor Masterson from QPR, who went straight into the starting eleven for today’s fixture after an official announcement came just hours before the opening whistle. Further up the field, Joe Ironside looked to continue his strong goal-scoring form, notching up three goals in as many games and standing as the league’s top scorer before kick-off. Meanwhile, new signing Jack Lankester continued his injury-return journey, making the substitutes bench.

As for the opposition, Burton Albion had started the current campaign with flying colours, travelling to Cambridge with three straight league wins under their belt. The Brewers beat Shrewsbury Town 0-1 on the opening day (07/08), followed by impressive performances against Ipswich Town and Sunderland. However, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s men lost on penalties to Oxford United in the Carabao Cup last Wednesday (11/08), a side that the U’s managed to match with a draw in their first performance of the season.

Turning to the game, early attacks from both sides teased an exciting matchup. The visitors went straight on the front foot with winger Jonny Smith, but the U’s were able to deal with his cross from the right side. In response, Cambridge’s James Brophy did well to pick out Liam O’Neil in space, who then played in goal-hungry Joe Ironside for an effort eventually blocked out for a corner.

Following a pacey first ten minutes, the Brewers settled into the game with chances coming from both Lucas Akins and Omari Patrick, as the latter forced U’s goalkeeper Dimi Mitov into making a low save from an effort inside the box on the 22-minute mark. Six minutes later, Patrick struck again down the right-hand side, but Mitov was equal to the forward’s shot for a second time with an excellent save. The U’s enjoyed spells of dangerous build-up play on the stroke of half-time, but ultimately to no avail. 0-0 at the break.

Burton got the second half underway seeking to replicate their levels of attacking intensity shown in the first, but it was Cambridge that dealt the first blow in the 53rd minute. Latching onto a neat flick by Wes Hoolahan, winger Sam Smith fired a left-footed shot from the edge of the 18-yard box, taking a cruel deflection that wrong-footed keeper Ben Garratt to put the host’s 1-0 up.


Mountain View

Honours even at the Abbey: Cambridge United 1-1 Oxford United

After successfully fending off Burton’s counter-chances, the U’s managed to double their lead in the 73rd minute thanks to an own goal from Tom Hamer, as Hoolahan’s skill to reach the byline resulted in a ball across the six-yard box that the visitors failed to deal with. Only seven minutes later, it seemed as if Hamer was prepared to challenge Ironside for the U’s top-scorer title, unbelievably turning another one into his own net to make it 3-0.

Despite a last-minute offensive scramble in the box by the visitors, Mark Bonner’s team were able to secure an extraordinary victory and clean sheet at the Abbey, putting an end to Burton’s 100% league record. Looking ahead, the U’s face a tough challenge on Tuesday night (24/08), as they travel to Championship-side Millwall for the Carabao Cup second round, after beating Swindon Town on penalties in last week’s first round (11/08). In the league, Cambridge United will host fellow newly-promoted outfit Bolton Wanderers next Saturday (28/08), who go into the fixture following a 2-1 win over Oxford United earlier today.


Cambridge United: Dimitar Mitov, George Williams, Conor Masterson, Lloyd Jones, Jack Iredale, Liam O’Neil, Paul Digby (C), James Brophy, Sam Smith, Wes Hoolahan, Joe Ironside

Substitutes: Will Mannion, Harrison Dunk, Jensen Weir, Shilow Tracey, Adam May, Jack Lankester, Harvey Knibbs

Burton Albion: Ben Garratt, John Brayford (C), Joe Powell, Lucas Akins, Jonny Smith, Omari Patrick, Tom O’Connor, Connor Shaughnessy, Ryan Leak, Tom Hamer, Michael Macienne

Substitutes: Ellery Balcombe, Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, Danny Rowe, Frazer Blake-Tracey, Aaron Amadi-Holloway, Ben Radcliffe, Charlie Williams