Cledara Abbey StadiumSteve Daniels / Geograph /

There’s a new Monk at the (Cledara) Abbey (Stadium). After Neil Harris’s departure for Millwall, Garry Monk was officially announced as the new Cambridge United head coach last week.

The U’s came into the game off the back of four losses on the bounce, having not scored in their last three. Their opponents, Northampton Town, have enjoyed a successful return to League One so far and sat 12th before kick-off, having lost just one of their last five.

Monk made two changes to the side that lost 2-0 to Bolton Wanderers in the previous match. Lyle Taylor returned from suspension while Jordan Cousins replaced George Thomas, who Gary Monk confirmed after the match has suffered a suspected ACL injury.

The U’s started the match with intensity and applied early pressure on the Northampton back line. Four minutes in, John Guthrie did some superb last ditch defending to intercept a ball from Cousins which would have seen Taylor one-on-one with the goalkeeper.

16 minutes in, United’s good start was rewarded with the first goal of the Garry Monk era. After some fantastic play between Liam Bennett and Jack Lankester on the right hand side, Elias Kachunga emphatically finished inside the six-yard area.

Kachunga had the next huge chance of the game on the stroke of halftime. Another cross from the right hand side, this time by Lyle Taylor, found its way to Kachunga, who failed to provide the necessary finish.

At halftime, there was special recognition of the match being officially partnered with Her Game Too, an award-winning campaign tackling sexism in sport. Cambridge United Women completed a lap of honour, having made history in reaching the final of the FA Women's National League Plate, while United’s Emerging Talent Centre U10s took to the pitch in a mini match.

In the second half, it was Northampton Town who started the brighter side. Ben Fox went narrowly wide just before the hour mark. In the 74th minute, the Cobblers had another half-chance with a Louis Appéré header. The longer the Northampton pressure was sustained, the more likely they looked to score.

That proved true when the Cobblers equalised in the 81st minute. Marc Leonard, who was by far the standout performer on the pitch from either side, delivered a fantastic free-kick which was headed home by John Guthrie. From then on, Northampton sought a winner and Cambridge struggled to fashion any attacking chances.

Surviving nine minutes of added time, Cambridge United held on to an important point which widened the gap between the U’s and the relegation zone to five points. There can be little qualms from either side over the result as both sides were relatively evenly matched. United failed to create much in attack, especially in the second half, but their defensive effort was worthy of a draw.


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Speaking after the match, Garry Monk recognised that the “real positive was stopping that run of results” and said that he “was pleased with a point”. On the over-protectiveness of his side, which let Northampton Town back into the game, Monk was very understanding: “That protective mindset if you’ve got the win or the result in your hands is quite natural [especially] coming off the back of the results they’ve had. We just went a little bit too protective and didn’t look after the ball well enough, so we had to dig in and see the result out.”

Despite the draw and a five-point gap to bottom four, Cambridge United are far from out of the relegation picture, especially with the tricky run-in they have ahead of them. Monk has to find a way to get the U’s back to winning matches of football imminently.