10th November 2017
Cambridge 1-0 Loughborough II
The Blues footballers battled to an extremely hard fought 1-0 home victory over Loughborough on Wednesday, ensuring they remained unbeaten and top of the Midlands 1A Division.
After travelling to Loughborough on the opening day of the season and earning a 0-0 draw, Cambridge knew fine well of the dangers the away side posed. Loughborough had been involved in some bizarre goal bonanzas in their subsequent league games, but this encounter proved similar to the cagey affair when the two sides previously met.
Chances were at a premium in the first half, with Joe Ellis and Michael Hofstetter going closest to breaking the deadlock. Ellis in particular merited a goal for his wonderful right footed curling effort from distance after 15 minutes which arced onto the intersection between bar and post. Hofstetter, meanwhile, carried a threat from set pieces as ever and headed a Stefan Wolf corner narrowly wide of the target.
Other than that, the opening period held much in the way of grit and brawn, but little in decisive quality. If the Blues’ owed much of their early season success by digging in and earning their ‘right to play’, then the first half was a perfect epitome of that philosophy.
Solid and well organised across the pitch, Cambridge limited Loughborough to much less of the possession they enjoyed in the reverse fixture, and far fewer of the goal scoring opportunities.
However, as the second half beckoned, the home side knew that the game would need to open up if the three points were to be secured. The next 15 minutes demonstrated the almighty importance of nicking the first goal as both sides passed up clear cut chances to take the lead.
First, Wolf’s wicked low set piece delivery somehow eluded every Cambridge attacker in the box when a simple goalward touch seemed inevitable. Then, Loughborough passed up a golden opportunity, with an intricate passing move finally opening up the Blues defence, only for the away side’s number 7 to slice wide when racing through on goal.
Cambridge made Loughborough pay for their moment of profligacy on the hour mark, thanks to a real moment of quality down the left hand side. Joe Gregory exchanged passes with Yusuf Mushtaq, a constant thorn in the opponent’s defence, and Gregory’s wicked delivery spun off the Loughborough central defender’s boot to loop into the top corner.
Whether Gregory would be able to claim the effort as his first ever Blues goal is one for the dubious goals panel, but his contribution in the build up was undeniable.
Cambridge went inches away from making it two soon after. Wolf’s precise through ball set Henry Alexander free who unselfishly squared for Ben Bolderson in acres of space. Bolderson did everything right, taking a touch and composing himself before sliding beneath the keeper, only for the Loughborough centre half to heroically claw the ball off the line as it seemed destined to ripple the net.
The away side turned up the heat in search of an equaliser as the final whistle loomed, but the likes of Oscar Melbourne and Jack Congdon displayed the leadership qualities shown throughout the season to marshal the Blues towards victory. John Harrison was only called into one real save of note, showing fantastic handling to hold a stinging 25 yard free kick.
Cambridge played out the last five minutes with a makeshift midfield, comprising of two defenders, Henry Makings, fresh from an injury lay off, and Campsie, operating on the wings. Perhaps fortunately, their attacking deficiencies were not overly put into action, and the final whistle confirmed another three points for the Blues.
With one league game left in the season, they travel to Warwick knowing a victory will put them on top of the league heading into the winter break.