18th October 2017
Cambridge 2-1 Warwick
In a match of high drama played at a ferocious tempo, the Blues continued their unbeaten start to the season with a late home win over Warwick.
Conditions were far from ideal for the encounter – with incessant, driving rain leaving the Clare College surface slippery in the extreme.
Cambridge made 3 changes from their draw with Loughborough last week, but they began brightly and forged the first clear cut chance of the game when Ollie Lerway, bustling as ever down the right hand side, crossed for Henry Alexander who couldn’t quite guide the ball under the crossbar from close range.
Warwick’s tricky left winger immediately identified himself as the away side’s major threat, and he forced the very best out of goalkeeper John Harrison as he scampered clear on goal only to be denied in fine style by the onrushing Blues stalwart.
The weather carried the potential to grind the tie down into a war of attrition but, to both team’s credit, the standard of football was excellent throughout the first half.
Cambridge were next to threaten, as Ben Bolderson latched onto a smart George Herring cutback to slam a shot goalwards, only for several ricochets to send the ball spinning into the goalkeeper’s hands.
The referee then waved away the protestations of Joe Ellis as he took a tumble in the box following a corner (his cheeky smile after the game perhaps indicating the official made the correct call).
Warwick carved out the last opportunity of the first half, with a thumping header well saved by Harrison and the rebound miraculously cleared off the line by the alert Stef Wolf.
Cambridge, eager not to go goalless for the second consecutive week, really turned up the pressure after the break.
Jack Congdon offered a particular threat down the right hand side, as the back line – commanded by Oscar Melbourne and excellent debutant Michael Hofstetter – were left relatively untroubled.
Herring, Alexander and Bolderson all went close as it seemed to be a matter of time before the Blues found the opener.
Warwick, however, had other plans and they delivered a hammer blow with 20 minutes remaining as their left winger wheeled away with jubilation as he arrowed a neat header into the top right hand corner.
Cambridge were in desperate need of some resolve, and their response to going a goal down was immaculate. Despite the final whistle looming, their build-up play remained patient, and they struck a deserved equaliser with 8 minutes to play.
The imposing physicality of Alexander made the difference as he brushed off Warwick’s centre half to fire clinically into the roof of the net from 10 yards out.
Cambridge fancied a winner and they got it in the most dramatic of circumstances in the dying embers of added time. Saunders, who made a real difference when coming on, worked the ball wide to Bolderson who delivered an inch perfect cross for Alexander. The lanky striker would’ve made contact with the ball, but he was grappled to the ground by Warwick’s centre half and the ref had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
Wolf dispatched the penalty as if he had no awareness of the intense pressure surrounding it, opting to blast it straight down the middle. It proved to be the very final kick of the game as the ref called time on an enthralling encounter to send the home side into raptures.
The Blues now move up to second in the table, and face Oxford Brookes away next week.
The victory capped a fine day for CUAFC, as the Falcons – inspired by a Yusuf Mushtaq double – toppled Warwick 2s 4-3 in a compelling encounter.