A goal in each half for striker Sam Smith either side of a Paul Lewis header was enough for Cambridge United to beat 10-man Crewe Alexandra at the Alexandra Stadium yesterday afternoon, despite the hosts leading through second-half goals from Eddie Nolan and Chuma Anene’s first for the club.
Manager David Artell made 1 change from last Saturday’s win at Grimsby Town with Will Jaaskelainen returning from international duty with Finland Under-21s replacing Dave Richards in goal, the latter dropping down to the bench.
The first chance came in the 6th minute of the game with Nolan having a header saved by Dimitar Mitov in the Cambridge goal from a Tom Lowery free-kick before the diminutive midfielder had a shot that was straight at the Bulgarian minutes later. The opening goal of the game came in the 13th minute with a long ball from Mitov which saw Smith combine with former Alex loanee Marc Richards before rolling the ball past Jaaskelainen.
The next opportunity for Cambridge came in the 37th minute with new signing Elliott Ward heading a free-kick over the bar before Paul Green was sent off for the Alex 4 minutes before the break for a challenge on Liam O’Neil that referee David Rock deemed reckless.
The second period saw Owen Dale and Anene come on to give the Alex a little more energy as they replaced Daniel Powell and Chris Porter in the first 15 minutes of the half, the Dane almost making an immediate impact as he brought a decent save out of Mitov before the Alex would equalise on 63 minutes. A Lowery corner was flicked on at the near post by Olly Lancashire for central-defensive partner Nolan to stab home from close range.
The comeback was completed 4 minutes later as Kirk found Anene inside the area, the big man’s first touch taking it past the defender with his finish calmly finding the corner. That lead lasted for all of 2 minutes with Lewis heading home after a corner was cleared to the U’s right before Rock gave the visitors a penalty a couple of minutes later following Perry Ng’s challenge on Luke Hannant which Smith put down the middle as Jaaskelainen dived to his right.
We travel to Leyton Orient on Tuesday night before hosting Salford City next Saturday.
What can we learn from this game?
Yesterday was a game that was frustrating for different reasons than we normally see, most of which featured referee Rock and his decisions in particular.
I can understand why he’s sent Green off for the challenge just before the break as Green’s touch got away from him and he made a challenge that a young professional just starting in the game would have made to try to rectify the error, not someone who is coming towards the end of his career.
The penalty I don’t feel the same way about. At the time, not having a great view of it, thought it was a penalty but having seen the angle that the referee gets, it’s a mistake that he shouldn’t be making really (even if you account for this being his first season at this level as a match official).
Either way, I feel that the effort given was enough for at least a point seeing as the first half was fairly even (neither side doing too much) but, even with a man disadvantage, dominated the second half. Either way, we’ll need to bounce back on Tuesday night by picking up something away at the Orient.