MATCH REPORT: Coventry City 3-1 Cambridge United
Empty ground, empty midfield, empty handed.
It was yet more away day disappointment for U’s fans as Cambridge United were beaten 3-1 at the hands of a Coventry City side who followed up FA Cup success the previous weekend by moving within just a point of the automatic promotion places. Goals from Marc McNulty and Jordan Shipley gave the hosts a 2-0 half time advantage, before U’s defender George Taft, making his third debut in a United shirt, got one back to give his side a glimmer of hope, but Michael Doyle wrapped things up for the hosts with a goal in stoppage time from the edge of the area.
Coventry looked every bit like a team on the sort of run which has seen them charge into contention for the top three places, and had United on the ropes from the beginning. It took just ten minutes for the Sky Blues to make their early dominance count, when Marc McNulty picked up a loose ball on the edge of the area, and curled the ball home past the outstretched arm of U’s stopper David Forde to register his fifteenth goal of the season, and his tenth in his last eleven league outings.
The Cambridge midfield was clearly struggling to cope with the quality, determination and ambition of their Coventry counterparts, and spent large parts of the first period ‘chasing shadows’, which meant that United spent the remainder of the half under huge amounts of pressure, without too many signs of getting level again.
Coventry went close to doubling their lead through Devon Kelly-Evans, who saw an ambitious volley on the turn hit the side-netting after excellent work out wide from full-back Jack Grimmer, and it wasn’t too long before the hosts did find the second goal that their performance had merited so much. Again, it was that man McNulty causing all the problems, as he picked the ball up in the box and glided round the flatfooted Gary Deegan and scorer turned provider as he crossed towards Jordan Shipley, who headed the ball home to double Coventry’s lead going into the break. Shaun Derry was left fuming on the touchline as there appeared to be a clear foul on U’s right-back Brad Halliday by goalscorer Shipley in the build-up, unfortunately for the away side, however, this was not spotted by the officials, and Coventry went into half-time two goals to the good.
Improved second half not enough
A much improved second half saw United almost snatch a point from the Ricoh Arena. Only the referee will know why a penalty wasn’t awarded after Uche Ikpeazu was tumbled in the box by Grimmer, and the U’s were again denied what seemed a strong claim for a penalty when a goal bound long-range effort from George Maris appeared to be blocked by a hand inside the area. It would be Cambridge’s other George, though, who would give the travelling away fans some hope, as George Taft, who had returned to United for a third spell the previous day, headed home from a corner in the eighty-fourth minute to halve the deficit.
Cue the onslaught? Sort of. Derry threw on attacking options in Barry Corr and Harrison Dunk to try and salvage a point from the game, and despite launching the ball forward at every attempt, Cambridge failed to actually test the keeper in the closing stages. It would instead be the home side who found the back of the net, as Maxime Biamou, Coventry’s FA Cup hero from the weekend, broke away down the right hand side and pulled the ball back to Michael Doyle on the edge of the area, who smashed home Coventry’s third to wrap up the three points.
For the U’s, though, the travelling away fans were rightly upset at full-time, as a number of poor individual performances meant that despite an improved second-half performance, the game was essentially over by half-time. United now turn their attention to Yeovil on Saturday, as they travel to Huish Park in hope of ending their abysmal away run during which victory away from The Abbey has not been tasted since early September.
words Tom Walker, D3D4 Cambridge United correspondent