Clinical Cambridge dump sloppy Cobblers out of FA Cup

Cobblers were dumped out of the FA Cup when soundly beaten 3-1 by Cambridge United in Tuesday's first round replay at the Abbey Stadium.

By James Heneghan
Tuesday, 16th November 2021, 9:50 pm
Cambridge United striker Harvey Knibbs gets caught in a tangle with Cobblers defender Paul Lewis (Picture: Pete Norton)
Cambridge United striker Harvey Knibbs gets caught in a tangle with Cobblers defender Paul Lewis (Picture: Pete Norton)

Town huffed and puffed in the first-half and were by no means outplayed but the difference in scoreline at half-time all boiled down to United's significantly superior quality in the final third.

Two excellent crosses resulted in two goals as Harvey Knibbs and then Sam Smith put the League One side in cruise control at at the break.

It was game over three minutes into the second-half thanks to a sweet strike from Ben Worman, with Danny Rose's late header nothing more than a consolation for the well-beaten visitors.

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Cambridge were worthy winners on the night and manager Jon Brady will be concerned that his side appear to have lost the edge that had made them so strong defensively not so long ago, with crosses into the box a particular weak point in recent games.

Town have now conceded at least two goals in each of their past three games having previously kept four successive clean sheets.

Brady made three changes to his team as Mitch Pinnock and Jordan Flores dropped to the bench whilst Dominic Revan missed out through injury.

In came Michael Harriman, Dylan Connolly and Rose.

Kion Etete and Dylan Connolly were off target with a couple of very early half chances before Cobblers thought they had taken a freak lead when Dimitar Mitov's clearing kick rebounded off Etete and into the net, but referee Darren Drysdale ruled that Town's striker was too close to the goalkeeper.

Cambridge made the most of that let-off when hitting the front just two minutes later.

The goal came against the run of play as Harrison Dunk's deep delivery was headed back across goal by Joe Ironside and Knibbs was on hand to turn home.

Cobblers were neat and tidy and continued to have more of the play but they lacked the penetration and incision to really cut through Cambridge and trouble Mitov in the home goal.

By contrast, United caused problems every time they put the ball into Town's penalty box and after George Williams rattled the side-netting, they enjoyed a dominant spell which culminated in a second goal.

Adam May's stinging volley drew a fine stop from Liam Roberts but the visiting goalkeeper was beaten at the second attempt by Smith from the subsequent corner after Cobblers again failed to deal with a cross into the penalty area.

Paul Lewis saw a low shot tipped wide and Fraser Horsfall's header was held by Mitov but Cobblers had a mountain to climb at the break.

And things got worse two minutes after the restart when Cambridge effectively killed the tie as Worman slammed into the net via the post after more slack defending.

The job now for Cobblers was to keep it respectable and they had Roberts to thank for not conceding a fourth when he pulled off a brilliant save, tipping Knibbs' fierce strike onto the crossbar.

The visitors did not look especially threatening throughout the second-half but they were able to pull one goal back through Rose with 15 minutes when he headed in Aaron McGowan's cross.

But there was no chance of a dramatic late comeback and if anything it was Cambridge who threatened a fourth, the home side going close a couple of times before the full-time whistle confirmed the end of Town's brief FA Cup adventure.

Match facts

Cambridge: Mitov, Williams, Iredale, Digby (c), Okedina, Knibbs (Lankester 87), May, Worman (Weir 72), Dunk, Ironside, Smith (Brophy 72)

Subs not used: McKenzie-Lyle, Davies, Masterson, Bennett

Cobblers: Roberts, Harriman (McGowan 42), Horsfall (c), Guthrie, Koiki, McWilliams, Lewis, Hoskins (Kabamba 66), Connolly (Pinnock 66), Rose, Etete

Subs not used: Maxted, Dyche, Flores, Pollock, Ashley-Seal

Referee: Darren Drysdale

Attendance: 3,068

Cobblers fans: 695