The highlight from yesterday at The Abbey - Andrew Bennett's match report:
CAMBRIDGE UNITED 2-3 ACCRINGTON STANLEY: Up against the wall
Partridge: I loved that phrase you used, it was very clever – ‘Revolution not evolution'.
Hayers: No, it was the opposite. ‘Evolution not revolution'.
Partridge: Well whatever. Because that is me. I ‘evolve', but I don't…‘revolve'. Or vice-versa.
Every time a football club changes its manager it is like a country’s change of regime; out with the old ideas, in with new ideologies. All hail the new chief: the revolution starts here. Richard Money will always be rightfully feted for his superb achievements at the Abbey, but as the old saying goes, he had taken us as far as he could. The team’s dramatic slump in form in the second half of last season was the first sign, then came this pre-season when at the last minute he suddenly and inexplicably decided that he would switch to a wing-back system despite having assembled a squad which did not suit it, and the subsequent failure of many of his hand-picked new signings to make any sort of impression, not to mention the several who were not fit when he signed them and still aren’t fit now. No amount of tinkering could remedy that.
“There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.” (V.I. Lenin)
So welcome Shaun Derry, who will assume the mantle of curmudgeonly quote-maker and scourge of local media as well as trying to make a cogent team out of an unevenly weighted squad, something like assembling a Death Star out of parts from a combine harvester. Derry wasted no time this week in strengthening the parts of his squad which needed it (i.e. all of it) by signing three loanees, Sheffield United centre-back Terry Kennedy, Gillingham striker Ben Williamson and teenage Everton wonderboy Ryan Ledson, and all three were handed immediate debuts against high-flying Accrington Stanley.
United line-up: Dunn; Taylor, Legge, Kennedy, Demetriou; Donaldson, Berry, Ledson, Dunk; Williamson, Corr
On the bench: Beasant, Roberts, Davies, Newton, J.Hughes, Slew, Gaffney
Derry demonstrated admirable decisiveness in dropping off-form skipper Mark Roberts, handing the armband to Luke Berry, while Conor Newton and Rory Gaffney were also displaced by the new boys and Greg Taylor replaced Alie Sesay, who returned to Leicester at the end of his loan spell. There was another intriguing new name amongst the substitutes in 15-year-old Leon Davies, an attacking right-back who was outstanding in the youth team’s penalties defeat to Stevenage on Wednesday and clearly impressed the new boss, while there was no place on the bench for names like Simpson, Coulson, Morrissey, Liam Hughes, Chiedozie, Carr or Omozusi. They might be injured, they might be out of favour, they might be wintering in the Bahamas for all we know because the club seems more interested in pushing new and exciting corporate marketing opportunities than giving us any information about its players.
“A revolution is not a bed of roses. A revolution is a struggle between the future and the past.” (Fidel Castro)
Opponents Stanley have experienced something of a revival under John Coleman, in his second spell in charge, and have benefitted from the goals of Josh Windass, son of Dean, who was the only outfield player to wear gloves today. Just wait until Dad finds out, sonny. The clubs had met only twice before at the Abbey, United winning 3-1 in their first meeting in August 2005 with goals from Mark Angel, Darren Quinton and David Bridges, and drawing 2-2 last season thanks to Tom Elliott and Ryan Bird.
After the usual apocalyptic weather forecasts it was rather surprising to wake up not to a white-blanketed winter wonderland but a bright, sunny day, albeit tempered by a brisk breeze that was as chilly as the average turkey’s life expectancy. Christmas is coming, folks, ready or not.
“Revolutions spring not from accident, but from necessity. A revolution is a return from the factitious to the real. It takes place because it must.” (Victor Hugo)
The match commenced in lively fashion, with Windass firing over the United goal then Harrison Dunk speeding down the left flank to plant a cross onto Barry Corr’s head, but keeper Jason Mooney clutched comfortably. The hosts’ game plan swiftly became evident, as they worked to close their opponents down all over the park. All of the new boys settled into Derry’s classic 4-4-2 formation with ease, Williamson roaming tirelessly around Corr, Kennedy solid alongside Leon Legge at the back and Ledson a dynamic presence in central midfield, tackling tigerishly while also displaying a perceptive range of passing.
Ledson also had a decent shot on him and tested Mooney with a low, powerful long-range drive on 12 which the keeper had to dive to scoop around the post. A minute later the U’s were ahead. Ryan Donaldson’s free-kick into the box was cleared as far as Mickey Demetriou, he lofted it back in, Legge headed it on, and there was Corr to steer it expertly home from 10 yards out. 1-0.
While United continued to take the game to Stanley, their opponents were speedy and dangerous on the break. Billy Kee headed wide on 16, and three minutes later Williamson curled a shot narrowly wide up the other end. United’s pressure forced Mooney into a hurried clearance on 26 which fell to Berry 40 yards out, and his lob at the empty goal initially looked set to bounce in before falling wide.
Accrington remained dangerous, though, and they equalised on 29 when Kee’s through ball cut out the entire U’s team and Sean McConville produced a superb finish past Chris Dunn into the top left corner. 1-1.
The United team of the last few months would have let their heads drop, but this line-up remained positive and carried on playing their pressing game and the scoring attempts continued at both ends. Williamson fired wide from close range on the half-hour, then Brad Halliday missed the target for Stanley and Piero Mingoia drew a save from Dunn.
Back came the U’s and on 37 Donaldson broke down the right before laying it inside for Berry 20 yards out; with no challenge forthcoming, he drilled a perfectly-placed shot with his left foot low into the bottom right corner, just out of Mooney’s reach. 2-1.
Hulking holding midfielder Matt Crooks was booked for his protests at a perceived foul in the build-up, and when he chopped Dunk down less than a minute later his dismissal seemed like an open-and-shut case, but ref Iain Williamson invoked the little-known unwritten rule that if two bookable offences are committed within a short time of each other, the second one mystically does not become bookable at all and can be covered up with a pompous lecture instead.
Still the teams flew at each other. Matty Pearson shot over for the visitors, Donaldson found Corr at the back post but his header was blocked heroically by Mooney, and Williamson shot just wide.
The half-time whistle ended a satisfactory first period for United, who had ridden their luck at times but competed energetically and committedly and remained positive at all times against useful opposition.
“You say you got a real solution
Well, you know we’d all love to see the plan
You ask me for a contribution
Well, you know we’re all doing what we can”
(The Beatles, “Revolution”)
Newton replaced the injured Taylor for the second half, a bit of a square peg in a round hole but the only alternative was the 15-year-old Davies, which would have been a gamble too far. United needed to keep their noses in front, but disaster struck three minutes in when Windass flighted a corner from the right, Dunn fumbled hopelessly and it fell straight to the boot of Tom Davies, who lashed it into the roof of the net. 2-2.
Dunn had cut a hesitant and uncertain figure during the first half in the face of some dangerous Stanley crosses, with his defenders having to dive in and clear when they might have expected him to come and claim. Sadly he shows no sign of addressing his communication problems and at the age of 28 it seems he never will, although you have to wonder why the club employs a goalkeeping coach.
Pearson was next into the book for a foul on Donaldson, but the U’s were undone by the mediocre ref on 53 when Kee threw himself to the ground as he jostled with Newton and Legge, neither of whom was booked, and won himself an exceedingly soft penalty. Windass sent Dunn the wrong way: 3-2.
In the space of five minutes a lead had become a deficit and for a time shellshocked United looked to have no response. Corr nodded a corner over the top and Dunn made a good reaction save from Mingoia as he was allowed to scamper unhindered through the midfield and defence, while further vulnerability to the visitors’ speed of attack forced Kennedy to bring down McConville on the edge of the box on the hour, for which he was booked. McConville lofted the ensuing free-kick hopelessly into the South Stand.
Controversy reigned on 67 when United launched an attack down the middle, Williamson was brought down by Davies but Berry burst through into the box, only for the ref to whistle prematurely for a free-kick instead of waiting a few seconds to see what advantage arose. Davies was booked, but it was poor officiating and the U’s players were as disgusted as the Stanley players were relieved.
Williamson dragged a shot wide on 70 and Dunk produced his team’s best effort of the half three minutes later with a tremendous curling shot which looked destined for the top corner until clawed over by Mooney. Newton was carded for bringing down Pearson on 75, then Windass followed him into the book for cynically kicking the ball away to waste time.
Shay McCartan replaced Windass for the final 10 minutes, then Derry finally made a change, although not the one the fans wanted as he replaced Donaldson with Jordan Slew, who unsurprisingly made no impression in a rather chaotic 4-3-3 formation. Kee and McCartan missed the target for the visitors as Stanley regularly caught United on the break, and in the added five minutes Berry dragged a shot wide and the visitors made two time-consuming substitutions, introducing Terry Gornell and Andrew Proctor for Kee and Crooks. In a final attack Demetriou flung himself at a corner but headed well over, and the match had slipped away.
“If you want a revolution, baby
There is nothing like your own
You don't have to do all those burning books
Revolutionize at home”
(World Party, “Private Revolution”)
It was no disgrace to lose to a confident and useful Accrington side, but the circumstances were undeniably unsatisfactory, losing a lead to a bad goalkeeping error and a dubious penalty, but on such moments matches hinge. The team’s energy and commitment, especially in the first half, was a positive, as were many individual performances, but Rome was not built in a day and neither will Derry’s United team. At least he has time, but not that much, and if results do not come quickly, the pressure will undoubtedly mount. Now he must truly know the size of his task. Vive la Revolution.
“The revolution will not go better with Coke. The revolution will not fight the germs that may cause bad breath. The revolution will put you in the driver’s seat. The revolution will not be televised. The revolution will be no re-run, brothers. The revolution will be live.” (Gil Scott-Heron)
United have conceded three goals at home four times this season already; before today they had lost 3-0 to Crawley and 3-1 to Luton and Portsmouth. Last season they did not let in three or more goals at the Abbey until 21st February, when they lost 6-2 to Portsmouth, then went on to lose 3-0 to York and 3-2 to Burton Albion.
During the 2013-14 Conference promotion season the U’s did not concede more than two goals at home in a league game all season. During the previous term, in which Richard Money took over in October, they did so six times.
United have lost their last three League matches. The last time this happened was in September 2014, when they lost 2-1 at home to Exeter and 1-0 to Luton, then were defeated 1-0 at Wycombe. They then went on to win 3-1 at eventual champions Burton and thrashed Oxford United 5-1.
Ben Williamson is the second player of that surname to play for Cambridge United. The first, Davey, was a midfield player who signed from Motherwell in August 1996 but did not make his League debut for a full year, on 9th August 1987, in a 1-0 home defeat by Scarborough. In all he made two League starts, plus four as substitute, without scoring, and also started two League Cup games and one in the Auto Windscreens Shield. After his last game in February 1998 he went on to a nomadic career in Ireland, Hong Kong, Malta, Finland and Cambridge City.
Ryan Ledson is the sixth player with that first name to play for the U’s, after Messrs Lockett (2003-04), Charles (2011-12), Jackson (2011-12), Bird (2013-15) and Donaldson.
Terry Kennedy is the 15th United player to wear the squad number 12, and the third this season. His predecessors were: Michael Kyd, Tom Cowan, Dan Chillingworth, Igor Latte-Yedo, Ryan Lockett, Jon Brady, Josh Simpson, Leo Fortune-West, Jack Jeffery, Josh Coulson, Rory McAuley, Matteo Lanzoni, Jacob Blyth and Alie Sesay.
Shaun Derry played against the U’s three times in his onfield career and never finished on the losing side; in fact United never scored against a team for which he played. He turned out for Notts County when they defeated the U’s 1-0 in a League match on 25th October 1997, and played for Portsmouth in both legs of a first round Worthington Cup tie in 2000-01, which finished in a goalless draw at the Abbey and a 1-0 home win for Pompey.
Dunn 5. Typically hesitant and worrying to his defence, his mistake soon after the break altered the course of the match and no amount of decent saves after that could make up for it.
Taylor 7. Continued his recent fine form until forced off by injury at half-time.
Demetriou 7. Reliable shift.
Legge 7. Strong as ever.
Kennedy 7. Decisive, no-nonsense defender.
Donaldson 7. Very decent first half, faded somewhat thereafter.
Berry 8. This is more like it.
Ledson 8. Clearly a very talented young man.
Dunk 8. Another tireless performance from United’s most consistent player.
Williamson 6. Ran around a lot busily, although I fail to see what he brought to the team that Gaffney already does better.
Corr 7. Tough, physical battle with the Stanley defence and contributed his usual goal.
Newton 6. Competent stand-in for Taylor.
Slew 5. Made no impression whatsoever. He must look like Lionel Messi in training, but on the pitch he’s about as effective as Lionel Richie.
An encouraging start for the new boss was ruined in five second-half minutes by a goalkeeping error and a harsh refereeing decision. We’ll take the positives, but there are still plenty of negatives to be addressed.
Man of the Match
Luke Berry. Clever decision by Derry to make Luke captain and it produced his best performance of the season.
Williamson 3. Gutless, error-strewn display of poor decisions and general incompetence.
Soundtrack of the Day
Savages “T.I.W.Y.G. (This Is What You Get)”
“The truth of revolution, brother…is Year Zero.” (Crass, “Bloody Revolutions”)
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