Anyone who says they didn’t look for Barrow’s and Grimsby’s result within five minutes of Liam Miller’s 85th minute wonder strike, has a stronger constitution than most. Despite a much-improved performance from the Valiants, Vale were left ruing missed opportunities and the luck afforded to league leaders as they crashed to a 1-0 defeat to Cambridge United.
In fact, Vale started brightly and as early as the 2nd minute, Kurtis Guthrie won an attacking free kick in the left hand inside channel. Tom Conlon chose to lift the ball deep to the back post, Leon Legge, but Harrison Dunk cleared for the visitors.
Cambridge though showed early signs of danger themselves, as a good run from Paul Mullin behind Leon Legge, allowed the Striker to pull the ball back to Adam May who took a touch, but scuffed his effort and Scott Brown gathered easily.
Vale continued their good start on 5 minutes, Montano winning a free kick on the edge of the box. With no David Worrall to share free kick duties, Conlon was left to lift the ball over the wall, but U’s keeper Callum Burton moved smartly to his right to claim easily over his head. A minute later though, Vale should have been one up. A terrible mistake in the Cambridge defence allowed Guthrie a free run into the Cambridge box, the Striker made confident strides towards goal, but his left footed shot was tame, and Burton stood up well to save leaving the striker still searching for his first goal in Vale colours.
Vale continued to press with a corner from the right, Conlon aiming for Smith, but the centre-back was marshalled well and the ball was cleared. Moments later more good work from the Valiants midfield, as Conlon surged towards the Cambridge box before squaring to Burgess, who took a touch and shot, but it’s charged down by Declan Drysdale.
It took a little while for the league leaders to get a foothold in the game but on 15 minutes, Cambridge forced their first corner, as Smith did well in a challenge with Mullin. Former Valiant Luke Hannant took it short, before floating his cross to the back post, but it was too long and Vale won a free kick of their own. On 20 minutes Vale though were indebted to a good save from Brown, Hannant winning the ball centrally 25 yards out, laying it off and Wes Hoolahan who let fly, Brown turning the ball away with two strong hands diving to his right.
The visitors continued to pile on the pressure winning a free kick, with Vale being forced to concede the Corner which Hoolahan took, but Vale scrambled it clear. Minutes later Cambridge won a further corner for the visitors, Hannant this time taking, Guthrie heading clear, but Vale were forced to concede a second successive corner as the press forced the mistake.
The second half started much the same as the first ended, Shilow Tracy muscling his way past the Vale substitute Alex Hurst, crossing from the by-line, but Zak Mills did well to block the shot and Vale survived.
On 60 minutes Guthrie does well to win a free kick 35 yards out and Vale sent the centre backs forward. Conlon hanging it up in the box, Legge looking favourite to win the header but Drysdale did well, not only winning the ball but managing to flick the ball away as he fell to the turf. Four minutes later Rodney managed to win himself a Corner, Conlon again Delivering. Guthrie rises above the Cambridge defence to win his header, but its blocked, the ball finding its way back out to Conlon who cross is blocked by Hoolahan’s hand. Conlon again provided a good delivery towards a late run from Legge, but the Cambridge defence stand firm and clear the danger.
As the game meandered to its conclusion Vale were grateful for a stunning save from Brown. Hannant doing well down the Cambridge right to free Hoolahan, the Australian’s cross was a fine one towards Mullin who met it perfectly six yards out, but Brown reacted brilliantly to stop the striker and Legge tidied up to blast the ball clear.
But on 85 minutes, Vale hadn’t headed the warning and it was heartbreak for the Valiants. The Vale defence were again called on as Mullen surged into the Vale box, his shot was blocked by Nathan Smith, but the ball fell to Liam O’Neil who hit it first time and into the postage stamp, hitting the top left corner perfectly leaving Brown no chance and giving Cambridge all three points.