U’s comment: A match that will never be forgotten, thanks to Vincent-Young’s late stunner
Some matches you remember for forever, others you forget within a few weeks.
Well, Saturday’s East Anglian derby at Cambridge United will live long in the memory, and all because of Kane Vincent-Young’s wonder strike, with virtually the last kick of the match.
It had been billed as a ‘must-win game’ in the build-up – leading scorer Sammie Szmodics had said just that during the week – after the U’s had nose-dived out of the League Two play-offs due to a poor run of results.
A goalless stalemate at the Abbey Stadium would have halted their three-game losing run, but it would still have felt like a defeat, for several reasons.
Firstly, it would have been the fourth game in a row that the U’s had failed to score a goal.
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Secondly, a draw would have still left John McGreal’s men three points adrift of the top seven, with just six games remaining and the prospect of a final two fixtures against high-flying MK Dons and Lincoln.
And thirdly, despite an unbeaten run of four games (one win and three draws), Colin Calderwood’s Cambridge team were only a very limited outfit, as an attacking force. They were second best for virtually the whole game, so to have failed to beat them would have been a big blow.
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And so we come to U’s 23-year-old left-back, Vincent-Young, who let fly with a glorious shot, in the sixth and last minute of injury-time, right in front of the noses of the 1,119 Colchester fans congregated behind the goal that Cambridge were defending.
The ball fizzed into the roof of the net, the away fans exploded with sheer joy, and there was hardly time for stunned Cambridge to even kick-off before the final whistle had sounded.
It was an unforgettable moment.
It was not just the quality of Vincent-Young’s goal, but the timing of it, that could be the difference between the U’s reaching and missing out on the play-offs.
Just when it seemed as though the poor run was due to continue – it would have been just one win in eight games – Vincent-Young gave the Essex club a new lease of life with that wonder strike, with just seconds remaining.
They will surely be able to tackle their last half-dozen fixtures with renewed confidence, having shown a never-say-die spirit and the character required to fight to the very last whistle.
The U’s have not been renowned for scoring late winners. In fact, this is reportedly the first time they had netted a winning goal in injury time for more than eight years, since a stoppage-time goal by Steven Gillespie in a 2-1 win over Swindon in February, 2011.
Those were the days when Mark Cousins was in goal, Pat Baldwin was still marshalling the defence, and the likes of Andy Bond, Kem Izzet and David Perkins were patrolling the midfield.
The U’s still have several tough hurdles to overcome, but they will go into next Saturday’s home match against Oldham with their heads held high, and confidence surging through every vein.
Role of the fans
The U’s away support was simply magnificent on Saturday.
More than 1,110 fans filled the Allotment end, and they roared on their team for most of the afternoon, almost sucking the ball into the net as the U’s searched for a late equaliser.
They duly erupted when Vincent-Young’s shot screamed into the roof of the net, after Mikael Mandron had intelligently laid the ball into his path following Ryan Jackson’s positive run down the right wing.
Of course the supporters can only do so much, from the sidelines, but they created the kind of atmosphere that gave the U’s the edge, and perhaps some added self-belief, that they could ultimately win the game. As a 12th man, they did their job.
In a way, Luke Norris got out of jail, thanks to Vincent-Young’s late stunner.
Back in the starting line-up, the out-of-sorts front-man missed two gilt-edged chances to break the deadlock, and those misses looked like haunting him, and his team-mates.
The first one was a bad miss, scooping a shot over the bar from point-blank range after Frankie Kent’s header had been blocked inside the six-yard box (32 mins).
He crashed a second chance over the bar, following Sammie Szmodics’ fine run, on 70 minutes, and was eventually substituted.
However, on the bright side, Norris looked sharper than he had done of yet, and at least got in the right areas to score.
He still has a big role to play over the next month.