U's Battle For Three Massive Points
The U's picked up a crucial three points yesterday afternoon with two goals in a minute from Josh Thompson and Clinton Morrison turning their trip to Bury on its head in a big battle against the drop.
Joe Dunne's side travelled to Gigg Lane knowing the importance of three points, as much as the U's boss would try and insist it was no bigger than any other game.
With the Shakers rooted to the bottom of the table, the U's knew that it was not only a big opportunity for a vital three points to maintain some daylight between themselves and the bottom four, but also to effectively end the hopes of being caught by their hosts.
Backed by just under two-hundred travelling supporters, the game didn't get off to the best of starts. The hosts immediately put the U's onto the back foot with former hero Craig Fagan going close for the Shakers and showing the intent of Kevin Blackwell's outfit to get at the U's.
Knowing they could be in for a game, the task was made much harder after just four minutes, as George Porter was sent off. Having tussled and turned his man just inside the U's half, Porter was hauled down and, having won the free-kick, appeared to kick out at his defender whilst getting to his feet.
The referee showed no hesitation in brandishing the red card, and resigned the U's to an hour and a half of football with just ten men away from home. It was set to be an uphill battle from here on in and, in similar vein to the heroic defending at Hartlepool, the U's would have a big storm to weather.
Sam Walker was called into action a couple of times shortly after, with Fagan again going close, but he wasn't to make that mistake again as he showed no mercy when he received the ball inside the box, firing home beyond Sam Walker to open the scoring.
You could have been forgiven for thinking that could have been curtains for the U's, but Dunne's men showed great character to battle back and turn the game on its head within the next five minutes.
Josh Thompson bagged his first goal in U's colours as he powered home a header from a Billy Clifford corner to level the scores and, immediately from the restart, Gavin Massey raced through the Bury half.
When Massey ran into trouble, the loose ball fell to Clinton Morrison who bent a lovely first-time shot into the far corner before racing away to celebrate with the away support; his second goal of the season to give the U's a 2-1 advantage.
The following hour of football would set the pulse racing in what is becoming very much a common feeling from U's away games at the moment, and heroic defending once more would be required from the U's rearguard.
David Worrall saw an effort chalked out for offside for the hosts ten minutes before the break, before also seeing a shot blast north of Walker's goal. But it wasn't going to get any easier after the break for the U's, and three chances went begging for the hosts within the opening minutes.
Walker's goal was leading a charmed life at the back, and just before the hour mark a goalmouth scramble reminiscent of a rugby scrum eventually ended when the ball was hacked clear towards the half way line with the U's clinging on for their points.
The Shakers saw another goal disallowed for offside shortly after as Andy Bishop buried the ball into the net, before the hosts struck the bar three times in as many minutes midway through the second half.
With the clock beginning to run down towards ninety minutes the end was in sight for the U's, before a sickening six minutes of injury time was added after Walker had required lengthy treatment to a head injury half way through the second half.
It was a long, painful six minutes to continue withstanding the home pressure, but the U's were resilient and thwarted all the danger coming their way to battle for what was a magnificent three points that will live long in the memory.
Joe Dunne confirmed after the game that there were five players in the U's side only fifty-percent fit due to the virus in the camp this week, so to have that compounded by playing over ninety minutes with ten men and to still go a goal behind, three points is simply incredible.
Oldham, Scunthorpe, Hartlepool and Carlisle were all beaten elsewhere, with Shrewsbury picking up a point at Crewe, and so the win leaves the U's seven points clear of the drop zone. Oldham have three games in hand, but the U's also take a trip to Boundary Park on Easter Monday with fate very much in their own hands.
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