07.01.23 Match Report - Cambridge United v Rovers

Coburn and Sinclair on Target

Rovers came from behind to secure a win at Cambridge, with Coburn and Sinclair cancelling out Smith's early strike.

Joey Barton made three changes to the side that started the game against Cheltenham Town last Sunday, with Ryan Loft, James Gibbons and Luca Hoole replacing Antony Evans, Harry Anderson and Lewis Gibson. 


Rovers bossed the early possession but were caught cold by the hosts after four minutes as Sam Smith scored with a close-range header.


United's Shilow Tracey then cut inside and his goalbound effort was cleared behind by Connolly. From the corner, Smith's header was well saved by Belshaw. Loft appeared to be fouled after 11 minutes but Cambridge cleared and were awarded a free-kick in identical circumstances. To rub salt into the wounds, Connolly was booked for his challenge.

Loft was in the book a minute later for a late sliding tackle on Brophy as the hosts began to dominate the game as the sun made an appearance for the first time today.

A few times Rovers looked to hit the ball long but the ball seemed to skip off the surface and into touch. In the 21st minute they hauled themselves level. Collins slid Coburn in on goal and, although Mannion got down well to save his shot, the number 40 headed home the rebound to make it 1-1.


Belshaw slid to collect a Cambridge through-ball after 23 minutes, but was left on the turf after Smith appeared to leave his leg in on the challenge. After treatment, the 'keeper was able to continue.

The Gas then went in front, thanks to referee Parsons, who waved play on after Thomas was fouled. He allowed Coburn to feed Hoole down the right, and his inch-perfect found Sinclair at the far post to fire home after 28 minutes.


Tracey shot wide when well-placed in the 37th minute before the Gas wasted a free-kick in a promising position. Collins then brought a save from Mannion after firing from distance. 

In the 41st minute, Collins was pulled back by Cambridge debutant Seddon, and a yellow card followed. Skipper Paul Coutts delivered the free-kick from the edge of the area, but it was easily cut out by the home defence.

Cambridge forced a corner in first-half injury time, with the Rovers defence pleading for offside. 

There was still time for controversy as Collins broke away and, as he looked to round the onrushing Mannion, Seddon went to the ground holding his head. The ball had spun away, with Collins about to drive for goal again, but play was halted and, after a lengthy delay, Seddon was stretchered off.

Collins skipped past his man on the right wing, but his low cross was claimed by Mannion, before referee Parsons blew for half-time.


Rovers got us back underway, attacking the away end housing 764 Gasheads. Finley forced an early corner, which Coutts delivered just too high for Thomas and the U's cleared their lines.

Digby saw yellow after 47 minutes for hauling back Loft. The home side were soon back on the attack, though, and a fine block from Hoole prevented a Smith shot from reaching its target. Coburn was felled in the 51st minute and referee Parsons didn't award a free-kick but did stop play so the striker could receive treatment.

Thankfully, the number 40, with four goals in his last four games, was able to continue. Rovers continued to play on the front foot and Finley seemed to have his shirt pulled as he looked to drive into the area. Coutts was then shown a yellow for pulling back his marker. 


Wonderful play from Collins in the 57th minute almost fashioned a chance, but his drilled cross just evaded Loft. Hoole kept the ball alive on the far side and won a corner. Smith went close to an equaliser for the home side in the 62nd minute, as his strike from the edge of the area narrowly flew over Belshaw's bar.

The U's forced a corner a minute later and were demanding a penalty for handball; referee Parson was non-plussed. Marquis replaced Loft in Rovers' first change of the afternoon. In the 69th minute, a dangerous cross from Cambridge was bravely cleared by Connolly, who needed treatment in the aftermath. 

The home side were pushing for an equaliser now, and Collins had to drop deep on more than one occasion to block crosses before they could reach the Gas box. Collins and Sinclair toyed with the U's defence in the 79th minute to win a corner. From it, Coburn was inches away from heading home. 

Evans and Gordon replaced Collins and Sinclair with ten minutes of normal time remaining. Coburn won a free-kick deep in Cambridge territory after 81 minutes. From it, Evans played it short to Finley and the opportunity was wasted.

Gordon did well to put Smith off his stride as he threatened to work his way into the area. Finley conceded a free-kick in the 86th minute to give the hosts a free-kick in a decent position out wide. Thomas flicked the ball away from danger and Marquis completed the clearance.

Cambridge kept coming and handball was given against Thomas to give the hosts another chance to deliver, but the Rovers defender rose highest to head away. Lankester shoved Connolly off the ball and received a booking in the 89th minute. Five minutes of added time were to be added as Marquis found himself in the referee's bulging notebook for a foul.

Cambridge then had a glorious opportunity to grab a last-minute equaliser from a direct free-kick on the edge of the area. The wall did its job superbly and Smith's left-footed shot cannoned off it.

Next up for the Gas is Tuesday night's Papa John's Trophy quarter-final with Plymouth. The game at The Memorial Stadium kicks off at 7.45pm.


Cambridge United: William Mannion, George Williams, Paul Digby, Greg Taylor (c), James Brophy, Sam Smith, Jubril Okedina, Shilow Tracey, Harvey Knibbs, Ben Worman, Steve Seddon.

Subs: James Holden, Joe Ironside, Jack Lankester, Saikou Janneh, Lewis Simper, Liam Bennett, Kai Yearn.

Bristol Rovers: James Belshaw, James Connolly, Sam Finley, Scott Sinclair, Aaron Collins, Paul Coutts (c), Ryan Loft, James Gibbons, Luca Hoole, Bobby Thomas, Josh Coburn.

Subs: Anssi Jaakkola, John Marquis, Antony Evans, Luke McCormick, Glenn Whelan, Lewis Gordon, Harvey Saunders.

Referee: Thomas Parsons

Attendance: 5,703 (764 away)

Read Time: 6 mins