…the U’s are staying up!
It was a fine culmination of a testing season on Saturday afternoon as almost four-hundred U’s supporters enjoyed a sunny day out in Cumbria to watch Joe Dunne’s side finally put to bed their relegation battle.
U’s fans everywhere could breathe a sigh of relief as, despite Scunthorpe beating Swindon 3-1 in their final day clash, a 2-0 victory thanks to goals from Gavin Massey and Tom Eastman ensured that the U’s beat the drop.
The Iron’s 1-0 win at stadium:mk the week previous had taken the season’s climax to the final day, and a hardy group of U’s supporters made the twelve-hour round trip to Carlisle preparing to chew their fingernails.
With the weather playing its part in providing a sunny backdrop to see the season out, the terrifically vocal U’s support enjoyed a first half with little in the way of defensive worries.
Dunne’s men looked comfortable against a Cumbrian outfit that appeared to be on their holidays already and, knowing that the U’s only needed to keep a clean sheet for survival, there was reason for optimism.
There was one or two half chances for the hosts, with Liam Noble going close with a long-range effort that just missed the bar and, closer to half-time, the same man went close with another shot that flew just wide of Sam Walker’s post.
But the U’s were rarely troubled and, at the other end, the U’s were appealing for a penalty when Billy Clifford’s cross by the byline appeared to be batted away by an outstretched arm – the referee did not agree.
Jabo Ibehre had the U’s most meaningful effort on goal just before the break, as he burst down Carlisle’s left side and blasted a shot just slightly too high and wide of the goal and the game remained 0-0 at the break.
A quiet start to the second half meant that tensions continued to mount amongst the travelling supporters, until Gavin Massey somehow nodded home an opener to create an outpouring of a season’s worth of relief.
George Porter latched onto a through ball in front of the away section, before twisting and turning his man and seeing his shot blocked. The ball rebounded back to Clifford who agonisingly fired his own shot against the crossbar.
With most U’s fans’ heads in hands, it spun up from the bar where Massey headed it back across goal but, somehow, it spun inwards and trickled beyond the despairing dive of Mark Gillespie in the Cumbrians’ goal.
Bedlam ensued amongst the U’s fans who were overjoyed with the lead that they hadn’t ever looked like surrendering if it could be attained. Celebrations were amongst the most joyous experienced since that day at Yeovil in 2006, and U’s fans surely knew survival was impending.
Bradley Garmston replaced Porter shortly afterwards, and the U’s attacking impetus switched to the left flank, which is where the lead would be doubled from with ten minutes to go.
Clifford lobbed a ball over the home defence which Garmston just managed to keep in play, deftly touching the ball back to David Wright who, on the half volley, lobbed it to the far post and over the backtracking Gillespie.
With the goal left vacant, local-boy Tom Eastman calmly nodded it goalwards and it bounced over the line to secure the U’s safety.
Once more, a monumental outpouring of relief came from the travelling army, who could relax for the final ten minutes knowing that their side had done it – a celebratory party ensued for the remainder of the game.
With Carlisle offering no threat going forward, the U’s played out the finish to the game before enjoying fantastic scenes with their away crowd after the game, joined on the pitch by chairman, Robbie Cowling.
It was a monumental day for the club and one that won’t be forgotten in a hurry by anyone associated with the U’s.
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And Now You’ve Gotta Believe Us…
…the U’s are staying up!