Report Cambridge Away

A stunning stoppage-time winner from captain Joss Labadie ensured the Exiles headed home to South Wales with all three points after a 2-1 win at Cambridge United.

Despite spending the majority of the first-half without the ball, Shawn McCoulsky gave County a half-time lead in Cambridge against the run of the play, with his second in as many games on 43 minutes.

It came after Labadie had forced a save from David Forde with a low effort from 30 yards, with McCoulsky reacting ahead of the marker to net the opener.

But Cambridge created a lot of opportunities throughout the entirety of the game, forcing Joe Day into making some wonderful saves to preserve the lead up until the 76th minute.

This time Jevani Brown got the beating of the County goalkeeper with a curling effort from 25 yards into the top corner.

But Labadie ensured that County took a dramatic winner from their exploits at Cambridge in the third of the three additional minutes.

He didn’t really know too much about it as Forde’s save from Dolan’s free-kick bounced off him and into the back of the net, but the captain won't care as the Exiles rose to 9th place and a solitary point off the play-offs as a result of the late winner.

Mike Flynn elected to make just the one change to his side that drew 3-3 with Carlisle United last weekend.

That saw Ben Tozer come in for Robbie Willmott as the Exiles stuck to the familiar 3-5-2 formation at the Abbey Stadium.

Due to a host of injury concerns for the home side, Cambridge United manager Shaun Derry made five changes from the side that lost at Port Vale last weekend.

Club captain Leon Legge missed out in the defence, as George Taft came in to the 4-4-1-1 formation.

Two midfield changes also occurred for the U’s, with Harrison Dunk and Piero Mingoia dropping to the bench as George Maris and Paul Lewis came in.

The other changes saw both strikers ruled out through suspension and injury respectively, as Jabo Ibehre and Uche Ikpeazu were replaced by Ade Azeez and Jevani Brown.  

All the injury troubles for Cambridge meant they could only name four substitutions on the bench.

But it was one of the players that kept his place in the Cambridge team that fashioned the first opportunity.

Liam O’Neil was the man found in the area from a corner, the second of three for the home side in the opening five minutes, but he could only head wide of the far post.

It took until the 11th minute for the Exiles to create their opening opportunity of the afternoon, although Frank Nouble couldn’t guide his header enough to trouble home goalkeeper David Forde.  

But when the game’s first real opportunity was created in the 18th minute, Cambridge probably should have taken the lead.

Ex-Exile Medi Elito smartly carved his way to the edge-of-the-area before pulling the cross back to George Maris, who narrowly fired a shot wide of the far post.

And just two minutes later, the U’s had another decent opportunity to get the afternoon’s first goal.

An uncharacteristic slip from Joe Day almost presented Azeez with the situation of an empty goal at his mercy, only for Mickey Demetriou to recover and clear any danger.   

That was all for the entertainment in the opening 30 minutes, although the home side continued their ascendency after a lively start.

Jevani Brown played a wonderfully weighted splitting pass into Jake Carroll’s path with ten minutes to go, who perhaps could have gone for goal himself, but the left-back elected to cross across the face of goal which Mark O’Brien cleared.

But in the 43rd minute and after weathering the storm of spending prolonged periods without the ball, the Exiles got the opener.

Frank Nouble sublimely played a chested pass into Labadie’s path, who let fire from 25 yards which Forde couldn’t quite hold onto, and Shawn McCoulsky was quickest to react and poke home the opener from two yards.

That was his 10th of the season and he almost got a second of the afternoon within a minute, although couldn’t quite direct his header on target.

The indication of two minutes additional time couldn’t inspire any further opportunities at the Abbey Stadium as the Exiles went back into the dressing room in-front.

You would have to be fair and say that the home side were heavily dominant in terms of possession in the opening half, Elito particularly starring in his role as make-shift striker following the injury and suspension troubles at Cambridge.

But County withstood the pressure of spending large periods of the game without the ball and took their chance when it came.

McCoulsky showed the poise and prowess that has got him 10 goals already this campaign in what was really the only chance of the opening 45 minutes.

The start of the second-half brought about a change for the Exiles as Mark O’Brien withdrew with what looked like the injury that forced him to receive treatment after a clash with Liam O’Neil in the first-half.

Scot Bennett came on in a like-for-like change as the Exiles looked to solidify the defence.

And it was County to create the first opportunity of the second-half, David Forde reacting well to divert a cross-shot from Labadie over the crossbar.  

But Flynn was forced to reshuffle his defence again shortly after as David Pipe needed to withdraw following a clash of heads, Robbie Willmott this time coming off the bench for the Exiles.

And from there until the hour-mark, the home side had two good chances to get an equaliser.

Azeez blasted over when in on the angle before Day and Bennett combined to prevent a Bradley Halliday effort.

The right-back was found inside the area from a long ball and fired a shot across goal that Day managed to block with his legs, before the ball spun back towards goal which Bennett hooked away.

And it took a wonderful save from Day to keep County in-front on 62 minutes. This time Carroll’s delivery to Lewis looked for all the world like nestling in the top corner, only for Day to somehow get a hand to it and tip it past the post.

But Day would finally be beaten on 76 minutes as Jevani Brown got the equaliser for Cambridge with a thunderous attempt.

The ball was played into his path about 35 yards out, where he ran 10 yards towards the defensive line before unleashing an unstoppable strike just inside the far-left corner.

Padraig Amond came on for County’s final substitution in the final 10 minutes, as McCoulsky made way after a big shift chasing a host of long balls and relieving the pressure on the County defence.

Three additional minutes were indicated at the end of the game and Cambridge may have stole a winner in the first 30 seconds.

Piero Mingoia, who drastically aided the home side after coming on as a substitute, did well to beat Butler out-wide and whip an inviting ball into the area. But the decisive touch couldn’t come as Demetriou did well to scramble away.

But the Exiles won it in dramatic circumstances through the Labadie winner.

Dolan’s free-kick outfoxed everyone in the box as Forde had to make a smart reaction save, only for the ball to ricochet off Labadie and gift the Exiles all three points.


County: Day, Pipe (Willmott 56’), White, O’Brien (Bennett 45’), Demetriou, Butler, Dolan, Tozer, Labadie (C), Nouble, McCoulsky (Amond 85’)

Subs not used: Bittner, Reynolds, Owen-Evans, Rigg


Cambridge: Forde (C), Halliday, Taylor, Taft, Carroll, Elito, O’Neil (Mingoia 45’), Lewis (Dunk 75’), Maris, Brown, Azeez

Subs not used: Mitov, Osadebe


Referee: Chris Sarginson

Attendance: 3,632 (143 AWAY)

Next up for County: Lincoln City (23rd December) HOME


Photo featured was not taken at Cambridge United vs Newport County AFC.